What Makes a Divorce “No-Fault?”

There is a chance you have heard of “no-fault” divorce, especially if you have been considering getting a divorce yourself. For many people, it can seem like an odd term, especially when many no-fault divorces still wind up being incredibly contentious. But what is it that makes no-fault divorce special, and what is the alternative?

Defining “No-Fault” Divorce

A divorce is considered to be a no-fault divorce when neither side alleges any wrongdoing as a justification for the divorce. Instead, under New York State law, they simply need to allege that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for six months or longer. In other words, it allows you to break up your marriage by simply saying that things are not working out between you two, and things have been that way for at least half a year.

This is in contrast to more traditional “fault-based” divorce, where one spouse would need to allege some kind of problem with the marriage to justify breaking it up. In those cases, you would need to show one of six “faults” that would be the cause for the divorce:

  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Abandonment (One year or longer)
  • Imprisonment (Three years or longer)
  • Adultery
  • Living apart after obtaining a judgment of separation (One year or longer)
  • Living apart after getting a separation agreement (One year or longer)

The Benefits of No-Fault Divorce

The biggest benefit to no-fault divorce is not needing to prove a fault to be able to get a divorce from your spouse. This means you can get a divorce regardless of whether you or your spouse engaged in any wrongdoing. Provided you can show you have been in an irretrievable breakdown with your spouse for six months or longer, you can go forward with a divorce with minimal issues.

Compare this with trying to get a divorce under a fault-based model, where you could be locked into a months-long legal battle trying to prove your spouse engaged in some kind of wrongdoing to justify the divorce. Not only would this be potentially a long and expensive battle, but it could be emotionally fraught as well, and if you could not prove a fault, you might still be stuck with your spouse in the end. No-fault divorce, by comparison, makes the entire process a lot smoother.

No-Fault vs. Fault-Based Divorce

In New York, although no-fault divorce is now available to everyone, fault-based divorce is still around for anyone who wants to seek it. And, despite the advantages provided by no-fault divorce, some people may be tempted to try it. But is there an advantage to going with fault-based divorce, even when an easier alternative is available?

First, to get a no-fault divorce, you still need to prove there was an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship for six months or more, and the court may require you to demonstrate you waited at least that long before filing. Thus, in some cases, filing for fault-based divorce can mean getting through the process faster. In addition, allegations of misconduct by one spouse or another can weigh into decisions about distribution of marital property, child custody, or other issues that may arise during divorce proceedings.

If you have questions regarding divorce or other aspects of family law, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling these matters. A New York matrimonial lawyer, who is experienced in handling family law cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you are facing a dispute related to the equitable distribution of property, child custody, child support, or any other family law issue, contact the Suffolk County family court lawyers at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

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