The Time and Place for No Fault Divorce
by Elizabeth Feldman
If you are thinking about getting a divorce (or separation), or are in the midst of divorce litigation, you will hear (maybe all too often) that Arizona is a “no fault” state. What this means is that neither party has to prove that the other party is “at fault” in order to get a divorce. In other words, if you or your partner wants a divorce, you get divorced. It doesn’t matter if he/she is a dirty, rotten, mean, cheating scoundrel. And usually a court won’t even be interested in any of the juicier details.
Almost every state in the country is now no-fault. Prior to the change, most states required that one party provide evidence of the other spouse’s wrongdoing (for example, adultery or cruelty) for a divorce to be granted, even if both parties wanted out. New York is the final remaining state and is now considering no-fault.
There are many good points and bad points to a “no fault” divorce. These include the fact that you don’t have to re-live the pain of your marriage in order to prove that you “deserve” one, and you can procure your divorce more quickly and easily than if you had to show fault. However there are other times when “fault” can be relevant. For example, if your spouse is cheating and spending community funds (using the joint bank account or credit card) to fund his/her dalliances, it could signal that he/she is “wasting” community funds and you may have a right to be compensated. Also, if you share children, and one spouse has problems with drugs or alcohol then that spouse may be unfit for custody.
In other words, although we live in a “no fault” state, there may be times when you and your attorney should push the issue of fault. A Judge may not be eager to hear the grim details of why you are getting divorced, but it may be very relevant to other, more important issues surrounding your separation such as property division or parenting. As such, in these cases the issue of fault simply cannot be ignored.