New York was the last state in the nation to pass an amendment allowing no-fault grounds as an option for divorce. Prior to October 11, 2010, spouses had to file for divorce using fault grounds in New York. Fault grounds still remain an option, albeit it unpopular, for divorce today and include the following six grounds:
- Cruel and inhuman treatment that endangers the spouse’s physical or mental well being, making cohabitation unsafe or improper
- Abandonment for one or more years (either physical or sexual abandonment which was not consented to by the other spouse)
- Imprisonment of a spouse for three or more consecutive years after marriage
- Subsequent to a separation decree or judgment and after meeting all of its requirements, the spouses lived apart for one or more years
- Subsequent to a separation agreement and after meeting all the agreement’s requirements, the spouses lived apart for one or more years
No fault divorce grounds
Domestic Relations Law title 11, §170(7) establishes the seventh ground for divorce based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, which means the marriage is impossible to repair or reconcile. To file no-fault divorce, the marriage breakdown must be for a period of at least six months. To grant a no-fault divorce, the court also requires the following:
- One of the spouses must swear under oath that the relationship has broken down irretrievably for at least six months.
- Spouses have resolved all economic issues of property distribution, spousal support, child support, child custody, visitation, counsel fees, and expert fees and expenses, or the court has decided these issues for the couple as incorporated into the final divorce judgment.
Couples must still resolve the same divorce issues regarding children and finances as under fault grounds. However, no-fault divorce allows New York residents to obtain a divorce more quickly than under fault grounds. Also, there is often less conflict involved when one spouse does not have to prove fault and assign cause for the marriage breakdown to the other spouse.
If considering divorce, discuss which grounds are appropriate with an experienced New York divorce lawyer.
Jacqueline Newman joined Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP in 1998 and is now the managing partner of the firm. Ms. Newman’s practice consists of litigation, collaborative law and mediation. She specializes in complex high net worth matrimonial cases and also in negotiating prenuptial agreements. Read more about Jacqueline Newman.