What is the Difference Between No-fault and At-fault Divorce?

What is the difference between a no-fault and at-fault divorce?

There are essential distinctions between these two types of divorces. In some states, only one kind of divorce is recognized. For instance, by Nevada law, all divorces in the State are considered no-fault divorces.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to a no-fault divorce.

The following will walk you through the differences between no-fault and at-fault divorces. It is always a good idea to consult a divorce attorney to help you decide the best course of action.

What is the Difference Between No-fault and At-fault Divorce_

What is a No-fault Divorce?

In a no-fault divorce, the party filing for a divorce does not have to prove any wrongdoing by their spouse. While all states recognize no-fault divorce, only nineteen states are “true no-fault” states. In these states, a no-fault divorce is the only option.

“Irreconcilable differences” or “irreparable breakdown of the marriage” are reasons for divorce.


In these cases, the other party cannot object to their spouse’s divorce petition. The only option is to show evidence of irreconcilable differences. 

Some states may need the couple to live apart for some time before filing for a divorce. This period of legal separation may give both parties time to reconsider the divorce.

What is the goal of no-fault divorce?

The main goal is to find a quick and satisfactory dissolution of the marriage. It allows both parties to end their marriage without having to “air out any dirty laundry” in court. 

A divorce can be stressful enough without digging into matters they want to keep private.

What is an At-Fault Divorce?

At-fault divorces are less common than no-fault divorces. In these cases, a spouse requests a divorce due to the fault of their spouse. These mistakes include the following “matrimonial offenses”:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment for a certain length of time
  • Prison confinement
  • Physical inability to have sexual intercourse, if this condition existed before the marriage
  • The other spouse has inflicted physical or mental abuse.


Unlike a no-fault divorce, a spouse can object to an at-fault divorce. In this case, the other party must prove that their spouse is guilty of some wrongdoing. You will need court proceedings with witnesses to fight the accusation.

If both parties file for an at-fault divorce, the court will decide which party is “least at-fault.” In that case, that party will get their divorce granted. 

This “comparative rectitude” policy is for when both parties are at fault. This law ensures that unhappy couples do not have to remain married if they do not wish to stay together. 

Critical Differences Between Types of Divorce

What is the difference between no-fault and at-fault divorce? 

Other aspects can make one type of divorce more appealing than the other.

Some no-fault divorce states require a separation period before a divorce is filed. This “cooling off” period may allow both parties to resolve their differences. It may also allow them to work out details such as separation of property and custody before filing for divorce.

In the case of an at-fault divorce, there is no need for separation before filing for a divorce. Also, it can lead to a more favorable distribution of marital assets. Plus, alimony payments to the party filing for a divorce.

In the area of court costs, no-fault divorces are often cheaper. Often a no-fault divorce can be resolved through mediation and may avoid a divorce trial. An at-fault divorce requires proof that one party is at fault. A judge’s ruling is necessary to decide on divorce.

Seeking Legal Advice on Divorce

When seeking a divorce, in some states you have two main options. So, what is the difference between a no-fault and at-fault divorce?

It depends on the state you live in and the goals you wish to achieve. If you and your spouse agree that your marriage is over, then a no-fault divorce may be the best option. But, if your spouse has done something that caused the need to divorce, an at-fault divorce may be the best option.

Even if the state you live in is a no-fault divorce state, you can still present evidence to the Court showing “fault” that may help you get a better divorce settlement. For example, Nevada is a no-fault divorce state. But, Nevada also has community waste laws that prevent your spouse from wasting money during the marriage. If your spouse spent tons of money on a mistress during the marriage, you could show this information to the judge and you may be able to get some of the wasted money back from your ex. 

Also, Nevada recognizes marital torts. If your spouse was violent during the marriage, you could sue your spouse for battery, assault, and emotional distress as part of the divorce. If you can prove damages, your divorce judge may award you additional money as part of your divorce case. 

Regardless, our legal team of divorce attorneys is ready to help you. We have the knowledge and experience to help you determine your best course of action.

Sign up for our Newsletter