Colorado is a “no-fault” divorce state, but what does that actually mean? Basically, it means that one party to a marriage can request a divorce and does not need to have a specific reason for doing so except that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no chance of reconciliation. While most states have moved toward no-fault grounds for divorce, some states still require that a petitioning spouse allege a fault or basis for the divorce. Some common fault grounds include adultery, imprisonment, cruelty or abandonment.
While Colorado is a no-fault state, it still doesn’t prevent some parties from alleging or wanting to allege fault in the divorce proceedings. Somehow, for the party who feels wronged by an affair, alcohol/substance abuse or financial dishonesty, no-fault divorce simply does not feel “fair.” However, while no-fault divorce is the right approach in most instances, there are exceptions. Usually those exceptions apply when one spouse’s actions have wasted a portion of the marital estate. For example, if a spouse were to spend $100,000 (or even $10,000) on cocaine, a court might find that marital waste has occurred. Similarly, if a spouse were to consult with a fortune teller who convinces him/her to give away their life savings, a court may seek to reimburse the innocent spouse.
Generally, however, the reality is that – and it is often a harsh reality to accept – fault has nothing to do with a party’s right to get out of the marriage. Fault also has nothing to do with how the parties need to divide their assets, move forward with their lives, and raise their children.
A common underlying catalyst for a divorce is one party (or both) conducting an affair outside of the marriage. These divorces can be highly emotionally charged but rarely is the conduct of the other party relevant to the legal issues in moving forward with a divorce. While a real and valid emotional challenge, it is important to acknowledge that the emotional healing that must occur is separate from the legal proceeding itself.
By bringing fault issues or accusations in court pleadings, in court proceedings, mediation, negotiation or any other dispute resolution platform, some parties believe they will get some “justice” and the other party will apologize, atone for or acknowledge his or her role in the destruction of the relationship. Very rarely does this actually happen. Instead, what often occurs is a heightened level of conflict and a move away from problem-solving issues such as custody and financial support.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wants to end the marriage or why. When someone wants out of a marriage, then they get to be done and the parties need to find a constructive way to move forward.