The brief answer is, yes. California has had No-Fault divorce since 1969. A No Fault Divorce has many benefits for the couple getting the divorce, for their children, and even for the court. Here is a brief overview of no-fault divorce in California.
What is No Fault Divorce?
In filing for a divorce, the spouses do not need to allege a reason for the divorce. This is what is meant by No-Fault. There could be many reasons for wanting to separate from your spouse, but you mostly no longer want to be married and specific reasons, e.g. gambling, adultery, etc., are not relevant to court proceedings. In most cases, these non-specific reasons fall into the category of “irreconcilable differences.”
How is this Different from the Way It Used to Be?
Before no-fault divorce, a spouse needed to give a reason for the divorce. Spouses needed to have evidence that established fault for the divorce, e.g. adultery, addiction, abandonment, etc. These grounds would provide a basis for the divorce.
What Improvements Did No-Fault Bring?
After shifting to a no-fault divorce, California’s requirements for a divorce were simply jurisdictional. At least one spouse must have lived in California for six months or longer and must have lived in the county where the divorce would be filed for three out of those six months immediately prior to filing the divorce.
The goal was to avoid forcing couples to remain in a broken marriage. Without requiring a spouse to cite a reason for the divorce, any married person can file for, and receive, a divorce judgment.
The greatest benefit of this shift to purely jurisdictional requirements has been to cool the temperature of the divorce proceedings. Simply put, fault has no place in a divorce. A divorce becomes a contentious process when spouses are forced to allege fault with one another. This would hinder the resolution of legal issues that need to be worked out between separating couples.
Most grounds cited for fault were simply irrelevant to the divorce. Fault is not considered by the court when dividing assets or awarding spousal support. Child custody and child support are also fault-free, although a spouse’s questionable character might reflect on their fitness to be a parent.
In Mediation, fault might be considered, but for the most part, divorcing spouses would be better served by following the law and avoiding agreements that dragged the marriage down in the first place.
Are There Exceptions?
Yes, the one exception is domestic violence. But this is not a legal ground for the divorce. Instead, it is used as a basis for justifying a request for protective orders in any Restraining Orders. It can also be considered in child custody.
Benefits to the Court
Finally, the court benefits from no-fault divorce. If fault has to be litigated, a lot of court time would be used adjudicating who was right and who was wrong. By moving past fault, it saves the court time and valuable public resources and allows the client to focus on the real issues that need to be resolved in order to obtain a divorce judgment.