WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FAULT AND NO FAULT DIVORCE
Georgia, like most states, is a no fault divorce state; which essentially means the reason for the divorce is not for the court to consider, we call this irretrievably broken or irreconcilable differences. When a complaint is filed as a no fault cause for divorce it will usually list one of the above reasons and if there are issues to litigate they will not be the cause of the divorce but issues involving the division of property, debt and relationships with children.
The court no longer decides whether a divorce will be granted the courts role is one in deciding how matters created in the marriage will be divided equitably, when the petition is filed under no fault grounds. Many people still come to my office and think they can stop their spouse from being granted a divorce and I have to explain that if one party in a marriage truly seeks a divorce there is going to be a divorce granted. Thus, if you are unable to reconcile it is essential that you begin to prepare for litigation and understand the person you now live with is preparing and probably has prepared for some time.
What is no fault divorce?
It is important to understand that no fault divorce does not have the same meaning as uncontested divorce. No fault eliminates the need to prove cause of the divorce but does not eliminate the need for litigation. Uncontested, or no contest, divorce means that all issues are resolved and there is absolutely nothing to dispute. An uncontested divorce will still require the necessary filings and decree from the court but will not involve litigated issues or prolonged contested arguments.
Georgia also provides for fault grounds in divorces. Fault grounds can be included and usually are included in the complaint seeking no fault grounds. This is important as the court can deny fault grounds and if you seek to prove grounds of fault, or cause, of the divorce you have the burden of proving these grounds. In Georgia you must prove the fault ground and also prove that it is the cause of the divorce; which means that it is essential that soon after discovering the issues you should file the divorce. If you wait for a prolonged period it is more difficult to consider this is the cause as you may be found to have forgiven the issue.
Georgia allows for the following fault grounds per § 19-5-3.
The following grounds shall be sufficient to authorize the granting of a total divorce:
(1) Intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity;
(2) Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage;
(3) Impotency at the time of the marriage;
(4) Force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage;
(5) Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the husband;
(6) Adultery in either of the parties after marriage;
(7) Willful and continued desertion by either of the parties for the term of one year;
(8) The conviction of either party for an offense involving moral turpitude, under which he is sentenced to imprisonment in a penal institution for a term of two years or longer;
(9) Habitual intoxication;
(10) Cruel treatment, which shall consist of the willful infliction of pain, bodily or mental, upon the complaining party, such as reasonably justifies apprehension of danger to life, limb, or health;
(11) Incurable mental illness.
(12) Habitual drug addiction, which shall consist of addiction to any controlled substance as defined in Article 2 of Chapter 13 of Title 16.
It is important to remember that the courts are overwhelmed and hear hundreds of cases a month, most courts are patient and attempt to give your case the individual treatment you expect, but they can be very cynical places. Because of this when you seek to bring fault grounds consider the expense of this sort of litigation and the possible results you may gain.
Most times people going through a divorce have been hurt and violated in some way. They have been abused, lied to or discovered the affair from the spouse they trusted. The wronged individual usually seeks vengeance and vindication and the wrong doer seeks validation and hopes to get through the process unscathed. The pain and fear the parties are going through is real but the courts have heard the story many many times and unless the causal grounds are egregious or involve children there is rarely a Hollywood moment of scathing rebuke. The court will definitely weigh these issues when considering custody but usually does not when dividing property in equity unless the actions caused the elimination or destruction of property.
It is important to remember that when you seek to bring no fault consider with your attorney the cost benefit of approaching your divorce with this claim. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary as there are real issues of concern and violence. Often the children or spouse need immediate protections or marital wealth needs to be protected; however, often the hurt spouse simply wants revenge and/or to destroy the other spouses reputation and finances. An ethical attorney will tell you there is rarely satisfaction on this level in equity court, and you will spend thousands of dollars to discover in the end that the satisfaction sought is not nearly worth the expense of trying to achieve it.
When you enter into these contentious issues, whether as the Plaintiff or Defendant, it is essential that you seek legal counsel. Good attorneys know the reality of a client’s expectations and the necessity of bringing fault grounds or the prudence of not bringing these grounds.
Determine if your divorce falls under no fault divorce contact us today. 770-824-3370