A fault divorce: required grounds are present and at least one spouse asks that the divorce be granted on the grounds of "fault". Only some states still allow fault divorces. The traditional fault grounds are cruelty (inflicting unnecessary emotional or physical pain) -- this is the most frequently used ground for divorce. Other grounds are things like adultery, desertion for a specified length of time, confinement in prison for a set number of years, physical inability to engage in sexual intercourse (if it was not disclosed before marriage).
A critical difference between fault and no fault is that one spouse cannot stop a no fault divorce (objecting to the other spouse's request for divorce is itself an irreconcilable difference that would justify the divorce); whereas a spouse can prevent a fault divorce by convincing the court that he or she is not at fault. California was the first no fault divorce State (as of January 1, 1970). By 1977 nine states had adopted no-fault divorce laws. By late 1983, every state but South Dakota and New York had adopted some form of no-fault divorce. South Dakota then adopted no fault divorce in 1985. New York was basically the last hold-out.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) sent out a Press Release last week asserting that this law will give judges permission to ignore "cruel and inhuman treatment" as grounds for divorce. Consequently, they say, moneyed spouse (usually the husband) would have freedom to shelter the marital assets, hire an attorney, and start divorce proceedings before his wife ever suspects what is happening. NOW has asserted that judges routinely ignore domestic violence in NY and that this law would rubber stamp the practice.
Currently 95% of all divorces are settled out of court in NY. So perhaps the support no fault is supported by the NYS Bar Association and the NYS Women's Bar Association is because their members will gain monetarily from the move, which will drive more cases into the courts? So why choose a fault divorce option when you have a "no fault" option? Some people don't want to wait out the period of separation required by their state's law for a no fault divorce. And, in some states, a spouse who proves the other's fault may receive a greater share of the marital property or more alimony.
But what about this... Without having fault and blame, there may be little need to work hard on the marriage. A person who wants to call it quits can -- quite simply and easily, too. As a matter of fact, it is probably harder to fire someone at work than it is to get divorced. At least in the office, employers create paper trails, look for reasons to dismiss, have conversations and meetings about whether all avenues have been exhausted before firing is a necessity, and even use probationary periods to try to determine how unworkable a person or a situation before simply canning the person.