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What is a no fault divorce?

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March 8, 2020

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What is a no fault divorce?

According to the California State Assembly, California was the first state to enact the no fault divorce law. Then governor, Ronald Reagan, signed the law in late 1969 and it went into effect at the start of 1970. Prior to this, in order to get a divorce, there had to be serious grounds for the separation. This might include spousal abuse (physical or mental), infidelity, cruelty, etc. Essentially, there had to be a guilty party to qualify for a divorce.

Citizens and lawmakers worried that the necessity of proving “fault” before a judge created situations where abusive relationships might continue, fabricated claims might ruin reputations and cause emotional harm and separations without divorce would be more prevalent.

How the no-fault divorce law changed things

Instead of needing to prove marital fault, under the Family Law Act of 1969, couples could now file for a no fault divorce. All they needed to do was cite “irreconcilable differences.” The Judicial Council of California states that, in order to file for divorce, a spouse never has to prove that their partner did something wrong.

Do partners have to agree to get divorced?

Under California law, not only do partners not have an obligation to prove fault, but a spouse can file for a divorce regardless of whether or not their partner wants one. If spouses are not in agreement about a divorce, the partner desiring to stay in the marriage cannot refuse to participate or hold up the divorce. If a spouse does refuse to take part in the proceedings, their partner can ask for a default judgment to finalize the divorce anyway.

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