The History of No-Fault Divorce
Prospective Family law clients often complain to their attorneys about how their spouse cheated on them, abused them, committed felonies (Walter White and Skyler White, anyone?), or abandoned them. But guess what? None of that matters. That is because California has adopted no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce is a divorce in which the dissolution of a marriage does not require a showing of wrongdoing by either party. Prior to the advent of no-fault divorce, one of the parties had to make a showing that the other party committed adultery, abandonment, felony, or other similarly culpable acts. And if the party could not do so, the parties remained married. For the most part, no-fault divorce has been the default in all 50 states since 1985.
The Pros and Cons of No-Fault Divorce
Whether no-fault divorce has been beneficial is an opinion open to interpretation. One obvious benefit of no-fault divorce is that it forces the courts to mind their own business. When you permit the court to decide to determine when a person's desire to leave is legitimate, arbitrary decisions will be made about what is tolerable in a relationship, and these decisions will be made by people who have no stake in the actual lives that are being lived. As a result, it follows that No-fault divorce makes it less likely that one spouse will be forced to stay married to another spouse who refuses to let go. Historically, this has tremendously benefitted women who would otherwise be stuck in abusive relationships. No-fault divorce also reduces the likelihood of false testimony and reduces the need for endless litigation.
One drawback of no-fault divorce is that it sometimes rewards wrongdoers and reduces the freedom of the innocent spouse. Some would argue that no-fault divorce has swung the pendulum away from patriarchy and towards discriminating against fathers' rights, allowing women to take custody in some cases where the man has done nothing wrong. Still some would even argue that the divorce rate has climbed exponentially since the introduction of no-fault divorce since it is theoretically easier to get a divorce.
I could talk about the merits (or lack thereof) of no-fault divorce until I'm blue in the face. But it would be pointless. No-fault divorce is here to stay, especially in California.
The Implications of No-Fault Divorce for California Couples Seeking Divorce
To obtain a divorce, California only requires that one of the partners pleads "irreconcile differences" or "incurable insanity." As such, accusing your -ex of cheating on you or committing crime during the marriage will do you no good except make you look bitter. For this reason, the conduct of your -ex is only relevant when it relates to child custody, child support, and the division of property. Otherwise, finger pointing will be frowned upon in court.
On a emotional level, no-fault divorce means that the party initiating the divorce needs to let go of the past and start focusing on the all-important issues of custody, child support, alimony, and property division.
When the party is ready to move on, it's best to consult with a competent Family Law attorney who will protect their property rights and ensure that the best interests of the children are represented in court.
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