No-fault Divorce

In August 2010, New York was the last state to adopt "no-fault divorce," a significant reform of the matrimonial laws. Under the new no fault law, a spouse seeking a divorce and in order to qualify for one, is no longer required to claim mitigating or fault-based reasons. The rule demanding that particular other “fault” grounds are sited (such as adultery or cruelty) had prolonged and aggravated the painful divorce process in the state. No-fault is a ground in which all that has to be claimed is that the irretrievable dissolution of the marriage or an extended separation.

The no-fault NY matrimonial laws also revised the process for awards of temporary maintenance (spousal support) while a divorce is pending. This revision includes a formula and list of factors for such awards, which would allow for a speedy resolution of the maintenance (spousal support) issue, and prevent less well-off spouses in the proceedings from falling into poverty during litigation.

Payment of Legal Fees for the Less-Monied Spouse

In addition, the no fault laws also created a presumption that a less-monied spouse is entitled to payment of attorneys' legal fees. Under current law, a spouse who cannot afford legal representation in a divorce proceeding must make an application to the court for fees at the end of the process. This can force a poor spouse to proceed without a lawyer, or to give up important legal rights due to lack of resources.

Find out if you qualify

Over the years, family attorney Ingrid Gherman has closely followed and written about the 2010 New York laws pertaining to no-fault grounds for divorce as well as the issues of legal fee and temporary maintenance awards. To find out how these laws affect you, set a time to have a consultation with Ingrid by calling (212) 941-0767 or sending the on-line inquiry.

Laws end a rule that forced spouses to invent false justifications

Previous to the no-fault law, if spouses wanted a legal dissolution of their marriage in the state, one would have to claim and prove that the other committed an act such as adultery, abandonment, or cruelty. One spouse would have to assign blame to the other in order for the court to grant a divorce. This legal criterion would often impel false claims for a marriage to be dissolved.

Frequently the consequence would be long drawn-out, painful and expensive trials in the court system in which each spouse would claim grounds against the other. In 2009 alone there were 13,212 contested divorces in NY.

Marital relationship irreparably eroded

Under the no-fault ground for divorce, the marital relationship between spouses must have irretrievably broken down for at least a six-month time period. Divorcing under this option doesn’t necessary avoid disagreements over “ancillary relief” on issues such as child custody, spousal and child support, marital asset division, and legal fees.

Separation also a ground of divorce

The no fault option provides for separation to be a ground for a NY divorce, which the spouses can obtain one year after a Decree of Separation or a Judgment of Separation is granted by the court. Additionally, a divorce can be granted if the spouses have not co-habited together for a period of no less than one year and have obtained a signed Agreement of Separation.

The History of the Laws

The no-fault bill passed the NY State Assembly and signed into law by then Governor Paterson in the summer of 2010. After signing the bill, Governor Paterson said that the new laws would, "fix a broken process that produced extended and contentious litigation (and) poisoned feelings between the parties... Finally, New York has brought its divorce laws into the 21st century." Stephen Younger, President of the NY Bar Association said at the time, "By removing the requirement to prove fault, divorcing couples and the courts will no longer have to waste resources litigating on whether a marriage should end, but will be able to better focus on issues such as the welfare of the children, fair division of marital assets and other economic concerns."

For more detailed information about grounds for divorce and other aspects of the no-fault laws, call the office of knowledgeable attorney Ingrid Gherman at (212) 941-0767 or send the on-line form.