What is a “No-Fault” State?

Colorado is a “no-fault” state, but many don’t understand what that means in the context of divorce laws.  Prior to Colorado becoming a “no-fault” state, both spouses had to either consent to a divorce.  If both parties did not consent to the divorce, one party had to show legal grounds that would justify the Court granting the divorce.  One of the following grounds had to be proven before the Court permitted a divorce case to continue:

  • Adultery: If a spouse had committed adultery, the innocent party had the right to move forward on a request for divorce.
  • Abandonment: If one of the parties to a marriage neglected or abandoned his or her family, the deserted party could ask the court to allow a divorce to proceed.
  • Bad Behavior: Cruelty, abuse or other bad behavior could be grounds for a divorce.  This could be raised if a spouse had been abusive to the other party. The denial of conjugal rights could also amount to cruelty.

Since Colorado is a “no-fault” state, neither party has to explain to the court why a divorce is being requested.  Either party in a divorce proceeding just has to inform the court that the existing marriage is “irretrievably broken.”   Simply put, one party no longer wants to be married.

What are the pros of “no-fault” state?

  1. The process of divorce has been streamlined.
  • The effect of Colorado being a “no-fault” state is that the process of filing and hearing of divorce proceedings has become less complicated. This is unlike the initial process where you had to prove at least one of the grounds for divorce and has cut back on the nastiness and blaming that existed previously.
  1. Saves time.
  • Colorado being a “no-fault” state, allows for divorce matters to take a relatively shorter period of time, hence saving time for both the court and the parties to the proceedings.
  1. Property is divided equitably regardless of who’s actions caused the divorce.
  • Marital property is divided in a just and equitable manner, which doesn’t always mean equal. The court, in most instances, disregards the bad conduct of either party when it wants to decide on the financial implications of the divorce. The court aims to objectively divide the assets (e.g. property) and liability (e.g. debt) equitably.  Keep in mind that the court may still consider the bad conduct of one party if it directly resulted in a dissipation or waste of the marital estate when deciding how to equitably divide the assets.  However, bad conduct is not a consideration in the actual granting of a divorce.

What are the cons of “no-fault” state?

A party who has committed cruel or bad behavior will still get to benefit of the property that was acquired during the marriage. This might seem unfair to other spouse who did not commit any act that would have been deemed grounds for divorce previously.

How is the adoption of “no-fault” laws impacting marriages?

To many, “no-fault” laws may be is seen as an easy out of marriages, leading to the destruction of the traditional family unit.  However, according to a  study conducted by Professor Justin Wolfers, a Harvard-trained economist, Wolfers discovered that while divorce rates rose sharply immediately after a state adopted no-fault divorce laws, the trend reversed within about a decade. The initial spike in divorces was explained by Wolfers as the bottled up need for separation.  Using the “no-fault” approach in Colorado has proven to be a good and effective approach to the parties who are involved. The divorce matter is heard and determined speedily and the properties and liabilities are divided in a just and equitable manner as the courts deem fit.

Here at Pollart Miller LLC, we encourage people to explore all their options, before making the final decision to pursue divorce.

Would you like to know more? Contact Denise Gonzales at dgonzales@pollartmiller.com or 720.488.9586.


From the May 2018 Pollart Miller Newsletter