UPDATED–When you read about recent divorces, you often see “irreconcilable differences” listed as the reason for the separation. The reason that you hear this phrase so frequently is that the term comes from the modern “no-fault” divorce code.
Just like it sounds, no-fault divorce means that, legally speaking, neither party is to blame for the end of a marriage. No one has to prove the other was in the wrong. In short, in order to divorce, all that’s required is that you want out.
Before the passage of the no-fault code, divorce was only allowed when the parties could find a fault in the marriage such as abuse, adultery, or infertility. However, over the past 50 years, the laws across the country have shifted from fault-based to no-fault divorces. It is now the legal norm in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
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Traditional fault-based grounds for divorce are very similar to breach of contract actions. The most common grounds for divorce included:
- sexual deviance,
- mental illness,
- abandonment or desertion,
- criminal conviction,
- and substance abuse.
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Arguments For No-Fault Divorce
Proponents of no-fault divorces argue that fault-based divorces are an anachronistic legal concept that does not reflect the reality of marriages in modern-day America. Additionally, they feel that removing fault from divorce proceedings removes much of the anger, bitterness, and acrimony that attends a divorce where one party must show the other was to blame.
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Arguments Against No-Fault Divorce
Opponents of no-fault divorces cite the shift as the cause of the rising divorce rate, an increase in poverty for women, and a decrease in society’s value of marriage as a social pillar.
No-Fault Divorce in the U.S.
The first no-fault statute was passed in California in 1969. Over the following 50 years, all 50 states to either removed fault-based divorce from their code or added a no-fault “irreconcilable differences” clause to their code.
Therefore, in every state, you have the option to choose a no-fault divorce. However, in many states, fault-based divorce is still an option and in some states, such as Illinois, it is much more difficult to obtain a no-fault divorce if the divorce is contested.
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No-Fault Divorce in Oregon
The current statute in Oregon provides that a divorce may be rendered when “irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” Furthermore, Oregon has removed all fault-based divorce standards. This means that evidence of acts of misconduct will not be considered in a divorce proceeding except in matters of child custody or where the evidence is relevant.
When dividing property between the spouses, evidence of misconduct or fault won’t be considered by the court. Instead, any assets or debts acquired during your marriage are divided equitably. While the law presumes you and your spouse made equal contributions in acquiring property, the court may look at factors such as the cost of an asset, taxes, and liens, evidence of contributions by each spouse and how the property award impacts the issue of alimony when determining the division of property.
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