As of October 12, 2010, New York State joined the rest of the country in offering its residents a "No-Fault" option for seeking divorce. The Legislature did not repeal the existing grounds, but instead added a no-fault ground for divorce. The existing grounds for divorce are:
1. Cruel and inhuman treatment,
2. Abandonment, which includes physical abandonment or refusal of sexual relations for 1 or more years;
3. Confinement in prison for three or more consecutive years
5. The last two grounds have to do with having been legally separated for a year or more prior to the commencement of the divorce proceeding, whether it is a decree of separation granted by a Court, or in accordance with a separation agreement signed by the parties.
Those are the six grounds for divorce that previously existed in the law, and still exist to this day. Unless a plaintiff can prove sufficient facts to support one of the above grounds in a contested divorce, the complaint will be dismissed.
The new law that went into effect added a seventh ground for divorce. Any individual wanting a divorce in New York now has the right to seek a divorce by alleging a breakdown of the marriage. The statute describing the new "no-fault" ground for divorce now permits anyone to allege in their divorce complaint that "The relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months".
It may strike you immediately that the language conspicuously absent from our new statute, and the language you may have heard before is, "irreconcilable differences". Instead, our statute uses the phrase "broken down irretrievably". What exactly does this mean? There have not been enough test cases that have gone through the system to the point where our Appellate Courts have tried to interpret the vague language written by Albany legislators. In my humble opinion, the intent was to enable either party to allege that for a period of six or more months, the marriage has been dead, for whatever reason, or, more importantly, for no reason.
Prior to No-Fault, the law compelled people to exaggerate truths or tell untruths on the witness stand, even when both spouses in a marriage wanted a divorce. Over the years, the Courts of this state have become conditioned to turn a blind eye to the rampant perjury going on in our State so people can get divorced.
What does this mean to you or your clients? It means that it is no longer necessary to air dirty laundry in Court to seek a divorce. People no longer have to re-live, in a written complaint for divorce, in painstaking detail, all the horrible things their spouse may have done to them during their marriage. And if their spouse did not treat them badly, they don't have to falsely allege otherwise. Can you all hear the big collective sigh of relief from unhappily married individuals