Blame Someone Else Day is the result of one very bad day in 1982 for Clio, Michigan resident Anne Moller. On the morning of Friday the 13th that year, Anne’s alarm clock failed to go off setting in motion a series of bad luck events throughout the day. This sounds a lot like a Bill Murrey film that most of us can relate to personally, however, we hear stories in the office all the time about marriages that have gone through something similar. One unfortunate event like a job loss or serious illness can start a domino effect throughout the relationship that wreaks havoc until the couple is finally pushed to the breaking point. When this happens, it is only natural for the spouses to blame each other as they try to sift through what’s left of the fairytale they worked so hard to create. While this is terribly sad, the hard reality is that it happens all the time. So, what better time of the year could there be then to discuss the light at the end of the tunnel that is the no-fault divorce than on National Blame Someone Else Day? (If it’s not today don’t blame me.) 

The no fault divorce was first adopted by California in 1969 and has been a hotly debated topic ever since. Prior to no-fault laws a marriage could only be dissolved if one party demonstrated marital misconduct by the other such as cruelty, abandonment or infidelity. Proponents of no-fault legislation argue that it lowers court costs by simplifying the legal process. Protestors believe it undermines the legal entitlements the marital contract leaving the innocent party unfairly vulnerable. Some people argue that no-fault is really a women’s rights issue since it seems like men have always had an “out” when it comes to relationships while historically women have not. Other people say no-fault cheapens the significance of marital vows and has contributed to the steep increase in divorce rates. So, what is it really and what does it mean for you?

WHAT IS A NO FAULT DIVORCE?

Romance and religion aside, marriage is essentially a legal contract that works like a business partnership. In modern times, the contract serves to provide specific benefits and privileges to the couple that they would otherwise not be entitled to. From that same perspective then, ending the marriage is essentially the process of dissolving the business contract and dividing the assets and debts acquired during its existence. 

Of course the reality is we can’t just set love and faith aside. Anyone who has been in love understands that marriage is of course more than a contract, it is the ultimate union of your heart and soul to another. For some people it goes beyond that to a spiritual commitment made before a higher power. Yet when it comes to divorce how much of that is the court’s business? The answer no-fault states have offered is, “as little as possible.” 

Without the no-fault laws a divorce suit would act like any other legal matter in court. A spouse could petition for divorce but if the other person objected for any reason it was on the requesting spouse to prove their case for ending the marriage to the judge. No-fault laws remove that element from the process by taking the position that all people have the right to leave any relationship at any time for any reason.  It is certainly a relief to know that if you live in a no-fault state you have the freedom to leave a relationship that no longer feeds your soul, but what does this mean for the outcome of your divorce (especially if your partner is guilty of cruelty, abandonment or infidelity)?

WHAT DOES NO FAULT MEAN FOR MY DIVORCE?

It essentially means the court wants to know what is in the best interest of the kids and what business elements of the marriage need to be divided, and not so much about who did what to the other during the relationship. This does not mean that important issues like domestic violence, substance abuse and manic wasting of community funds are not relevant, it just means the court likely only needs to know about them in the context of how they impact court orders. 

A good attorney will help you separate non-essential, highly emotional, he-said/she-said elements of your case from the facts that really matter to the court. Taking a more pragmatic approach to the divorce process can help reduce court costs and attorney fees for clients by keeping communication focused on the big issues that must be resolved like the parenting plan, division of the community estate, and support orders. In some cases it also helps people move on more quickly once they stop worrying about who is at fault and start thinking about the next chapter. 

SO NOW WHAT?

If you think you may be facing a divorce, check out our “Get the Most Out of Your Family Law Consultation” checklist for tips on how to make the most of your first meeting with an attorney. The tips provided there will help you focus on what you need to do to get your family law matter going. 

As far as National Blame Someone Else Day goes, the no-fault laws may have rained on your parade a little but there are still plenty of opportunities in other areas to pass the buck. I for one will be blaming National Pi Day, which my household celebrates by eating all the pie, for my tight pants all next week.

Photo credit: Meme Binge

DISCLAIMER: The information provided above is intended to be a general discussion of common divorce issues and is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice that applies to your individual fact situation. Always seek legal counsel for advice on your unique case needs.