What Does “No Fault” Divorce Mean?

Divorce proceedings often conjure up images of two parties going to court and airing all of their “dirty laundry” in a public trial.  There is a general misconception that any time parties want to get divorced, they will have to prove that the other person is somehow in the wrong, whether that be from abuse, adultery, abandonment, or another form of inappropriate marital conduct.  While that may be true is some states, it is not the case in Minnesota. couple looking in different directions with their arms crossed

Minnesota is what is referred to as a “no fault” divorce state.  This means that when seeking a divorce, neither party is required to demonstrate that the other spouse is the one “at fault” for the divorce occurring.  Neither party will need to bring evidence of any wrongdoing at all.  This has many advantages.  For one, it cuts down substantially on the amount of evidence you will have to produce at trial.  You will not have to prove that your wife is having an affair or that your husband verbally berates you.  This type of evidence can be difficult to obtain and subject to being contested by your spouse.  By making divorce “no fault,” the Minnesota legislature has cut out that type of evidence and that portion of the trial.  Rather, all either party needs to do is demonstrate that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” in the relationship.

It is important to understand that the no fault rule does not mean that marital conduct will never be relevant in any divorce proceeding.  Where children are involved, certain types of misconduct can be very relevant to helping the court determine what is in the children’s best interest.  For example, substance abuse is most certainly relevant in a custody dispute.  Marital misconduct can also be relevant for purposes of property division. Although Minnesota Stat. Section 518.28 states that marital misconduct shall not be used by the court when making an equitable distribution of the parties’ assets, certain types of misconduct could be relevant nonetheless.  For example, if one spouse is squandering marital assets by taking a new girlfriend on lavish vacations, this could be relevant.  Note that it is not the adultery here that is relevant, but rather the misappropriation of marital funds.

The different steps and procedure in divorce can seem confusing.  We have helped many clients understand the process and develop successful strategies for their cases. Call us today at (651) 371-9117 for a consultation and we can discuss your divorce.