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The no fault divorce is actually a concept pioneered during the 1917 Communist Revolution in Russia. Instead of allowing churches the right to govern the terms of when or how a divorce could take place, it allowed people to end their marriages more quickly, merely on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. This concept took much longer to catch on in other countries, especially the US. California was the first state to institute a no fault divorce law in 1969, but it was not until 1985 that all US states permitted the concept, and it may be interpreted differently in different states. New Yorkers who seek a no fault divorce do so by signing a separation agreement. They must then wait a full year to proceed with a divorce.
Essentially, a no fault divorce means that either spouse can end a marriage, and there really doesn’t have to be a reason in many cases. The cited reason is irreconcilable differences, but that can mean virtually anything from a spouse committing adultery to someone simply deciding they don’t want to be married. Where no fault divorce laws apply, it is virtually impossible to stop a divorce, since either spouse may initiate divorce proceedings and get a divorce under these laws.
The no fault divorce tends also to mean, especially in community property states, that the bad actions of one spouse does not affect the 50/50 distribution of property. Some issues of “fault” may be taken into account when it comes to considering alimony or child support. Courts may also entertain emergency petitions for financial help before a divorce has taken place. The no fault law can considerably cut down on time needed to appear in court, since judges don’t have to weigh the behavior of spouses in order to decide whether to grant a divorce. Instead when it is no fault, there’s little to no consideration of how or why a divorce is taking place.
This does not mean that a spouse can’t sue his or her spouse if the person has acted criminally. Even when a no fault divorce takes place, a spouse could sue an abusive spouse in civil court, or could take the matter to criminal court and demand prosecution of the spouse. There can thus be an unequal division of assets after a divorce takes place, if a spouse can claim and has proof of significant abuse.
Further, a judge may need to hear arguments of fault when determining alimony, or when determining child custody. So while a divorce may still be obtained for any reason, fault may play an important part in deciding who gets to parent the kids, and what alimony is to be awarded based on the actions of one or both spouses.