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What should Californians know about no-fault divorce?

Divorce used to be an uncommon practice, which meant that the few people who did seek divorces often did so because of extreme circumstances such as spousal abuse or flagrant infidelity. In those situations, the spouse who was tired of the other's behavior could petition the courts for a divorce based on the fault of their spouse.

By violating one spouse's basic human rights or the foundation of trust and fidelity upon which a marriage develops, that individual became legally culpable for the end of the marriage. Of course, it was also common for spouses facing divorce to deny allegations against them and try to prove that they were not at fault.

Thankfully, you no longer need to prove fault to secure a divorce. Instead, you only need to attest to the courts that your marriage is no longer sustainable. As a no-fault divorce state, California recognizes that irreconcilable differences are as legitimate of a reason to end a marriage as any of the factors previously considered in fault-based divorces

Marital misconduct has little impact on the final terms

People who ask if they can file for fault-based divorce often hope that the behavior of their ex will influence how the courts split up their assets or allocate the parenting time for their minor children. However, with the exception of abuse scenarios, the courts are unlikely to consider marital misconduct when setting up a parenting plan for divorcing parents.

Even when it comes to the division of your assets, the wrongdoing of your spouse will rarely impact how the courts rule. There are some exceptions, such as if an extramarital affair results in proof that your ex spent a substantial amount of money while conducting the affair that ended your marriage. In that case, you may be able to ask the courts to adjust the allocation of your assets to reflect that amount.

Similarly, if you have penalty clauses built into your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, that could mean that infidelity will influence asset division.

Proving fault was often a lengthy, painful and tedious process

Trying to establish fault in divorce cases used to be a lot like building a case for criminal proceedings. The courts expected more evidence than just your word against that of your spouse.

When California made the shift to no-fault divorce, it was to make the process more effective. The government had come to believe the fault system offered a flawed take on the reality of married life, post-divorce finances and the children's best interests. With no-fault divorce, people can focus less on casting blame and more on planning for their independent futures.

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