“No-Fault Divorce” is a short-hand way of saying that anyone who wants a divorce is legally entitled to it. Put another way, the law will not compel you to stay married against your wishes.
It wasn’t always that way. Since colonial times there had been an on-going debate in Connecticut about how easy or difficult it should be to obtain a divorce. A divorce plaintiff had to allege and prove the existence of certain legally-recognized grounds for divorce, which included abandonment, habitual intemperance, adultery, etc. Proof was often cumbersome, especially when both spouses recognized that the marriage had broken down. So, “friendly divorces”, in which both sides stipulated to such grounds, became commonplace. We see characters in historical dramas asking their spouse for divorce or refusing such requests. In the 1970s, 37 states, including Connecticut, abolished proof of fault as a requirement for obtaining a divorce. Today, not a single state has such a requirement.
In Connecticut it is necessary to prove only that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Although this should not be taken lightly, as a practical matter courts assume that to be the case if at least one spouse is seeking a dissolution of the marriage.
But fault, both personal and financial, is not completely irrelevant. Fault is among the factors which may be considered by the court in property distribution, or in fashioning an alimony award, although the weight to be accorded those facts is completely within the discretion of the judge.
Connecticut divorce attorney Ed Jurkiewicz is a member of the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce, the Family Law Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, and the Litchfield County Collaborative Divorce Group. He welcomes inquiries from new clients.