As you talk to attorneys and read about the divorce process, you may come across the term “good faith”. Being in good faith basically means you are participating in or contributing to something honestly and fairly, adhering to the guidelines and expectations of that certain act or thing.

On the other hand, bad faith implies dishonesty, negligence and a disregard for responsibility and duty. For example, one spouse may be ordered to seek work and must put in what is called a good faith effort, meaning they are putting in an honest and meaningful effort at finding work.

Similarly, with any divorce, it is expected both spouses will put in a good faith effort at working out a property division, agreeing on a support amount and crafting a reasonable parenting plan. In these situations, good faith implies that they are not just looking out for themselves but they are leaving any selfish or spiteful tendencies at the door.

Good faith is also used as a determining factor of a marriage in cases where one spouse is seeking citizenship. Green card marriages are those whose primary purpose is to grant a spouse citizenship through martial relations. A good faith marriage, on the other hand, is a valid marriage for the sake of joining two people together, where citizenship is just a result of, not the motivation for, the marriage. Sometimes a spouse will have to prove the marriage they had was in good faith to be able to maintain citizenship or conditional residency after a divorce. This can be done through evidence of community held property or other assets, joint finances and debts and/or other indicators that the marriage could not have been just a green card marriage.

Good faith is an especially helpful term in family law because regardless of what laws or orders say, they can’t guide how you feel and react to personal issues and everything about a divorce is personal. You may have to drop your child off at their other parent’s house every Friday night, according to the timesharing schedule, but sometimes things get in the way and your schedule make take precedence over a timely exchange. A good faith effort would be doing everything you can, including planning ahead, to adhere to the timesharing schedule issued.

Even if you are not successful in your efforts, if you are unable to find work despite an honest effort or you are unable to meet the demands of the timesharing schedule due to extraneous circumstances, a good faith effort is recognized as what matters in family law matters. Matters of parenting in particular cannot be held to strict guidelines; children are dynamic and so caring for them must be as well. If you can’t follow guidelines or orders, a good faith effort at doing so is meaningful. The courts require you to act in good faith as a way to help you keep in mind what kind of attitude is best for the family as a whole.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and have questions about the divorce process, Certified Family Law Specialist Mark H. Karney can help. Attorney Mark H. Karney and his skilled complex divorce litigation team can provide expert counsel to ensure you take all the right steps towards a favorable outcome. Call our Los Angeles office at 310-564-5710; email us at or contact us through our online form today to schedule a free consultation.