When you must end a marriage, you face many difficult decisions. And certainly, the goal of most divorcing couples is to find a way to start a new chapter in life in the most positive way possible.
But what if your marriage is ending solely due to the actions of your spouse? Should you pursue the path of least confrontation through a 'no-fault' divorce? Or would you derive more benefit from an 'at-fault' proceeding? Here's what you should know about the fault-based option.
What Causes an 'At-Fault' Divorce?
Most modern Americans are familiar with the most popular option for divorce: the 'no-fault' divorce. In this scenario, neither party is deemed legally responsible for the marital breakdown. The couple generally splits their assets half and half (or in a way considered fair by state rules).
An 'at-fault' — or 'fault-based' — divorce, though, begins with the premise that one party is responsible for what happened. Generally, this responsibility is generated from one of the following actions:
- Extra-marital relationships or 'cheating'
- Abandonment of the relationship for a long period
- Physical or mental abuse that makes the marriage unreasonable to continue
- Long-term drug or alcohol abuse
Clearly, these are extreme situations. They essentially create an untenable situation for the innocent spouse, necessitating divorce despite what the wronged spouse may want.
What Benefit Can an 'At-Fault' Divorce Bring?
The primary reason to seek a ruling that your spouse is responsible for the marriage ending is that it can help in matters of support and custody. If you can demonstrate that your partner abandoned the family, for instance, they are much less likely to be granted extensive custody of shared children. And if it's clear that you were wronged, your alimony could be significantly more justified.
What Are the Challenges for 'At-Fault' Divorce?
The difficulties in this type of divorce come in three main categories. First, not all states allow fault-based divorce. If you file in a state that doesn't, you have no choice in the matter. Secondly, you will have to prove legal responsibility. This part can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Some matters, such as a cheating spouse, might be relatively easy. But proving mental abuse, for instance, can be hard.
Finally, fault-based divorce can be contested and/or denied. Because the burden of proof is on one party, failure to make your case could result in the entire case being thrown out.
Where Should You Begin?
If you think that an 'at-fault' divorce could be beneficial to you, start by consulting with a family law attorney in your state. Because this divorce type is more complicated, you need legal representation as early as possible. Make an appointment today to learn more.