What Does ‘No-Fault’ Mean in California Divorce?

What Does ‘No-Fault’ Mean in California Divorce?

What Does ‘No-Fault’ Mean in California Divorce?The concept of a no-fault divorce was adopted in 1970 in the state of California, becoming the first state in the United States to do so. This approach to divorce recognizes that marriages can end for a variety of reasons and allows couples to end their marriages without going through a contentious and lengthy legal process to prove fault.

No-fault divorce aims to reduce the adversarial nature of divorce proceedings by eliminating the requirement to assign blame. Major issues that often come up in divorce, such as child custody, division of property, and spousal support, are generally addressed without delving into the specific reasons behind the divorce. This makes way for a fair and logical life division without the intense drama of fault-based divorce.

‘No-Fault’ Explained

In California, a “no-fault” divorce means that neither partner needs to prove and assign fault that the other spouse did anything malicious in order to obtain a divorce. The couple can submit that they have irreconcilable differences that are leading to divorce. This creates a simplified divorce process, allowing the divorcing couple time and energy to focus on the amicable settlements and agreements on their terms.

How to File for a No-Fault Divorce in California

While specific steps for filing for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences can vary jurisdiction by jurisdiction, the general process is often similar. Local laws and regulations can impact the actions you take. Consulting a local attorney and seeking specific legal advice within your jurisdiction is highly recommended.

  • Residency Requirements: In California, the residency requirement for filling a divorce states that at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months before filing, and the filing spouse must be a residence of the county they file in for at least three months before.
  • Consult with an Attorney: While not a requirement, scheduling a consultation with a divorce attorney at this stage is helpful in gathering valuable information on your rights and obligations moving forward. An attorney can offer you service as a guide throughout the entire legal process.
  • Gather Necessary Documents: Before filing a petition, it is helpful to gather financial documents like bank statements, tax returns, and asset and debt details. If you have a child, gather information on their status as well. This can include living arrangements, school, and all other relevant information.
  • File the Petition: Filing a divorce petition initiates the divorce process and outlines the relief you are seeking, such as child custody, spousal support, and division of property.
  • Serve the Spouse: An official notice must be delivered to your spouse, typically known as “serving” divorce papers.
  • Response from Spouse: In California, your spouse has 30 days from the day they were served divorce papers to make an official response. If they agree to the terms, the process will move forward smoothly. If disagreements arise, negotiations and hearings may be necessary.
  • Financial Disclosures: Both parties can be required to disclose their own financial information, as this will help the court make decisions regarding spousal support, division of property, and more.
  • Negotiation/Mediation: Negotiations and mediations can be pursued in order to reach a consensus on important issues such as child custody, alimony, and property division.
  • Finalize the Divorce: Once all agreements are reached, the divorce will be finalized. The settlement agreement must be submitted for official court approval.
  • Court Judgment: A judgment of divorce granted by the court will officially end the marriage. This judgment will include all final terms of the divorce settlement.

What Are the Main Elements of a California Divorce?


Q: What Are the Reasons For Granting a Divorce in California?

A: The primary ground for divorce in California is irreconcilable differences, which has led to the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. This is a no-fault ground. A secondary ground for divorce is incurable insanity, which requires proof such as psychiatric testimony and/or medical documentation. This option is rarely used in divorce as irreconcilable differences are reason enough for divorce in California, but there are situations when this ground is necessary.

Q: Does Infidelity or Other Misconduct Affect Spousal Support in a No-Fault Divorce?

A: In a no-fault divorce, judges primarily review factors related to the dependent spouse’s need for support, such as the income and assets of the supporting spouse and the dependent spouse’s ability to continue the quality of life established in marriage. There is a stipulation that judges may review any other factors they see as “just and equitable” when determining spousal support, which could include misconduct in the marriage. It is unlikely that evidence of misconduct would affect an alimony decision.

Q: Do I Need an Attorney in a California Divorce?

A: While it is not a legal requirement to partner with a family law attorney for a divorce case in California, it can be a highly favorable choice. California divorce lawyers will work to understand your interests and represent your rights and goals during negotiations with your spouse and the court if necessary. Attorneys provide clear and detailed guidance in divorce cases, often streamlining the process and providing their clients with relief and confidence in the process.

Q: Can a Spouse Contest a No-Fault Divorce in California?

A: Yes, a spouse can contest a divorce in California. In general, this will not halt the divorce process altogether but rather slow down the proceedings, making it take longer to complete. Individuals often choose to contest the terms of the divorce in cases of fraud, coercion, duress, physical and emotional harm, and disputes around the division of assets. A response to the divorce petition must be filed within 30 days of being served the original divorce papers to contest.

Contact Bickford Blado & Botros

If you are looking for more information surrounding grounds for a divorce, the divorce process in general, or to seek legal representation, reach out to Bickford Blado & Botros. Our family law attorneys are experienced in California divorce law and can come alongside you in your legal matter to provide accurate and experienced support to offer a smoother process for your divorce.

Schedule a consultation today to learn how our office can support you during this time.



Feel Free to Contact Our Office with Any Questions


Contact Information