Which States Are No-Fault Divorce States?

By Beverly Bird

All states offer some version of no-fault divorce. California was the first to pass no-fault legislation in 1970, while New York brought up the rear by finally passing a no-fault law in 2010. As a result, no matter where you live, you can get a divorce by simply telling the court that your marriage is over. You no longer have to prove that your spouse caused the breakup. The similarity ends there, however. Individual states put their own spin on no-fault rules.

“True” No-Fault States

At the time of publication, in 17 states and the District of Columbia, you can only file for divorce on no-fault grounds; the laws don’t give you the option of casting blame. These states, which include Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado and California, offer no traditional grounds, such as adultery, abandonment or cruelty.

Exceptions

Although true no-fault states will not permit you to file for divorce because of your spouse’s wrongdoing, some of them do offer other grounds for unusual circumstances. For example, California and Florida allow you to file for divorce if your spouse is insane or mentally incompetent. However, you have to prove it; it's not enough to simply allege that your spouse acts crazy. A doctor must confirm his mental state -- and some states require that he actually live in a mental institution.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Terminology

When you fill out your divorce papers, you might not find a grounds-for-divorce box specifically titled “no-fault” to check. Beneath the no-fault umbrella, states use various terms to identify the grounds. In New Jersey and California, a no-fault divorce is based on irreconcilable differences, and in New Jersey, you can’t file for divorce until you’ve been of the opinion that you and your spouse can’t reconcile for at least six months. In Florida, a no-fault divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Both essentially mean the same thing: your marriage isn’t working for you anymore and you don’t believe your feelings are going to change.

No-Fault as an Option

In the remaining 33 states, you can choose no-fault grounds if you desire, but you also have the option of filing on traditional fault grounds. These states added no-fault legislation to their fault laws rather than eliminating the fault grounds entirely. Several states also offer a third option, a hybrid between a fault and no-fault divorce. This third option is living separate and apart for a certain length of time. Time requirements range from two months in Kentucky to 18 months in Connecticut and two years in Hawaii. Even some pure no-fault states, including Wisconsin, Washington, Nevada, Montana, Kentucky, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, recognize separation-based divorces in addition to their other no-fault options.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How Soon Can I Get a Divorce Based on Verbal Abuse?
 

References

Related articles

Adultery & Divorce Laws in California

Most people believe that cheating on your spouse is wrong, but whether or not it can get you in legal trouble depends on where you live. California’s divorce laws are forgiving of adultery. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a straying spouse will get off scot-free, however.

What Can You Cite in a Divorce Besides Irreconcilable Differences?

Before a court will grant you a divorce, you've got to present a valid reason why your marriage should end. This reason is considered your "grounds" for divorce. All states recognize some version of no-fault grounds for divorce, too. In these instances, you do not have to blame your spouse for wrongdoing in order to terminate your marriage. Irreconcilable differences is a common no-fault ground, but it’s not available in all states so you may have to cite something else instead. The majority of states offer fault grounds for divorce while the remaining states and the District of Columbia are "pure" no-fault jurisdictions.

Reasons for Filing for Divorce

Divorce is the legal severance of a marriage, allowing each partner to go his or her separate way, subject to any lingering orders of child or spousal support and property division. The reasons people file for divorce are as many and varied as the reasons they fall in love and marry. Divorce grounds include infidelity and abuse, while a no-fault divorce may be filed simply because the couple chooses to go their separate ways.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Who Files for Divorce If the Husband Leaves?

No court rules determine which spouse can legally file for divorce, but you do have to have grounds – a legally ...

California's No Fault Divorce Law

California started the no-fault divorce revolution when it passed the first no-fault divorce statute in 1969. The state ...

Is the Absence of Sexual Relations Grounds for Divorce?

Sexual behavior outside the marriage and the lack of sexual relations within the marriage can serve as grounds for ...

Causes of Divorce: Habitual Drunkenness

In 2010, New York became the last jurisdiction to pass provisions for no-fault divorce, so all 50 states have now moved ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED