California No-Fault Divorce Has Its Advantages

Thank goodness California doesn’t require a showing of marital fault to grant a divorce the way that New York state does. You need only look at the now-infamous YouTube divorce case to understand why.

For those of you who missed it, British actress Tricia Walsh-Smith lashed out at her Broadway-mogul husband Philip Smith in a tearful and furious videothat she posted on YouTube. In her video, Mrs. Smith trashed her husband and his family, made embarrassing claims regarding the couple’s intimate life, and even called his office while filming to repeat those claims to his stunned assistant.

Apparently, Mr. Smith wanted to divorce his wife and enforce a prenuptial agreement whereby he would pay her a large sum of money and she would have to move out of their luxury New York City condominium. This didn’t sit real well with Mrs. Smith, who contested the divorce on the grounds that there was no marital fault to justify the divorce.

In New York, there must be marital fault for the Court to grant a divorce. If there is no fault, the couple must live separate and apart for a year, at which time they can apply for a no-fault divorce. In marital fault states, Courts can divide the couple’s property unequally to compensate the party deemed not to be at fault. Or, Courts can refuse to grant the divorce, which can have the consequence of negating a prenuptial agreement.

California, on the other hand, requires no showing of fault whatsoever. In fact, the Family Code specifically forbids the introduction of any evidence intended to show fault. As long as one of the parties believes that the marriage is irreparably broken, and that irreconcilable differences exist that prevent the marriage from being saved, the family Court will grant the divorce. And, the Court will equitably divide the couple’s community property between them. As a result, there are no Court battles about who is at fault or who should get more property because of that fault.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering… the Manhattan judge hearing the Smiths’ divorce case blasted Mrs. Smith for conducting what he called a “calculated and callous campaign to embarrass and humiliate her husband.” He then granted Mr. Smith’s request for the divorce on the grounds of cruel and unusual treatment. You can read more about the story at CNN or at Reuters.

For more information about no-fault divorce or other California family law issues, please contact attorney Gary D. Sparks.