What Is an Absolute Divorce?

When researching and learning about the divorce process, you may encounter the term “absolute divorce.” What does this mean?

What is an absolute divorce?

An absolute divorce is simply another term for divorce or dissolution of marriage. Some states have “limited divorces” or “legal separations” that don't completely end a marriage. In these states, it can be helpful to refer to a standard divorce or dissolution of marriage as an absolute divorce to avoid confusion.

Important things to know about absolute divorce

Divorce proceedings vary somewhat by state. However, there are some general facts that pertain to an absolute divorce. One spouse files a divorce petition and has divorce papers delivered to their spouse, often via a hired process server. After this service of process takes place, the recipient, or respondent, has a certain number of days to officially reply to the divorce petition.

Before a final judgment can be issued on the pending divorce, the couple must agree on issues including debt and property division and any new living arrangements for their minor children. 


Uncontested vs. contested divorce

Your divorce case may be uncontested or contested. 

  • In an uncontested divorce, spouses agree upon all matters, including issues such as alimony/spousal support, child support, division of marital property, and debts. 
  • In a contested divorce, one or more aspects of the dissolution of marriage are in dispute. For example, there may be arguments over who gets to keep certain pieces of real estate or how to split parenting time. Court hearings with a family law attorney may be required to settle any disagreements between you and your spouse. This type of divorce can take much longer than an uncontested one because the parties must present evidence and argue their case in front of a judge.

If you’re facing a contested divorce and don’t want to spend a lot of time or money on a divorce trial, consider divorce mediation. This is a process by which a third party helps you and your spouse communicate and compromise on your settlement agreement.

Fault vs. no-fault

A divorce can also be fault or no-fault

  • A fault-based divorce occurs when one party blames their spouse for causing the marriage to end. This could be due to adultery, abuse, or other reasons. The “fault” must be proven in court before a judge will grant a fault-based divorce.
  • In a no-fault divorce, spouses agree that neither of them “caused” the marriage to end. They just want out, amicably, without dragging each other through court proceedings or mudslinging. This type of divorce is sometimes attributed to irreconcilable differences or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Read: What Are Grounds for Divorce?

State requirements

Some states require at least six months of residence prior to filing for a divorce. Others require only 90 days. In any case, it’s important to note that residency requirements and other divorce laws vary by state, and you should check the divorce laws for your state before filing.

Additionally, each state has its own paperwork and processes that must be followed when filing for an absolute divorce. Some states require additional evidence if you're seeking a fault divorce. To avoid a delay in your divorce proceedings or other frustrations, you need to understand and be prepared to meet the requirements of your state.

Hello Divorce specializes in helping people end their marriages. Whether it's an absolute divorce, a dissolution of marriage, or something else allowed by your state, Hello Divorce has many online divorce plans. To learn more, schedule a free 15-minute consultation by phone.