No-Fault Divorce in Minnesota | Ramsey County
Minnesota’s divorce system is based on the principle of “no-fault,” meaning that a divorce will be granted if either party believes that the marriage is over—without requiring a showing of wrongdoing by either party. To obtain a no-fault divorce, one spouse declares that the couple is no longer compatible or has “irreconcilable differences.” Generally the causes of the failure of the marriage are not an issue in court. All that matters is that the marriage needs to be ended.
Before no-fault divorce laws
Prior to the no-fault divorce revolution, a divorce was processed through the adversarial system, meaning that a divorce could be obtained only through a showing of fault of one of the parties in a marriage. This meant that one spouse had to establish grounds that the other had committed adultery, abandonment, felony, or similar acts. A judge could find that the respondent had not committed the alleged act or the judge could find both spouses at fault for the dysfunctional nature of their marriage. Either of these two findings was sufficient to defeat an action for divorce, which meant that the parties remained married.
No-fault laws are the result of divorce lawyers and Family Court Judges trying to change the way divorces played out in court. They were tired of dealing with feuding couples who were resorting to facts being distorted, lies being told and time being spent trying to figure out who had done what to who. In their minds, the old fault system of divorce was a threat to the integrity of the Family Court System and changes needed to be made.
Pioneering no-fault divorce
The true pioneer of no-fault divorce is the state of California because of the Family Law Act of 1969. The act was signed by Governor Ronald Reagan and took effect on January 1, 1970. By 1983, nearly every state had passed their own forms of no-fault divorce laws.
Laws providing for no-fault divorce allow a family court to grant a divorce in response to a petition by either party to the marriage, without requiring the person to provide evidence that their partner has committed a breach of the marital contract. Therefore, a no-fault divorce allows a couple to divorce without either spouse having to prove the other engaged in misconduct.
Benefits of no-fault divorce
- States that adopted no-fault laws saw a decline in the rates of domestic violence.
- No-fault laws empower a man or woman in an abusive marriage and make it easier to leave.
- No-fault means less conflict during divorce, which means less emotional harm to children whose parents, are divorcing.
- No-fault divorce helps reduce the heavy caseloads of family courts.
- No-fault divorce shortens the length of time it takes to obtain a divorce, which, in turn, shortens the amount of time spent in a stressful situation.
- No-fault divorce settlements are based on need, ability to pay and contribution to the family finances, rather than on fault.
- No-fault divorce helps save people from having to publicly air their “dirty laundry.”
Fault can still affect custody
Alcoholism, gambling addiction, adultery, drug abuse, domestic abuse, and criminal behavior are all common reasons for divorce. They can also be relevant factors that a court takes into account when making a custody determination in the best interests of a minor child.
No-fault divorce can lead to healthier outcome
In the best case scenario, no-fault divorce means no spouse gets to punish the other for their past behavior – and believe it or not, that is healthier for everyone. If laws have been broken, let the system determine the outcome separate from the divorce. But no one benefits from trying to punish their spouse and the other parent of their children simply because of bad behavior. It is impossible for court actions to heal the emotional wounds created by divorce. The legal system is not a tool for punishment of your spouse. The courtroom isn’t the place for revenge. Cases must be decided on the basis of unique facts. In most cases, the law does not permit courts to compensate either party for the other’s misconduct.
Courts can create dissolution, only you can take steps toward a healthier new reality
No-fault divorce re-structures your family system, but cannot solve all the challenges. There are a number of steps you can take to make things better.
- accept the divorce
- let go of the mistakes and the pain of the past
- learn to live separately
- focus on creating a new future
- cooperate for the benefit of their children
- Seek whatever counseling, support group, or other resources that will empower you to take healthy steps forward.