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Understanding Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

In order to get divorced in New York, spouses must have a legally acceptable reason for ending the marriage. This is typically expressed in terms of fault. What’s the difference between “fault” and “no-fault” divorce?

Fault vs. no-fault grounds for divorce

The choice between fault or no-fault grounds for divorce can significantly impact the process.

If you choose to file for fault-based grounds, it means one spouse accuses the other of wrongdoing within the marriage. Common fault-based grounds include adultery, cruel and inhuman treatment or abandonment. When choosing fault grounds, the accusing spouse alleges that the other’s actions led to the breakdown of the marriage.

No-fault divorce grounds do not assign blame to either spouse for the marriage’s dissolution. Instead, they focus on the fact that the marriage has irretrievably broken. New York law provides three no-fault grounds: One spouse states under oath that the marriage has “broken down irretrievably” for at least six months prior to the commencement of the divorce action.

In a no-fault divorce, the emphasis is on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, rather than assigning blame. It is generally advisable to opt for a no-fault divorce when possible, as it often leads to a smoother and less contentious process.  In fact, it is uncommon for a divorce to be granted on a “grounds”, other then converting a separation agreement/order by living a part pursuant to same for a period of one year.

However, in some cases, filing for fault-based grounds is advisable or necessary, particular where there is profound abuse which may impact the distribution of assets. Working with experienced divorce attorneys is key. Your lawyer will help you understand your legal options and the most likely outcome.

If you’re ready to divorce, contact the qualified divorce lawyers at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP today.