In light of the Jon and Kate’s recent news and Kate Gosselin’s filing for a no-fault divorce, I have received many questions asking what is a “no-fault” divorce? Although the Gosselin’s divorce proceedings will be held in Pennsylvania, the law in Pennsylvania is similar to Maryland, in that a party filing for divorce may elect to proceed on fault (contested) or no-fault (uncontested) based grounds.
In Maryland, a no-fault (uncontested) divorce is based on the understanding that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Meaning, that the husband and wife mutually and voluntarily separated from one another, there is no hope or expectation of a reconciliation, and they are and have been living separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of at least one year. If the prior conditions are met, either spouse may file for a divorce once they have been separated for 365 consecutive days. If only one spouse believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken, that spouse may file for a no-fault (uncontested) divorce after the parties live separate and apart for 24 months.
Often a client who has fault (contested) based grounds to file for a divorce, may additionally or alternatively want to file on no-fault (uncontested) based grounds. Depending on the particular issues of the case, a no-fault (uncontested) divorce may be less expensive, and quicker. It is important to keep in mind, however, that regardless of fault (contested) or no-fault (uncontested) grounds, a divorce must still resolve all of the issues arising out of the marriage. Those issues may range from child related issues, such as custody, child access, and child support to whether one spouse is granted a monetary award. So while the actual grounds for divorce may be uncontested, the issues arising from the marital relationship may in fact be contested. In the case of Jon and Kate, unless a settlement is reached, the divorce itself may move forward on no-fault (uncontested) grounds, but the child related issues and the division of the marital estate may in fact be litigated.