As of 2010, all states recognize no-fault divorce, but the majority allow spouses to file on fault grounds as well. However, as divorce laws move into the 21st century, more and more states are eliminating fault-based divorce grounds from their statutes entirely. Most states that recognize fault-based divorce provide a ground that would address abuse. However, if time is your concern, you can usually get a no-fault divorce more quickly.
Abuse as a Divorce Ground
Most states that recognize fault grounds don’t specifically name verbal abuse as one of them. Verbal abuse usually falls in the category of cruelty. Before a court will grant you a divorce on a cruelty ground, you have to prove that the abuse occurred. This can complicate divorce proceedings and drag them out, because your spouse can contest your ground. While he usually can’t offer a defense for committing the abuse, such as that it only happened when he was intoxicated, he can argue that he never verbally abused you at all and that your ground doesn’t exist. When you file on a no-fault ground, you don’t have to prove it and your spouse can’t contest it.
Some states recognize constructive desertion as a fault ground as well. Normally, desertion or abandonment means your spouse left you and refused to return. Constructive desertion means that your home life was so intolerable, you felt that you had to leave and escape it. The downside to using this divorce ground is the time frames that usually apply to both types of desertion. You can't leave and file for divorce the next day, unless you choose another ground. In most states, you and your spouse must live apart for a year or more for your situation to qualify as desertion or abandonment.
Pure No-Fault States
At the time of publication, states that do not permit you to file on fault grounds include California, Florida, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Hawaii, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. This means you don’t have the option of alleging cruelty or abuse if you file in one of these jurisdictions; your only option is a no-fault ground, such as irreconcilable differences. How soon you can get a divorce would depend on your state’s laws for establishing residency and waiting periods that might apply.
Some states require you to wait a certain period of time between filing for divorce and receiving a divorce. These waiting periods usually don’t have anything to do with the divorce ground on which you filed. Among the pure no-fault states, Florida, Hawaii and Nevada have no waiting periods. If you file for a no-fault divorce in these states, and if your spouse doesn’t contest property distribution or custody factors, you can receive your divorce relatively quickly. In most fault-based states where you can allege cruelty, the waiting period is between 30 and 90 days. However, you’ll have to wait 18 months in Virginia if your spouse contests your divorce, and in Massachusetts, you’ll wait an additional five months if you file on cruelty charges rather than ask for a no-fault divorce.
References & Resources
- Lawyers.com: Grounds for Divorce – Cruelty
- Brandes Law: Grounds for Divorce – What Must be Proven
- Total Divorce: Waiting Periods After Filing for Divorce
- American Bar Association: Family Law in the 50 States – Chart 4 – Grounds for Divorce and Residency Requirements (PDF)
- DivorceSupport.com: What is Constructive Desertion?
- Jane K. Cristal: New York Becomes Last State to Pass No Fault Divorce
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images