Divorce often represents a time of great difficulty. You have emotional turmoil to contend with, practical and logistical concerns, and with forms, attorneys, and appearances, the process gets incredibly complex. Any number of factors can further complicate matters. One such snag is when you want to end your marriage, but the other party has other ideas. What can you do if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce?
This sounds like the stuff of horror movies. Or at least a schlocky made-for-cable melodrama you stumble across late at night. You want to end it, but your spouse doesn’t want to divorce and you wind up trapped in loveless, unhealthy marriage. That’s how it goes down on screen anyway.
The good news is that, with the exception of Mississippi and South Dakota, that can’t happen in real life. Every other state in the union, including Washington, practices no-fault divorce. This means that as long as one party wants out, the courts will grant it. You can end your marriage even if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce.
What Is No-Fault Divorce?
In short, no-fault divorce is exactly what it sounds like. You don’t have to prove that either party is to blame for the marriage crumbling. All the court requires is that you declare the union broken beyond repair with no hope of reconciliation. Do that, actually be legally married, meet state residency requirements, and follow the proper procedure, and you can dissolve your marriage.
In a practical sense, no-fault divorce streamlines ending a marriage. Without having to prove one person is to blame, it speeds up the timeline. There’s no need to dig up painful memories or sling mud back and forth. And even if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce, you can get out and move on with your life.
No-Fault Divorce And Settlements
Under no-fault divorce statutes, the court doesn’t take wrongdoing into account when dissolving a marriage. If your spouse doesn’t want to divorce, they can’t stop it from happening. Wrongdoing can, however, impact the process in other ways.
It may come into play in a variety of areas in divorce cases. Child custody, the division of property, spousal support, and others can all feel the influence. That said, it often doesn’t. Like many situations involving divorce, it varies from one case to the next. Unless it has a direct, concrete impact on circumstances, fault doesn’t usually factor in.
Let’s looks at adultery as an example. Infidelity can kill relationships and there’s often no coming back from cheating. But it only factors into the divorce when it negatively impacts the surrounding situation. If your spouse drains a joint bank account buying elaborate gifts or paying for hotels, that may factor into the division of property. When an affair negatively influences a person’s parenting ability, that can play into child custody decisions. It’s often difficult to prove this in a concrete manner, however. If there’s no clear damage, odds are it won’t leave a huge impression on the case.
More than fault, the court considers other factors in divorce settlements. The length of a marriage, level of need, job prospects in the future, and more impact financial decisions. Stability, safety, relationships, and the best interests of the child carry the most weight in custody situations.
Arguments For And Against No-Fault Divorce
Proponents of no-fault divorce often cite suicide rates and incidents of domestic violence to back their claims. Both dropped in states that picked up this practice. Also, they state that outside interests, like the courts, shouldn’t be able to determine whether a person has legitimate reasons for wanting out of a marriage. Just the fact that you want out should be enough, even if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce.
Opponents argue that no-fault divorce decreases the inherent value of marriage. That by making it easier to end a marriage, it lessens the significance of the matrimonial bond. Another point of contention claims that often the person actually at fault files for divorce. In these situations, an abuser or cheating spouse can end a marriage with no consequences.
The list of why marriages and relationships break down is practically endless. It’s as long as the list of why people wed in the first place. Abuse, infidelity, and financial problems are just a few common causes. But sometimes people just grow apart or want different things. No-fault divorce helps smooth over the process and means neither party has to blame the other. You can end your marriage even if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce.
If you have questions about your divorce, contact Goldberg Jones at our Seattle office.