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Whose fault is it that you’re getting divorce?

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Arizona, like many other states, is no-fault divorce state. This means neither partner has to accuse, prove or admit one of you is somehow at fault for the marriage not working out.

This may seem like a minor point and a natural way to do things, but it may help you understand the process of an Arizona divorce better to understand the alternative.

Advantages of a “fault” divorce system

In a state that allows “fault” divorces, the property of the couple can be divided unequally, with the person who’s at fault for the divorce getting the smaller piece of the pie. This unequal treatment my easily extend to child custody, visitation, alimony and other issues.

If your marriage is ending because your spouse is abusive or unfaithful, for example, dividing the property and custody not quite equitably may sound reasonable. And until roughly the 1970s, most people lived in a fault-divorce world.

Grounds for divorce

But fault divorces got even more complicated than many of today’s divorces. A ground for divorce typically had to be given for the court to approve the divorce. Occasionally, one spouse would falsely admit to wrongdoing because someone had to be at fault or you’d both have to stay legally married.

Or, if the spouse at fault denied the grounds they would have to be proven. Often, counter-charges resulted, so both spouses might try to prove fault in the other as well as innocence in themselves. Sometimes, the result was that the divorce was denied, and the couple had to stay unhappily, and sometimes dangerously, married.

Today, fault divorces are not required in any state, but in some states they’re an option if equitable treatment doesn’t suit someone in the couple.

Arizona’s no-fault divorce laws are also complicated

Arizona’s divorces can also become very heated, although with no-fault divorce, it’s a dry heat.

Most divorces in every state require countless decisions large and small. A marriage contract is so important to both spouses and often to children, and involves emotionally and monetarily valuable assets, so its dissolution rarely happens with the crack of a judge’s gavel.

As the Arizona Bar points out, if you try to represent yourself in a divorce, you’re expected to understand what you’re doing. Court personnel and judges are not allowed to give you legal advice. If you give up something you wish you hadn’t, you may have to learn to make peace with it.

(Incidentally, there is an exception to Arizona’s no-fault system, namely a marriage that began as a “covenant marriage.” Such marriage commitments are usually chosen for religious and/or moral grounds. They are not common.)

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