Like many other states, California only allows spouses to file for divorce on “no-fault” grounds. The traditional fault-based grounds for divorce (such as adultery, abandonment, and domestic abuse) are no longer available. As explained by the California Courts:
“California is a ‘no fault’ divorce state, which means that the spouse or domestic partner that is asking for the divorce does not have to prove that the other spouse or domestic partner did something wrong. To get a no fault divorce, [a] spouse or domestic partner has to state that the couple cannot get along. Legally, this is called ‘irreconcilable differences.’”
As a spouse in California, what constitutes “irreconcilable differences” is up to you. If you are dissatisfied with your marriage and ready to end it, then you have grounds to file for divorce. Furthermore, even if your spouse wants to remain married, disagreeing over whether to get divorced in itself reflects the requisite irreconcilability to file for divorce in California.
Why Doesn’t California Allow for Fault-Based Divorce?
If your spouse has cheated on you or treated you cruelly, it may initially seem strange – and perhaps unfair – that you cannot file for divorce on fault-based grounds. However, the reality is that California’s no-fault divorce statute is designed to make it easier to get divorced regardless of your personal and family circumstances.
The issue with California’s old fault-based divorce law was that it required proof of fault before a divorce could be granted. If you filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery, you would have to prove it, meaning that you would need evidence of your spouse’s affair and he or she would have the opportunity to challenge your divorce filing.
Both of these factors had the potential to present substantial obstacles for a spouse seeking to end an unfaithful marriage. Under the current no-fault statute, no evidence is required, and your spouse cannot seek to prolong your marriage by challenging your grounds for divorce.
How Do Adultery and Other Forms of “Marital Fault” Impact California Divorces?
While California does not allow for the filing of a divorce on fault-based grounds, marital fault can still impact the divorce process in certain ways.
For example, if your spouse used credit to fund his or her affair, you may be entitled to recoup your share of these funds out of your spouse’s overall share of community property. Evidence of adultery, abandonment, or domestic violence can impact the determination of child custody as well, as the sole focus in California custody matters is on protecting the best interests of the children involved.
So, if your spouse has committed marital fault, should you raise the issue during your divorce? It is certainly something that you should discuss with your divorce attorney, and your attorney will be able to help you choose the best path forward. While presenting evidence of marital fault can be beneficial under appropriate circumstances, it also has the potential to engender significant hostility, and this can increase the cost of the divorce process (perhaps significantly as well).
As a result, you and your attorney should discuss all the potential ramifications – both positive and negative – of raising the issue of marital fault while also giving due consideration to the potential emotional impacts for you and your children. Once you have a clear picture of all of the relevant considerations, you can then make an informed decision about if (and how) to raise your spouse’s marital fault during your divorce.
Contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates in North County, San Diego
If you have questions about filing for divorce in California and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential initial consultation. To request an appointment with North County, San Diego divorce attorney Richard M. Renkin, please call 619-299-7100 or inquire online today.