In Georgia, the opposite of an Uncontested Divorce is a Fault Divorce, also known as a Contested Divorce.  In this article, we discuss why proving fault (pursuing a contested divorce) is frequently not the best first option.

Divorces are time consuming and have significant monetary cost for the parties involved- especially in cases in which the parties make the majority of their case pointing out the faults of the other party during the case, marriage, or parenting. It is not uncommon in family law situations for parties in a contested divorce situation to make the whole case about who caused the fault that led to the divorce. In fact in most situations it is considered a common action in today’s society; however, just because it is common does not make it right and such actions can actually make a divorce situation much harder than it needs to be and the results are often less favorable to either party in such situations.

You may be able to logically with evidence point out every instance in which the other party was a fault and therefore caused the divorce. The real question is will this really assist you in the divorce case and most of the time the answer is no. The only fault that should be cast in a divorce is within paperwork and hard evidence. For example, if the reason for the divorce is that the other spouse was unfaithful it is okay to provide this as a fault for the divorce and to provide any proof necessary for validating the claim, but this should not be the primary focus of your case. Focusing solely or primarily on making the other spouse at fault will only leave you less time to dispute more serious concerns such as, dividing assets, handling debts, determining support, determining custody, and determining visitation arrangements. In addition the focus of blaming fault may in fact work at your disadvantage by negatively impacting the judge’s decisions in regards to your case and may destroy the possibility of a cooperative and positive relationship that could exist following a divorce that may work to your advantage.

The Fantasies of Placing Blame

There are several unrealistic expectations that spouses believe that they will attain if they can make the divorce process your entire fault. However, these are just fantasies as they generally do not work and judges are familiar with these tactics and rarely side with the spouse that fails to assume any fault. The primary reason that a party intends on focusing on concentrated blame and making the majority of the case about such blame is to achieve some ulterior motive or justification for their actions.

Common Themes of the Blame Game:

  • If it is entirely your fault, for the divorce, then you are the responsible party for resolving the fault- This is not a realistic expectation as a judge will rarely find that a person causing fault is solely responsible for the situation and therefore not solely responsible for resolving the problems causing the divorce.
  • If it is entirely your fault, for the divorce, then you will not be allowed to have any control in the process to resolve any of the problems. Another way to state this is to say, “you’re the one who messed everything up and for that you shouldn’t have any involvement in fixing the situation.” This again is unrealistic and a judge will more realistically have both parties involved in resolving differences.
  • If I can prove it’s your entire fault, for the divorce, then my blaming you for the divorce and the judge’s ruling will force you to change your ways. A judge cannot legally force an individual to change their course of action unless the activity in which the other parent is engaging in is illegal so expecting for a judge to change their personality or to be conforming is an unrealistic expectation.
  • If it is entirely your fault, for the divorce, then I will achieve everything that I want from the divorce. Some people have the unrealistic expectation that if they can attack the other person’s character and demonstrate their faults enough during the divorce then the judge will deny the guilty party custody, visitation, alimony, support, assets etc. Again unless the actions are considered illegal and or heavily detrimental than it is unlikely that faults in the other person will cause for the judge to revoke common rewards as outlined by law and precedence.

Placing all the blame in a divorce situation only makes the divorce case unnecessarily complex and prevents the real issues being addressed with adequate time. If it is possible to resolve the situation then the fault should be addressed with the court; however, this should only be with the intention of seeking resolution of the issue; such as, ordered therapy, counseling, or classes to resolve the particular issue at hand. Otherwise the issue should be settled outside of court between the spouses themselves as to save time and money. The only real way to settle disputes is through civilized conflict resolution in which both parties have to cooperate / collaborate. Placing blame and pointing the finger by claiming excessive faults in a divorce is only going to eliminate the opportunities between the parties to resolve issues and find a middle ground. In the long run most spouses find that settlements outside of court cases are more effective in achieving what they want out of a divorce or family law case and if the other spouse is unwilling to cooperate in settlement alternatives then they are force to settle in court with an order that does not fit perfectly with either parties desired goals. Overall it is better to promote a more positive atmosphere during a divorce to make the process easier and more efficient—and pointing the finger and excessively claiming fault hinders all process of the divorce and can make the process longer, more painful, more costly, and the relationship of ex-spouses more uncooperative.