Q&A: What Does "No Fault" Divorce Mean?

The term “no fault” divorce is used a lot. But for a lot of people, the meaning of this expression is not one hundred percent clear. In the USA,¬† unlike, say Britain where no fault divorces do not exist as a matter of law, a couple can obtain a divorce on¬† the basis of “no fault” grounds.

This basically means that neither party has to allege that the other party did anything wrong. It could simply be that they have differences that are irreconcilable or they are “incompatible” whatever that means for them. They do not have to blame or finger point at each other, or endure embarrassing and public divorce trials about grounds and fault. They can simply decide to go their separate ways and hash out other issues such as custody and money.
The thing that is confusing for a lot of people is that the fact that a couple has a no fault divorce does not mean they could not end up going to trial anyway. That is, no fault just has to do with the grounds for the divorce. But if a couple disagrees about custody or marital property they could still go to trial to iron out these issues, and they could still spend a lot of time – up to years – in court even though they have a “no fault” divorce.

The other point to make is that the fact that a state has no fault laws does not preclude a couple or party from choosing to have a fault based divorce. Most states are dual in the sense that they have a “no fault” as well as a fault option. So you could still choose to fault divorce if you want and in some states, this could give you a strategic advantage as far as custody and spousal maintenance and support goes (the state of Mississippi is one such state).

Other grounds that can be used to file for divorce include but are not limited to:

  • adultery
  • cruelty
  • insanity
  • abandonment
  • infertility (?)