During August 2010, the Governor of New York signed legislation which will have enormous impact for all in New York seeking a divorce on or after October 10, 2010. Prior to that date, New York required that a party, essentially, prove fault, in order to obtain a divorce (see uncontested divorce). While those original six grounds for divorce still remain but the new statute enacted a seventh “no-fault “ ground for divorce.

The presenters of the bill set forth the rationale for this sweeping amendment to the statute . I will quote from portions of the legislative statement that accompanied the bill.

New York is the only state that does not have a no-fault divorce provision. Currently, a divorce can only be procured by alleging fault such as cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, abandonment or confinement of the defendant in prison (in addition to the parties living apart pursuant to a separation agreement or judicial decree for more than one year). Yet many people divorce for valid reasons that do not fall under these classifications.

They are forced to invent false justifications to legally dissolve their marriages. False accusations and the necessity to hold one partner at fault often result in conflict within the family. The conflict is harmful to the partners and destructive to the emotional well being of children. Prolonging the divorce process adds additional stress to an already difficult situation.

This legislation enables parties to legally end a marriage which is, in reality, already over and cannot be salvaged. Its intent is to lessen the disputes that often arise between the parties and to mitigate the potential harm to them and their children caused by the current process.

Because a resolution of all the major issues must be reached before a divorce judgment is granted, this legislation safeguards the parties' rights and economic interests.

Section 170 of the Domestic Relations Law was amended by adding subdivision ( 7 ) which allows a divorce when “The relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months, provided that one party has so stated under oath."

The judgment can only be granted after the following ancillary issues have been resolved: 1- the equitable distribution of marital property, 2-the payment or waiver of spousal support, 3- the payment of child support, 4- the payment of counsel and expert fees and expenses, and 5- custody and visitation with the infant children of the marriage. A judgment of divorce under this subdivision cannot be issued until all the above issues are resolved and incorporated into the judgment of divorce. As with any new statute, the language will be subject to the interpretation of the courts.

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