No-Fault Divorce Signed Into Law in New York

by Fred Abramson on August 16, 2010 · 0 comments

The New York Law Journal reports that Governor David Paterson signed into law no-fault divorce.  New York is the last state to pass such a law. In my opinion, this measure was long overdue.

A spouse can receive a divorce by declaring under oath that a marriage has been “irretrievably” broken for at least six months.  According to the Law Journal, you should be aware that other issues related to divorce, such as child custody and distribution of property, must first be resolved by the parties or determined by the court before a marriage can be dissolved.

Below is the text of the law:

BILL NUMBER:A9753A              REVISED 7/26/10

TITLE OF BILL:  An act to amend the domestic relations law, in relation
to no fault divorce

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF THE BILL: This bill would allow a judgment of
divorce to be granted to either party to a divorce action without
assigning fault to the other party. However, a divorce could only be
granted after the major ancillary issues have been resolved.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 1. Section 170 of the Domestic
Relations Law is amended by adding subdivision 7 allowing divorce when a
marriage is irretrievably broker, for a period of at least six months,
provided that one party has so stated under oath.

This judgment can only be granted after the following ancillary issues
have been resolved: the equitable distribution of marital property, the
payment or waiver of spousal support, the payment of child support, the
payment of counsel and expert fees and expenses, and custody and visita-
tion with the infant children of the marriage.

A judgment of divorce under this subdivision could not be issued until
all these issues are resolved.

Section 2 establishes that this act shall take effect on the sixtieth
day after it shall have become law.

JUSTIFICATION: 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 clas-
sifications. 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.

A study cited at the 2007 Forum on the Need for No-Fault Divorce
presented by the NYS Office of Court Administration's Office of Matrimo-
nial and Family Law Study and Reform showed a large decline in domestic
violence in states with no-fault divorce. The 27 states studied that
have adopted no-fault divorce statutes have seen female suicide rates
decline approximately 20 while reports of domestic violence committed by
husbands against wives were reduced by more than one-third.

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.

It is the intent of this legislation to grant full recognition and
respect to valid marriages of same-sex couples to obtain relief under
New York State laws and in New York's courts. While the Domestic
Relations Law uses the terms "husband and wife" in some places and
"plaintiff and defendant" in others, in using the terms "husband and
wife", it is not the intent of this legislation to preclude access to
relief under the Domestic Relations Law by same-sex couples with valid
marriages performed outside the state. Current New York law, written to
apply to "husband and wife," has been properly interpreted by New York
courts to allow relief for same-sex couples with valid marriages. It is
not the intent of this legislation to alter the interpretations of this
case law including Martinez v. County of Monroe. 50 A.D.3d 189, 850
N.Y.S.2d 740 (4th Dep't 2008), Beth R. V.  Donna M., 19 Misc. 3d 724,
(Sup. Ct., N.Y. County 2008), and C.M. v.  C.C., 867 N.Y.S.2d 884, (Sup.
Ct., N.Y. County 2008), nor is it the intent of this legislation to
alter New York State's policy to recognize out-of-state same-sex



EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the sixtieth day after it
shall have become law.
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