When Fault Matters in a No-Fault State

California is considered a no-fault divorce state, meaning the reason a couple is divorcing is completely irrelevant to the court in whether the court will grant a divorce. Neither party has to prove the other was at fault for the break down of the marriage. There is even a statute that makes evidence of specific acts of misconduct is improper and inadmissible. It does not matter to the court whether you are requesting a divorce from your spouse because he/she is abusive toward you, uses drugs, is an alcoholic, cheats and/or has inappropriate Facebook relationships, works too much or that you have grown tired of your spouse. As long as one party alleges “irreconcilable differences”, meaning marital problems that cannot be resolved, the court will grant a request for divorce.

The other ground for divorce in California is “incurable insanity.” As a San Diego divorce attorney, although some of my clients think their spouse is “insane”, I never had a case where the “insanity” reached a level of “incurable insanity.”

So while fault has no impact on whether or not a court will grant a divorce, three areas of “fault” – domestic violence, drug use and alcoholism – can have a major impact on how the court decides the issues of custody, visitation and spousal support.

A finding of domestic violence, against either the other party or the child, gives rise to a presumption that an award of custody to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence is detrimental to the best interest of the child. The perpetrator may end up with no visitation or supervised visitation. However, in order to prevent a party making false accusations of abuse to obtain an advantage in a custody dispute, the court imposes very harsh penalties on a party making a false accusation.

The perpetrator of domestic violence may have to pay more spousal support to the abused spouse, or if criminally convicted, be barred from receiving support from the abused spouse. In the case In re Marriage of Cauley, Ex-Wife was convicted of domestic violence against Ex-Husband and Ex-Husband’s request to terminate spousal support he paid to Ex-Wife was granted.

A party who is a drug user or alcoholic may have his or her time with their child(ren) reduced, supervised or even eliminated. Further, the court may order the drug or alcohol user to undergo drug and/or alcohol testing.