Back in 1949, more than three-quarters of US households comprised of married couples. Fast forward to present times, and this rate has dipped to less than half. Today, wed couples only account for 48.2% of US households.
By contrast, the divorce rate in the country ranges from 40% to 50%. This indicates that it’s one of the primary reasons for the lower marriage rate in the US.
In addition, the no-fault divorce law has simplified the process of marriage dissolution. As such, its existence may also help explain the lower marriage rate.
What is no-fault divorce, though, and how does it differ from an uncontested divorce? How does it work, and what do you need to file for this kind of marriage dissolution?
We’ve rounded up all the answers to these questions below, so be sure to check out our guide below.
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What Is a No-Fault Divorce?
Before 1970, all states required married couples to provide a reason to get a divorce. You may have heard of this “reason” referred to as the “grounds” for a divorce. Adultery, abandonment, and cruelty were some of the most common reasons back then.
In 1970, however, California adopted the no-fault divorce law. Since then, all other states have followed suit. Today, couples can have their marriage “dissolved” without the need to prove fault.
With no-fault divorce, one spouse can file for divorce without having to blame the other. A spouse can apply for marriage dissolution without the need to indicate the fault of the other. Both spouses can also agree to a divorce if they have irreconcilable differences.
When handling divorce cases, no-fault state courts accept reasons like “irretrievably-broken” marriages. In such cases, either one or both spouses no longer want to live with each other. Most of the time, they are no longer willing to maintain and resume their spousal duties.
How Does No-Fault Divorce Differ From Uncontested Divorce?
The term “no-fault” in no-fault divorce refers to the lack of need to prove fault in the breakdown of a marriage. As mentioned above, it may have to do with an irretrievably-broken relationship.
This “breakdown,” in turn, can be due to one of or both spouses falling out of love. Or, it can simply mean that the couple no longer gets along.
An uncontested divorce, by contrast, means that both spouses agree to marriage dissolution. Meaning, the husband and wife aren’t fighting over the divorce, and they’re both okay with it. In such cases, they accept that their marriage is over and that they’re fine to go their separate ways.
In this way, a no-fault divorce can also be an uncontested divorce if both spouses agree to it. Such an agreement can save couples time and money as it simplifies court procedures.
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Do Both Parties Always Have to Agree With a No-Fault Divorce?
Not always, and if they don’t, they can contest the divorce. In this case, the non-agreement turns it into a contested divorce.
However, the party who wants a divorce can still file for a no-fault divorce. Most states still allow spouses to push through with the filing even if the other one doesn’t want a divorce.
Contesting the divorce, however, can make the proceedings lengthier and costlier. The one who disagrees with the divorce must be able to counter the claim of a broken marriage. They may also need to show that they haven’t met the required period to “live apart.”
States With No-Fault Divorce
As mentioned above, all states now have no-fault divorce laws. However, most states have special requirements, such as in terms of separated living.
One example is Illinois, wherein the required time for “living apart” is six months. A spouse can get a no-fault divorce so long as they have lived separately from their spouse for at least half a year. The six months must be continuous and uninterrupted, though.
What Are the Requirements to File for No-Fault Divorce?
All states with no-fault divorce laws have other specific marriage “breakdown” requirements.
For example, most no-fault divorce states have residency requirements. This means that the spouse who wants to file a divorce must have been a resident of the state for a specific time. Sometimes, this can be as short as six months, but others may require longer residency terms.
In Texas, for example, one can file for a no-fault divorce so long as they’ve been a resident of the state for six months. However, they must also have lived in the county where they’re filing the divorce for the last 90 days.
In other states, the one who filed for a divorce has to wait for a specific period for a response from the other spouse. For example, in Florida, the spouse who files the petition must give the other spouse 20 days to respond. The responding spouse can agree to the divorce or can file a counter-petition for the divorce.
Working Out a Divorce Agreement
The simplest way to facilitate a no-fault divorce is for both parties to talk about the petition. In many cases, no-fault divorce proceedings can cost much less if not contested. Both parties can then talk about and agree with parenting plans and asset division.
Spouses who can’t come to an agreement may also consider hiring a mediator. Many states allow for the use of mediating parties; if not, then a family law attorney can also help. In any case, being able to agree to the divorce can make the process faster and less expensive.
Divorces Don’t Always Have to End up as Messy Court Battles
There you have it, your ultimate guide that answers the question, “what is a no-fault divorce?” As you can see, the no-fault divorce law can make broken marital relationships easier to deal with. As there’s no need to prove fault here, then it may help reduce the odds of divorce escalating into a court battle.
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