What is the Difference Between a No-Fault Divorce and an At-Fault Divorce?

Posted by Leslie SarjiAug 24, 20140 Comments

When a couple is considering getting a divorce , whether the divorce is an at-fault divorce or a no-fault divorce will depend on the circumstances surrounding why the divorce is occurring in the first place. The details of the differences between these two grounds for getting a divorce are discussed below, but the two do share one commonality: either case requires proof, or evidence, to support the grounds for divorce.

“No-Fault” Grounds for Divorce

A no-fault divorce happens when the couple mutually decides to split or is living separately for a period exceeding one year. In a no-fault divorce, neither party has really done anything terrible; the couple may have simply grown apart. In order to obtain a no-fault divorce, the spouses must first be able to show that they have been living in separate and distinct living spaces, meaning that each spouse is living in a separate residence from the other. Sharing a roof, but living in separate rooms or parts of the same home, is not considered living separately. Next, the spouses must demonstrate that the separate living situation has been ongoing for a year or more. If the couple at any point takes up cohabitation again, as is often the case for those couples who try to reconcile the marriage, the one-year period will begin anew. Finally, the spouses must show that the separation is voluntary, which means that they have chosen to not live together and that the separation is not due to circumstances outside of their control, such as overseas military deployment or incarceration.

“At-Fault” Grounds for Divorce

At-fault divorces occur when one spouse does something that cause irreparable harm to the marriage. The grounds for at-fault divorces in South Carolina fall into four main categories, but other scenarios can create the grounds for an at-fault divorce as well.

The first ground for an at-fault divorce is when one spouse is unfaithful and has a sexual relationship with someone other than their marriage partner. Proof of the extramarital relationship must be provided in order to establish the grounds for an at-fault divorce. This evidence does not need to go as far as proving that sexual acts occurred; it merely needs to show that the relationship existed. The unfaithful spouse could even openly admit to the adulterous conduct as proof.

Another ground for an at-fault divorce is when one spouse is physically cruel to the other, also referred to as physically abusive. Police reports of domestic violence are usually sufficient evidence to establish grounds for an at-fault divorce.

Habitual drug or alcohol use by one of the spouses can constitute the grounds of an at-fault divorce if the marriage is being ripped apart by addiction. Chronic alcohol use can affect the whole family, and can cause a strain on a marriage. Like with domestic violence, police reports concerning the couple and a repeat drug or alcohol problem can be sufficient evidence for an at-fault divorce.

Finally, in situations where one of the spouses abandons the marriage, the other spouse could seek a divorce. Since the marriage is obviously no longer important to the deserting spouse, the other should be free to remarry if he or she so chooses. When establishing this ground for an at-fault divorce, the remaining spouse must attempt to locate and contact the deserter spouse. If the deserter cannot be reached or found, the courts will permit an at-fault divorce.

Contacting a South Carolina Family Law Attorney

Getting divorced can be a difficult time in a person's life and emotions can seem to be magnified when there are grounds for an at-fault divorce. Whether you believe that you have a situation that would qualify you for an “at-fault” divorce, or if you and your spouse simply want to part ways with a “no-fault” divorce, you should contact the experienced Charleston family lawyers at Sarji Law Firm, LLC. Please get in touch with us by calling 843-323-4341.

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