A few years back, for getting a divorce, either of the spouses had to find a "reason" and put it in front of the court, for the case of divorce even to be considered. Some of the possible reasons put forth were - infidelity on the part of a spouse, abandonment, inability to have a physical relationship, amongst others. This led to highly emotional divorce case proceedings, with the spouses accusing each other of causing the breakdown of marriage. Such cases were legally termed as "at fault divorces". In order to avoid the ugly fights that often occurred in such cases where both the spouses tried to paint each other as "culprits", most of the states today have discarded "at fault divorces" and have adopted "no fault divorce" policy.
As mentioned earlier, in this type of divorce, the spouses ask for a divorce by bringing to the notice of the court, some fault that the other one has committed. The five grounds for such a divorce are - adultery, abandonment for a long period, inability of the spouse to have a sexual relationship (if it was not known before marriage), the spouse being convicted of a crime and send to prison for a long period and domestic violence (both physical and emotional).
When a couple seeks "at fault" divorce, they do not need to live apart from each other for a stipulated time period, before the divorce is granted by the court. If the charges are proved, the court grants a divorce immediately. Secondly, if the evidence gathered by the court proves the "fault", the spouse who is not at fault is often given a greater portion of the property, money and assets, which the couple owns. However, when both the spouses are at fault, the doctrine of "comparative rectitude" comes into play. According to this doctrine, it is up to the court to decide which of the two spouses has lesser fault and that spouse is then granted a divorce. This doctrine ensures that all the couples who are seeking a divorce, get one and are not forced to continue with their marriage.
No Fault Divorce
This type of divorce does not require any of the spouses to give a reason for divorce. The only reason that they give, for the court to consider them granting a divorce is "irreconcilable differences". This reason is given to inform the court that the couple does not wish to continue with their marital relationship. When such a case is filed by a spouse, the other one cannot legally object to it and thus it is often without any mess or emotional court dramas. There is one little hitch with no fault divorces though. The court asks the petitioners to live apart for a certain period of time, only then the divorce is granted. This time period varies from state to state and can be anywhere up to five years.
Difference between the Two...
The major difference between the two is that the latter can be contested and objected to on various grounds. On the other hand, a "no fault" divorce cannot be objected to as there is no "reason" for filing such a divorce except for "irreconcilable differences", which is just a legal term, holding no specific meaning. An "at fault" divorce can of course be contested. For instance, if a spouse is accusing the other one of adultery, in his defense, the accused spouse can argue "connivance" i.e. his spouse already knew of it and agreed to or participated in the act of infidelity. Another defense is "recrimination" i.e. when the spouse who is complaining, displayed the same behavior and is thus, equally at fault. Likewise, there is "provocation" wherein the one who is accused, blames his spouse for provoking him to behave in a certain manner. These are some of the defenses that people typically use in order to fight the "at fault" divorce cases. Such cases can prove to be very time and money consuming and that's probably the reason why very less percentage of people contest "at fault" divorce cases.
As can be seen, a no fault divorce is a more convenient option as compared to the fault divorce. However, before filing for divorce in any state, one should be absolutely sure of the laws and processes pertaining to divorce, in that particular state. Also, as divorce proceedings can take time and require quite a few court visits, it is always a good idea to file for divorce in the state one is residing in.