This blog sets up an explanation of California’s No-Fault grounds and its exceptions.
By: Eric Proos
Ending any relationship is a difficult and emotional situation to go through. This is especially true when a marriage is ended because of infidelity on either spouses’ part. Cheating creates a number of issues, including mistrust, which is usually the cause for the filing of divorce. I am often asked if evidence of a cheating spouse gives the aggrieved spouse an advantage in the divorce proceedings. That spouse usually wants to mention the cheating at any chance. Even though your divorce attorney may want to know what caused the marriage to end, California courts have a different view on the situation.
The California Family Code states that a legal separation or dissolution of marriage can be obtained only on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. In the eye of the law the legal separation or dissolution of marriage is sought on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” California law does not provide a precise definition of “irreconcilable differences”. It is purposely kept broad in order to encompass all reasons for the marital breakdown and to make any claims of fault irrelevant. In fact, case law has stated that “specific acts of misconduct” is irrelevant and inadmissible. When the case law and statutory law is taken as a whole the only issue the court is looking at, regarding status of the marriage, is whether the marriage, taken as whole, is beyond repair.
You may be saying, well okay that’s for the status of the marriage, but I am sure the court will look at who is at fault when it comes to the division of property and awarding support, right? To give a simple answer: No! The no-fault standard that the court uses when dissolving the marriage is also applied to property division. The court is not looking to punish an individual for any misconduct. Instead, the court is looking to legally end a marriage if it finds that it is irremediable and will divide the marital property according to law. Once again, you may be saying okay I get it, I need an agreement between my spouse and I saying what we get if either party cheats, correct? Once again, No! Any agreement that tries to allude the irreconcilable differences grounds will be void on public policy grounds.
As previously stated, the only other grounds for legal separation or dissolution of marriage is incurable insanity. Insurable insanity must be plead generally, just like irreconcilable differences. However, the required proof is more burdensome and expensive than pleading irreconcilable differences. In order for a marriage to be dissolved on the ground of incurable insanity proof must be provided, including “competent medical or psychiatric testimony” that the spouse was incurably insane when the petition was served, and continues to be insane at the time of the haring and judgement. If you believe that incurable insanity fits your present situation for ending your marriage, please contact our office to discuss.
As you can see there are very limited grounds on which a party can seek dissolution of marriage. California’s no-fault standard does not take into account a party’s misconduct. Instead it attempts to split the marital estate equally between the two parties, regardless of any wrongdoing on either party.
This blog is in no way legal advice and if you have questions regarding California’s no-fault standard please contact our office.
 California Family Code § 2310(a)
 California Family Code § 2335; Diosdado v. Diosdado, supra, 97 CA4th at 473, 118 CR2d at 496
 California Family Code § 2312.