No-Fault Divorce: What It Means For Your Case

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Marriages end for a variety of reasons. Infidelity, abuse, mistrust, financial issues, and more. The list of causes of divorce is practically endless. That doesn’t mean, however, that one person must always carry the blame. This is where no-fault divorce comes in.

Sometimes two people grow apart and evolve in different, incompatible directions. Marriages often don’t work for any number of reasons. No one is specifically to blame, it simply wasn’t right.

Washington is a no-fault divorce state. This means that, in order to dissolve a marriage, there is no need for one party to assign blame or to prove that the other was in the wrong.

In this state, the court only requires one spouse to declare the union irretrievably broken, with no hope for reconciliation.

Basically, under the no-fault statutes, as long as a petitioner is legally married, meets the residency requirements in Washington, and correctly follows the procedure, you the court will grant a divorce if you want one.

This means you don’t have to provide any grounds. There are no “innocent” or “guilty” parties, and there’s no need or value in mudslinging back and forth. This does, however, come with its own distinct issues.

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What No-Fault Divorce Means For You:

In practical terms, no-fault divorce shortens and streamlines the process of dissolving a marriage. Also, it precludes the need to prove offenses. There’s no necessity to go to court, throw around accusations, or bring up painful memories and experiences. Especially since you likely want to leave those in the rear-view mirror.

Ideally, this approach doesn’t open up old wounds in the same way as a traditional divorce. It very well may also help get you on the road to healing and moving on with your life that much faster.

In some states, couples have to live apart for a predetermined amount of time in order to be granted a no-fault divorce. This, however, is not the case in Washington.

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No-Fault Divorce And Settlements:

Under no-fault divorce laws, wrongdoing doesn’t factor in when it comes to ending a marriage. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t impact the process at all.

When it comes to the settlement, fault often informs the court’s decision. It may influence things like child custody, visitation, the ultimate division of property, the awarding of spousal support, and other areas.

At the very base level, no-fault divorce simply means that if you want to end your marriage, and follow the appropriate legal steps, you can.

Though evidence of fault in divorce is generally not used in property division—things like financial need, future job prospects, marriage length, child custody, and other circumstances are the primary factors that figure into these decisions—it can come into play. For example, if one spouse’s behavior contributed to financial hardships, like with gambling debts or surprise big purchases, the court often takes that into account in the settlement.

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Arguments For:

Proponents of no-fault divorce argue that rates of both suicide and domestic abuse decrease in states that allow this practice. They also laud a slight overall decline in the total number of divorces.

Additionally, the idea that outsiders, people with no legitimate stake in a union, may legally compel spouses to remain married, potentially even in an unsafe situation, mystifies many.

The logic is that external parties shouldn’t be allowed to determine whether one person’s desire and reasons to leave are valid or not. Only the people directly involved should have the power to make this decision.

Arguments Against:

One key argument against no-fault divorce has been by groups who claim this allows the party who may actually be at fault for the failure of a marriage, for example, a cheating or abusive spouse, to themselves obtain a divorce without the stain of wrongdoing.

In this way, they argue, actually rewards the misconduct. The case has also been made that, by making divorce easier to acquire:

  • it lessens the importance of the social contract of marriage,
  • decreases the matrimonial bond, and,
  • especially as far as men are concerned, allows women to take custody of children at the expense of the husband, even when the father may have done nothing wrong.

Many factors play a part in divorce, and the process can become long-winded and complicated. In an ideal sense, no-fault divorce streamlines this undertaking some, allowing spouses a way out of marriages that just do not work, whatever the underlying causes. But it still comes with its own set of complications to navigate.

Related Reading: Conflict in Divorce: Dealing With Strife Constructively

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