Define a No Fault Divorce

by Beverly Bird
A no-fault divorce allows you to avoid telling the court what went wrong with your marriage.

A no-fault divorce allows you to avoid telling the court what went wrong with your marriage.

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All states now recognize no-fault divorce, but there are different kinds of no-fault grounds. Divorcing this way in Maryland isn't quite as easy as it is in California. The commonality among all jurisdictions is that no-fault means you don't have to point an accusatory finger at your spouse or prove that he did anything wrong in order to be granted a divorce.

We Just Don't Get Along

Most states only require that you tell the court in your petition or complaint that you and your spouse are incompatible. Some states hang fancy terms on this concept – in New York, your marriage is "irretrievably broken," whereas in Illinois, you and your spouse have "irreconcilable differences." By any name, you just don't want to be married anymore, and this is usually good enough for the court to end your marriage.

We've Lived Apart for a Long Time

In some states, no-fault divorce is more complicated. For example, in Maryland and North Carolina, you must demonstrate that your marriage is over by living apart for a full year before you can file. In Illinois, you can say you've got irreconcilable differences, but you must still live separately for a while as well.

"Pure" No-Fault States

Most states also recognize some fault grounds for divorce, but 15 do not -- including California and Florida. In these jurisdictions, you have no choice but to file for divorce on blameless grounds.