What are the No-Fault Divorce States in the US?

What are the No-Fault Divorce States in the US?

When deciding to file for divorce, most of us feel lost. Divorce isn’t typically part of the marriage plan, but life changes, and you may have to face it. As you learn about the process, you may find the nuances of how to file and the different types of divorces complicated.

This article will focus on grounds for divorce, or, in other words, the reason you are seeking a divorce. All states have a no-fault ground for divorce. This means that neither you nor your partner is blamed for the divorce. However, many states also allow for a fault-based divorce, where you are required to provide proof that your partner is to blame for the divorce. 

You are probably wondering, why are there two different grounds for divorce. And how do you know which one to pursue? This next section will discuss more in detail. 

No-Fault Divorce States v. Fault Divorce States

A no-fault divorce can be obtained without having to blame either party. A no-fault divorce tends to be less complicated because there is no burden of proof concept associated with the filing. The grounds that a no-fault divorce is filed are usually on “irreconcilable differences.” 

However, a fault divorce is also recognized by a majority of states. This is usually when one party can blame their partner for …

  • abandonment
  • adultery
  • cruelty
  • or long-term incarceration

as a reason for obtaining the divorce.  More likely than not you will see cruelty as the grounds for filing a fault-based divorce. This is usually when there has been some emotional or physical pain induced by the partner on you that is recurring. 

To break it down even more, a no-fault divorce is usually the easiest path for ending a marriage. 

The alternative of fault divorce — its potentially dragged-out litigation, expensive attorney fees, and burden of having to prove or defend blame — often leads to ugly divorce battles. 

History of Fault Divorces

Historically, there was only at-fault divorce for a broken relationship. No-fault divorces were only legalized in 1969 in California by then-Governor Ronald Reagon, who was the first US president to have been divorced. (Donald Trump was the second.) By 2010, every state today had a no-fault divorce option. 

If you are in the “contemplating divorce” stage, you will definitely want to read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”

Before no-fault divorce, couples in a divorce process were required to reference or create a scenario that would facilitate a fault-based approach. These scenarios were often concocted and the couple would fake adultery. 

These concocted schemes were becoming more prevalent, so lawmakers had no choice but to allow for a secondary option to allow for a more truthful and practical system. 

It’s important to know that before the concept of no-fault divorce, women didn’t have many options. 

Those who were in exploitative and abusive relationships, where the husband usually controlled the finances, had to deal with extreme pressure and fear. This is because fault divorces are more antagonistic and favor the spouse with more resources to spend on the process. This was usually men.

No-Fault Divorce States

The first state to legalize no-fault divorce was California in 1969. By 2010, the no-fault divorce option was legalized by every state. The states that have only a no-fault option are:

  • WA
  • MT
  • OR
  • CA
  • AZ
  • CO
  • NE
  • MO
  • KY
  • TN
  • MN
  • FL
  • MI

Consider reading, “Which State Have the Shortest Residency Requirement to Divorce and Which Ones the Longest?”

Both No-Fault and Fault Divorce States

As we have stated, every state in the US has a no-fault ground for divorce. However, only 33 states have both a fault-based and no-fault-based divorce option. 

Many states also have a third option for filing for divorce. It is a mix between no-fault and fault divorce. This alternative option requires that the partners live apart for a reasonable period. The requirements for reasonability vary state by state. For example, Connecticut requires 18 months of separation, while Kentucky only requires 2 months. Even some states that are purely no-fault states allow for a separation-based divorce: Hawaii, Nevada, Kentucky, Washington, Wisconsin, Montana, and the District of Columbia. Keep in mind that some states do require a physical separation period before you are allowed to file for a no-fault divorce. These periods of separation vary from a couple of months to a couple of years depending on the state. 

You may be wondering if women have second thoughts about their divorces. Read “Do Women Regret Divorce?”


As we have seen time and again, divorce law varies by state. Your ability to choose what type of divorce you enter into will depend on which state has jurisdiction over your case. Filing for divorce is never easy, but by choosing to file a no-fault divorce the amount of conflict between the participating partners will reduce significantly. There are fewer demands, and zero burden of proof when it comes to ending the marriage. 

However, some divorces require a fault-based ground to get the justice you deserve. Consult with an attorney on whether your case qualifies for a fault or no-fault-based ground to ensure the smartest process for you.


Natasha is a third-year law student in Chicago committed to advocating for women’s empowerment in all areas of law. With a longstanding interest in health law, she aspires to work for hospitals and nonprofits in continuing to advocate for women’s rights. Her goal is to address the historical issues that continue to prevail in our society by addressing the social determinants of health.


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Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS now.


*SAS continues to support same-sex and nonbinary marriage. In this article, however, we refer to your spouse as husband/he/him.

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