What does “No-Fault” mean in terms of Divorce in California?

California was the first state in the United States to pass a law that allowed for a “No-fault” divorce. “No-fault” is what it sounds like: the dissolution of a marriage does not require one party or the other to accuse the other or prove any wrong-doing. Passed in 1969 and signed into law in 1970, California led the way to what would eventually become law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. New York State passed its No-fault law in 2010 to fill in the map.

Why No-Fault Replaced Fault Based Divorce in all 50 States

Before No-fault, divorce was a much more adversarial action with spouses needing to prove that their partner had somehow breached the contract and sanctity of the marriage. Quite often, a divorce was not adversarial. People just grew apart. That was, however, not a reason to divorce. The lack of no-fault divorce led to people making up stories of infidelity and wrongdoing to be able to end their marriage legally. Often this was done by one spouse to the shock of the other, who was entirely innocent of the accusations. In terms of alleged wrong-doing, California is one of many states that neither require nor permit an allegation of a fault-based ground for divorce. Not allowing a fault-based divorce is to remove the temptation for perjury, which was the main incentive to pass a no-fault law in the first place.

One function of no-fault divorce is that both spouses do not necessarily have to agree about getting divorced. One person cannot legally withhold a separation from the other. As long as one spouse wants the marriage to end, it is going to end.

Concerns of No-Fault Were Unfounded

Many people were concerned that people who abused their spouses would take advantage of the no-fault provision to get away with their behavior. No-fault was argued to put women as a disadvantage allowing men to end a marriage leaving women with no money or a means to support themselves. As California has been a community property state since its inception in 1850, No-fault wasn’t going to have a significant effect on the distribution of assets.

There was a concern that with No-Fault, a divorce would be too easy to obtain. There was a rise in the number of divorce cases after the passing of the no-fault law. The view of the increase in divorce as seen as negative. However, these were failing marriages from which people had no escape. Fault-based divorce was intentionally keeping unhappily married people together.

California has a Six-Month Waiting Period

As divorce is more convenient to obtain, there is a six-month waiting period in California. It is, mainly a cooling-off period. California will not grant a divorce in less than six months. The waiting period ensures that a couple, or a spouse, are not acting in the heat of the moment, but rather on a well thought out decision. The six-month waiting period also gives the couple time to get all of their information together. They can find new living accommodations, and figure out where the kids are going to go to school and spend their weekends and holidays. A six-month waiting period does not mean that the marriage is over in six months. Six months minimum time that the court will grant a divorce. A divorce proceeding will often go past the six-month time frame. The more points of contention related to the separation that there are, the longer the divorce will take.

Call the Law Office of Tracy Duell-Cazes

​If you have any questions related to No-fault divorce, or the 6-month waiting period, call the law office of Tracy Duell-Cazes at 408-267-8484 for a consultation.


1530 The Alameda, Suite 108
San Jose, CA 95126

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TDC Family Law serves the entire state of California for Contempt of Court and Private Settlement Judge & Mediation

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