What Does “No Fault” Divorce Mean?
I am frequently asked questions about how one spouse’s bad behavior (adultery, alcoholism, abuse, etc.) impacts a Court’s decision to divide the property and debts in a divorce. There has also been some news regarding a proposal being discussed to reconsider Kansas’s “no fault” divorce system. I thought it might be helpful to discuss what “no fault” means and how it relates to the final outcome in a Kansas divorce.
Kansas divorce law applies “no fault” rules in two ways. First, Kansas does not require one party to prove the other caused the divorce by behaving badly. In other words you do not have to show your husband or wife was abusive or had an affair before you can get a divorce. Instead, Kansas requires one spouse state the parties are incompatible. (Kansas Statutes Annotated 60-1601). The law does allow you to allege failure of one side to “perform a material marital duty or obligation” but you are not required to and very few divorce cases are filed on this basis. Kansas law also states the grounds for divorce should not be detailed in the court documents – you should not air your dirty laundry in the court file. Instead the reason for the divorce should be stated “as nearly as possible in the general language of the statue, without detailed statements of fact.” (K.S.A. 60-1604(c)). Even if one side wrote a detailed list of all the reasons the divorce is the other side’s fault, Kansas law keeps the list out of the Petition for Divorce.
Second, Kansas divorce law generally does not consider bad behavior when dividing assets and debts. Instead the divorce court divides the family’s assets and debts based on the length of the marriage, the ages of the parties and their current and future ability to earn a living, etc. The division of assets and debts in a divorce case is required to be “just and reasonable”; it is not used to punish either side for bad behavior. (K.S.A. 60-1610(b)(1).
There is an exception to the no fault division of assets and debts in a Kansas divorce. If either side has caused a “dissipation of assets”, or has wasted money or given away property, the Court can take that into consideration. For example, if the husband has an affair the Court will not usually consider this bad behavior when dividing property in the divorce case. But if the husband bought expensive gifts for his girlfriend he wasted marital funds and the Court can use that in the divorce. Continuing the example, if the husband bought his girlfriend a car for $25,000 the divorce judge could give the wife the first $25,000 of property in the case and then divide the rest evenly. The husband’s bad behavior, wasting $25,000 of marital funds on his girlfriend, is used by the court to give the wife an extra $25,000 in the divorce to make the total distribution just and reasonable.
I hope this post has helped explain the two ways Kansas uses “no fault” in it divorce laws.