Florida is a “no fault” state, meaning it is one of the majority of states in the nation in which the person filing for divorce does not have to prove their spouse was at fault. Under Florida divorce law, an attorney for the party suing for divorce only needs to show that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Fla. Stat. sect. 61.052(1)(a). Even states that provide a list of appropriate reasons for divorce all include something similar to an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
In practice, proving that a marriage is irretrievably broken merely requires testimony along the lines of “I don’t love him anymore” or “She left, we have been separated ever since and don’t want to be together anymore.” As any divorce lawyer in Orlando will tell you, it’s not hard to prove.
The First No-Fault Divorce
California became the first state to allow for no fault divorces in 1970. Before that, all 50 states required that one party prove that the other party was “at fault” and therefore, the court should grant a divorce. Typical examples of fault that would allow for a divorce included:
• Adultery or cheating
• Cruelty/ Mental or physical abuse
• Abandonment or Desertion
• Mental illness
• Criminal conviction and/or imprisonment
• Impotence at time of marriage
• Force or fraud in obtaining the marriage
• Drug or alcohol addiction
The party seeking the divorce had the burden of proving fault, while the defending party had the option to put on evidence demonstrating that they were not at fault. If the defending party was successful, the court would dismiss the petition for dissolution of marriage. Oftentimes, the requirement of proving fault would encourage litigants to make things up in order to “qualify” for a divorce. Proving fault also resulted on heavy duty “mud slinging” trials, in which the parties would fight tooth and nail, which resulted in damage to their reputations, and damage to the children involved in the divorce, as they were exposed to the toxic “fighting” atmosphere.
Modern Amendments to No Fault Divorce
The obvious downside of no fault divorce is that people think it’s easy to get a divorce. Some interpret this to mean that if a person’s mood changes on a particular day, they can divorce their spouse and move on. Some states have attempted to combat this problem by creating “covenant marriages.” Beginning in 1997, Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas have enacted laws creating a second type of marriage, a covenant marriage, which makes it more difficult to get divorced. These states require couples opting for a covenant marriage to go through pre-marital counseling, and provides the parties with fewer grounds to support a divorce, with the goal of encouraging couples to stay married.
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