New York Enacts No-Fault Divorce Law

New York Now a No Fault Divorce StateNew York has enacted a no-fault divorce law that took effect this October 12, 2010. Prior to that date, the only grounds for divorce in New York State were Cruel and Inhuman Treatment; Abandonment for at least one year; Imprisonment for more than 3 years; and  Conversion of a  judgment of separation or a written signed separation agreement after living separately for at least one year.

Under the new legislation which went into effect on October 12, 2010 an additional ground was added: “Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for a period of at least 6 months”. Under the new law, one spouse may unilaterally file for divorce by stating, under oath, that the relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for more than 6 months. It does not matter whether or not the other spouse agrees, nor does it matter that the other  spouse did nothing wrong.

But there are issues that must be settled before a judge can grant a divorce under the new ground.  Namely, that  all economic issues have been settled. Those issues include distribution of marital property (equitable distribution), child support, payment of lawyers and experts fees, and visitation with the unemencipated children. Usually, attaching a signed separation agreement that covers those issues will satisfy that requirement. The new law appears in Section 170(7) of the Domestic Relations Law.

Getting those issues settled has always been the prerequisite for divorce. But before the new law, one of the parties had to allege one of the fault grounds. That is no longer the case. The best way for the overwhelming majority of separating or divorcing couples to resolve all of the economic issues is to go to divorce mediation or Collaborative lawyers.

Explanations of those processes can be found on my website (, or you can call me to schedule a no-cost introductory consultation.

The new law also has new provisions for temporary maintenance, and standards for modifying existing, prior orders. Those provisions will be discussed in future posts to this blog.

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