What is the difference between a fault and no-fault divorce?

Under the law, a divorce is the legal process for dissolving or ending a marriage. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the grounds for divorce are either based on fault grounds or as a no-fault divorce.

A no-fault divorce does not require parties to prove blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Neither party is determined to be at fault. A no-fault divorce is based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship. This is the legal phrase that shows that a marriage is broken beyond repair and there is no possibility of reconciliation. Either or both parties can file to begin the process for a no-fault divorce. If the Parties can agree in advance of the resolution of all issues, they can file a Joint Petition for Divorce under M. G. L. c. 208 Section 1A (commonly called a 1A divorce). If the parties have not resolved the issues, one party files an Individual Complaint for Divorce under M. G. L. c. 208 Section 1 B (commonly referred to as a 1B divorce).

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there are seven distinct grounds for a fault divorce. These grounds include cruel and abusive treatment, desertion (leaving without justification or intent to return) for one year or more, adultery, impotence, habitual intoxication (excessive use of drugs or alcohol), failure to provide support or maintenance, and sentences of five years or more in a penal institution. If the moving party (one who files for divorce) asserts one of these fault based grounds, that party must prove facts in support of said grounds by a preponderance of the evidence. Divorce based on fault grounds tend to be more expensive, emotionally difficult and more time-consuming than no fault divorces. The potential for an increased share of the marital estate is rarely worth it as Courts simply are not interested in trying fault ground divorces except in certain cases. Even when filing no-fault grounds, conduct can still be considered in determining an equitable division of assets.

Proving a fault divorce can be difficult. It is recommended the accusing party have solid proof of any fault grounds and a legitimate reason for filing under fault grounds. Make sure to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any divorce action to understand your options. Contact Berid & Schutzbank, LLC to have your questions answered today.

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