Many couples entering divorce mediation or collaborative divorce are confused about what the term “no-fault divorce” means. All it really means is that if a state offers no-fault divorce, a couple can get divorced without a showing that one party violated the marriage contract. They can file an action to dissolve their marriage without proving the other person is at fault for the divorce.
Connecticut is one of the many states offering no fault divorce. A party wishing to divorce can be divorced simply because the parties agree that the marriage has “broken down irretrievably”. It is still possible, in a no-fault state, to file for divorce on the basis of fault. Grounds include adultery, desertion, and intolerable cruelty, to name a few.
Even though Connecticut is a no-fault divorce state, fault is not irrelevant in Connecticut. When awarding alimony and in dividing assets, a judge theoretically considers fault as one factor in making a determination. As a practical matter, most Connecticut judges do not consider fault a significant factor in making such decisions. Judges in Connecticut are often hesitant to decide the issue of who is at fault at all.
In any case, divorce mediation and collaborative divorce can look at fault differently. Sometimes couples divorcing using divorce mediation or collaborative divorce will take fault into account in their negotiations because it is important to them. I have been impressed by an occasional person who, having initiated the ending of a long-term marriage, feels a responsibility to his or her spouse. There is a feeling of respect for the seriousness of the marriage contract, and a desire to “do the right thing”.
Divorce mediation and collaborative divorce, because they are cooperative and private processes, leave room for the consideration of fault without repercussions. A person can express remorse in the privacy of such a process, and maybe even offer compensation of some sort, without fear of unintended consequences.
Sometimes even a simple apology can go a long way.