What it means to file for fault-based divorce in a no-fault state

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Divorce

New Hampshire offers no-fault divorces. Therefore, most people use no-fault rules when pursuing a divorce. They assert in family court that irreconcilable differences caused the irremediable breakdown of the marital relationship. They have no need to prove anything further.

However, people in some circumstances prefer to pursue a fault-based divorce. New Hampshire does still recognize several different grounds for fault-based divorce proceedings. What does it mean to file a fault-based divorce in a state where no-fault proceedings are available?

There must be specific circumstances

There are nine different grounds for fault-based divorce in New Hampshire. Spouses can file for divorce if their partner refuses to have sexual relations. Adultery, abuse, as well as conduct that endangers someone’s health and reason, can justify a fault-based divorce.

If either spouse gets convicted of a crime that leads to a year of imprisonment or more, that can justify a fault-based divorce. If someone leaves for two years or ceases cohabitating with their spouse for at least two years and the spouse’s whereabouts is unknown, that may also be grounds for divorce. Joining a new religion can sometimes lead to a fault-based divorce. The last reason for a fault-based divorce is at least two years of habitual drunkenness or substance abuse.

 A spouse must prove fault

Simply filing for divorce while making allegations of misconduct may not lead to a fault-based divorce. The spouse initiating the divorce proceedings must have convincing evidence that their circumstances meet the standards for a fault-based divorce. For example, they need either a confession or clear evidence of infidelity to divorce based on allegations of adultery and the spouse must probe the fault caused the breakdown of the marriage. The other spouse can defend against those claims, which can make the divorce take longer and cost far more.

Why do people pursue fault-based divorces?

Some people in New Hampshire want a fault-based divorce so they can earnestly assert that they are not to blame for the divorce despite choosing to file. Others may need to divorce a certain way to meet the standards of their religion.

In some cases, the financial and economic implications of the divorce could influence a fault-based filing. New Hampshire judges can consider fault that leads to divorce, especially if it was at least partially financial. Someone who abandoned the family, conducted an affair or struggled with substance abuse very likely used marital resources to engage in that misconduct, when they are dividing the parties’ assets and in an award of alimony.

Not everyone divorcing for a reason that may qualify for a fault-based divorce actually needs to pursue one. Learning more about the divorce statutes in New Hampshire could help people choose the best path forward.

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