What is a No Fault Divorce?

Historically, divorces often required one party to be at fault to get a divorce.  This could have been criminal behavior, adultery, or abuse, for example.  Now instead, all States, Minnesota included, operate under a “no fault” divorce system.

As an aside, some states require a separation period before divorcing, even though they are no fault.  The idea is to give the parties time to think over the decision and possibly reconcile.  Minnesota does not have a separation requirement.

What is a No Fault Divorce and why does it matter?

A no fault divorce means that either party can get a divorce without alleging the other is at fault in some way.  Instead, one spouse only needs to allege that the marriage is effectively broken.  Each state has language that a spouse must use to make this assertion.

For example, celebrities often get divorced citing “irreconcilable differences”.  In Minnesota, the term is “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”.

Perhaps most importantly, it also means that either party can get a divorce over the objection of the other party.  So, if you are entitled to a divorce in Minnesota and want a divorce, there’s no way for your spouse to legally prevent it.

Lastly, no fault only refers to the basis to start a divorce. In practice, it largely keeps out the “who’s to blame for the divorce” argument out of the legal process, as blame doesn’t matter legally.

However, it does not mean a divorce will necessarily be uncontested.  Each spouse still has a right to argue his or her side of issues related to the divorce.  This includes: custody, child support, alimony, and property division.

If you have more divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation.


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