What is a "No Fault" Divorce? / by Cassandra Hearn


California is a "no fault" divorce state. This means that any person bringing a divorce action needs to only allege that there are irreconcilable differences between the parties. It is not necessary to allege adultery, cruelty, abuse, or any other “good reason” for divorce.


There are advantages and disadvantages to a no fault divorce. The obvious advantage is being able to avoid bringing out all the sordid details of why a marriage disintegrated. If one party is committing adultery, that is irrelevant for purposes of granting a divorce, and so evidence of that adultery would not need to be produced for that purpose. This helps to shorten the divorce proceedings, making them more efficient and less costly to the parties. One drawback is that the party who feels "wronged" does not have the potential catharsis of having a judge tell the offending spouse that he or she is somehow responsible for the breakdown of a marriage.


This is not to say that wrong doing in a marriage is always completely immaterial. One place when certain types of wrong doing can be important to bring before the court is where children are involved. If, for example, the marriage has broken down because one spouse is violent or habitually drunk, those issues would clearly be vital to make a decision on what is best for the children. Adultery is more nuanced. If the new romantic partner is somehow unsuitable to be around the children due to a history with CPS, serious criminal past, or drug usage, then it would be important to bring up the new romantic partner in court. The important difference to note, here, is that the mere existence of a new boyfriend or girlfriend will not automatically mean that the offending parent loses custody or visitation; it will be the nature of the new significant other that the court may be interested in.


It is a common question to ask whether spousal support is at all impacted by adultery. The short answer is "no," but there are some considerations to remember. If the spouse requesting alimony is, for example, residing with a new boyfriend who is supporting her, then that could be taken into account when making an alimony award or denial, as it may decrease the requesting spouse's need for support.


California may be a no fault state, but that does not mean that all wrong-doing is completely irrelevant in your divorce. Call our office today at 619-800-0384 so we can discuss your divorce and help you through this difficult time