In Florida, a spouse does not have to allege or prove fault in order to have their marriage dissolved. The only element required in order to get divorced in Florida is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” In addition, the reason the marriage is irretrievably broken does not matter so long as one or both parties testify that they believe that this is the case. Most often, the reason given for the marriage being irretrievably broken is that the parties have irreconcilable differences. As a general practice, Florida courts do not ask what the irreconcilable differences are—just testimony that they exist.
Not all states have no-fault divorce laws. At last count, there were in excess of ten states which are at “fault” divorce states. In these states, a party seeking a divorce must prove grounds for the divorce. Various grounds for divorce can apply including matters such as infidelity, cruelty, desertion, mental incapacity, and physical or mental abuse (the list goes on depending on the state). In states where fault must be proven, the burden is on the party seeking the divorce to prove the grounds. If the party cannot prove the alleged reasons, then the divorce is not granted.
Some states allow no-fault divorce but only after a separation period. For example, North Carolina requires a separation period of one-year and a day before such a divorce can be granted. Florida has no such waiting period [Although Florida does require that the final judgment of dissolution of marriage cannot be entered any sooner than 20 days after the Petition for Dissolution is filed].
In Florida, when filing for divorce, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken due to irreconcilable differences. No further detail is required and in fact, it is not relevant to granting the no-fault divorce. When the divorce proceeding is heard by the Court, if the parties try to get into “at-fault” type of facts, the Judge often will admonish the parties to stay away from those allegations since proof of the marriage being irretrievably broken due to irreconcilable differences is really all that matters.
Many persons familiar with Florida’s no-fault divorce law criticize it as making a divorce too easy to obtain. In some respects, this is a fair observation. However, by not requiring fault to be proven, Florida courts are able to dissolve a parties’ marriage without the bitter and often scandalous allegations that arise when factors such as infidelity, abandonment, neglect or abuse must be proven. Proponents of no-fault divorce claim, perhaps rightly so, that when a family is broken apart by divorce, that is bad enough. To add to the pain of allegations that one spouse cheated, beat up, or abandoned the other simply fuels the flames of bitterness and hurt.
Although Florida being a no-fault divorce state may make it easier for the parties to be eligible for the divorce, it does not mean that the divorce is necessarily simple or can be done without legal counsel. Issues such as division of assets and liabilities, alimony, parenting and timesharing, and child support still pose challenges to be resolved. When minor children are involved, matters are particularly challenging. Having experienced legal counsel is well-advised.