Prior to every divorce, something about the marriage has changed. Sometimes, it’s clear what happened. Your spouse cheated, or there was violence. Other times, it’s harder to say when things changed, but the change is still there. You don’t feel connected. You don’t feel loved. You’re distant. Like two strangers stuck in the same home.
The circumstances of each divorce are as specific and unique as the people who get them. So why does Arizona recognize just one cause for most divorces?
Understanding no-fault divorce
Because Arizona allows couples to enter into covenant marriages, the state’s laws address fault grounds for divorce. But they limit those grounds to covenant marriages. Most couples do not pursue covenant marriages, and such couples may only cite one reason for their divorce—that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
This leads us to no-fault divorce. In no-fault divorces, the court doesn’t need to know who broke the marriage. They just need to know it’s broken. No-fault divorces were first approved in California in 1969 and have since been recognized in all 50 states. The original arguments for no-fault divorce were that the system would:
- Reduce litigation by removing the need to prove fault
- Minimize the lies couples routinely told during divorce proceedings
- Allow couples—especially parents—to exit a marriage with less hostility
People continue to debate whether no-fault divorce is good for the nation. In the meantime, it’s what we have, and it’s good for you to understand how it works.
Focus on your goals, not the faults in your marriage
The main thing no-fault divorce does for you is remove the focus on blame. You don’t need to prove your spouse committed adultery, abused you or spent all your money on drugs. The old standards for divorce led to proceedings that were almost like criminal trials. If your spouse denied your claims, you’d have to produce enough evidence to convince the court.
The no-fault standard for divorce allows you to focus more on your future goals. When you don’t need to defend yourself from false allegations or prove your spouse was cheating on you, you can:
- Focus on what’s best for your children
- Settle your disputes in mediation or via other forms of alternative dispute resolution
- Limit your arguments only to the information you need to reach your goals
This is not to say that your spouse’s bad behavior is completely excused. You no longer need to prove fault to get divorced, but depending on your circumstances, your spouse’s bad behavior may factor into questions of custody or property division. This may be the case if your spouse presents a danger to your children or spent a significant amount of money on drugs or affairs. Here, you’ll want to gather compelling evidence. But the goal isn’t to prove the marriage is broken; it’s to make sure your settlement works.
What do the courts need to know?
In the end, the shift to no-fault divorce means the courts need to know only what’s necessary. And the definition of what’s “necessary” will change with every divorce.
If your divorce is contentious and involves physical or financial abuse, you may need to supply the court with enough evidence to give a clear picture. On the other hand, if you and your spouse can resolve your disagreements through mediation, the court may have very little need for extra details. An experienced family law attorney can help you find the approach that best meets your needs.