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What is the Difference Between a Fault and No-Fault Divorce in Massachusetts?

What is the Difference Between a Fault and No-Fault Divorce in Massachusetts?

Posted on August 1st, 2014

Many family law parties wonder what the difference is between a fault divorce and no-fault divorce.  This article helps clear up the mystery.

Divorce Lawyers in Bristol County and Plymouth County, Massachusetts

Divorce in Massachusetts is classified as either “contested” or “uncontested”.  An uncontested divorce occurs when the parties file a joint petition along with an agreement to resolve their whole case.  A contested case occurs when the parties do not have an immediate agreement to resolve the whole case.  Within the cases that are classified as “contested”, there is a further classification of whether the case is based on certain grounds caused by the “fault” of one party, or whether the case is simply based on irreconcilable differences, meaning that the breakup occurs without being caused by the fault of either party (i.e. “no fault”).

For more information about the grounds for divorce, click here.

The difference between a divorce case based on “fault” versus “no fault” may or may not hold any significant legal consequence – it depends on the circumstances. 

As mentioned, a no-fault divorce occurs when one party files against the other claiming  an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  The Probate and Family Court judge can divorce the parties without ever assigning blame.  The judge will, however, have to follow the statutory law concerning alimony and property division which lists out many different factors that the judge has to, or should, consider.  Because the case is based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and not fault, the court will have to weigh each of these factors depending on the facts presented by either party.

If a case is based upon fault, then the basis for the case itself will likely shape the Court’s analysis of the factors that relate to alimony and property division, and child custody and visitation  As an example, if a case for divorce is based upon cruel and abusive treatment, and because that is one of the major factors in spousal support and property division, the basis for the divorce itself will help shape the resulting orders.

A case based on fault might be more complex than a no-fault case.

In a divorce case involving claims of fault, the court will be required to hear evidence and make findings of fault, which may take time and money to do and is not necessary in a no-fault case.  When one spouse files against the other on fault grounds such as adultery was committed, desertion or one party was abusive to the other, these facts have to be litigated and determined by the court.  This would make things a bit more complicated if the parties are unable to reach an agreement whether it be about the children, child support, visitation, custody, division of marital assets, alimony and the like.

For more information about divorce cases, including “contested” cases versus “uncontested” cases, and “fault” versus “no-fault” cases, call our office today at (508) 316-9720 or send us an email.  We provide a free, private initial consultation.

Serving Bristol and Plymouth Counties and all other cities in Massachusetts, including Mattapoisett, Westport and Dartmouth.