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What Is Fault Divorce Versus No-Fault Divorce?


During a divorce case, you may hear the terms fault and no-fault, especially at the beginning of the filing process. While every state allows claimants to file for no-fault divorces, some also give the option of filing for a fault divorce. It is important to understand the difference between these two types of divorce, the laws in your state and which type of divorce will serve your best interests. An experienced divorce attorney can review your case to help you answer these questions.

What Is the Difference?

A no-fault divorce does not allege that one spouse or the other caused the marriage to dissolve. Instead, it gives a mutual reason such as irreconcilable differences. A fault divorce, however, asserts that one spouse caused the split. The distinction is important because separate rules and laws apply to each type. If a spouse succeeds with a fault-based divorce, he or she could bypass rules such as the required period of separation as well as receive a greater portion of marital property. Proving fault for divorce in some states could also lead to alimony – or more alimony – for the not-at-fault spouse.

Although a fault divorce could come with benefits, it can also be more difficult to win and take longer to resolve. For a successful fault-based divorce, the filing party must prove fault. The party alleging fault must have evidence that the scenario fulfills the state’s requirements for fault divorces. In most states, these requirements include adultery, abandonment, domestic violence, a conviction for a crime or the physical inability to have sex.

Is Colorado a Fault or No-Fault Divorce State?

Not all states permit people to file for fault divorces. Currently, claimants can request fault-based divorce actions in 33 states. The other 17 states and the District of Columbia are no-fault divorce states. A true no-fault divorce state does not allow anyone to file otherwise. Colorado is one of them. In Colorado, the only grounds on which a person can file for divorce is no fault. State courts will never assign fault to one party or another during a divorce.

To get a divorce in Colorado, you must show the marriage is irretrievably broken. This is the only grounds for divorce in Colorado. Both parties must affirm under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or one spouse must claim it and the other must not deny it. Other requirements are that the petitioner has lived in Colorado for at least 90 days prior to filing. If the case involves a minor child, the child must have lived in the state for at least 180 days. Unless the courts find evidence proving otherwise, it will generally agree to hear the no-fault divorce petition.

When to Hire an Attorney

The courts in Colorado will not take fault into consideration when determining aspects of a divorce order such as child custody, child support, alimony or property division. The courts will instead use other methods to make these decisions, such as equitable distribution laws. Equitable distribution means the courts will split marital property according to what is fair, not necessarily what is equal. This often means the spouse that earned more money during the marriage will get to keep more marital property upon divorce.

A divorce attorney can help you navigate Colorado’s no-fault divorce laws. A lawyer can use the state’s divorce laws to your advantage as much as possible, arguing your side of the case before a judge, if necessary. An attorney could also help you during pretrial events such as mediation to improve the odds of settling your case while avoiding a trial. If you need assistance proving an irretrievably broken marriage, a lawyer can help you with this task in Colorado.



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