What Does It Mean that California is a No Fault Divorce State?

In the United States, there are fault-based divorces and no-fault divorces. With a “fault divorce,” one spouse is accusing the other spouse of wrongdoing and they are saying that the other spouse’s misconduct led to the demise of the marriage. Fault-based divorces are usually filed on behalf of one of the following grounds:

  1. Adultery,
  2. Abandonment,
  3. Cruel and inhumane treatment,
  4. Incarceration in a prison for a significant period of time, OR
  5. Failure to disclose the physical inability to engage in sexual intercourse before the marriage.

Today, some states offer the option of a fault or no fault divorce, or the state is strictly a no-fault divorce state. However, these days all 50 states offer the option of a no fault divorce. California is a no fault divorce state, meaning California spouses do not have the option of filing a fault divorce.

‘No Fault Divorce’ Defined

What does it mean that California is a “no fault” divorce state? It means that in order for a couple to get divorced, all that matters is that one spouse wishes to end the marriage. The family court judges in California are not concerned about who’s at fault, or who’s responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.

For a spouse to ask for a divorce in California, all they have to do is state that they no longer get along with their spouse. The legal term for this is “irreconcilable differences.” So, if a spouse wants a divorce, their husband or wife cannot contest it. There’s nothing they can do to stop the divorce from happening.

Before no fault divorces, disgruntled spouses had to cite one of the acceptable divorce grounds, such as cruelty. Not only did that involve finger-pointing, it was not always true. Now, with no-fault divorce, it’s a lot easier to end a marriage and no one has to blame their spouse for wrongdoing that might not have occurred.

Note: Since California is a no fault divorce state, allegations of adultery will often fall on deaf ears unless the cheating spouse wasted marital assets on their paramour. There is one exception however, and that is domestic violence. If a spouse was physically abusive (committed spousal or child abuse) and it can be proven, it may bar them from receiving spousal support.

Suggested Reading: Dividing Property in a California Divorce

Contact us to schedule a consultation with an Orange County divorce attorney.