When the New York legislature passed a no-fault divorce statute (Domestic Relations Law §170) last summer, one of its goals was to cut down on lengthy and expensive litigation. Apparently one Essex County judge didn't get this memo.
On August 16, Governor Paterson signed the bill that will finally bring the state of New York's divorce law up to speed with the 49 other states. Prior to the enactment of the new no-fault divorce provision, unhappily married individuals would only be granted a divorce if they could successfully prove either cruelty, adultery, abandonment, imprisonment for at least three years, or adherence to a separation agreement for at least one year. This led to the widespread practice of couples perjuring themselves in order to show that one party was at "fault" as one spouse could not unilaterally terminate the marriage without the other spouse's cooperation.
Thanks to the State Assembly's approval of BILL NO A09753A, New York finally has the option of no-fault divorce just like the rest of the country. Under this amendment to NY Domestic Relations Law §170, the minimum requirement for divorce will be one spouse swearing under oath that the marriage has "broken down irretrievably" for a period of six months or longer. Although this bill won't take effect until about two months from now, lawyers are predicting it will streamline divorce proceedings.
The big news that shook the New York divorce world last week was the passage of a no-fault divorce bill in the NY Senate by a 32-29 vote. Since 1966, New York judges have only been able to grant a divorce on grounds of cruelty, adultery, abandonment or imprisonment for at least three years, leaving New York as the only state in which one spouse may not unilaterally terminate a marriage. In practical matters, this results in unhappy couples lying to courts and committing perjury in order to obtain a divorce; someone has to take the blame.
Everyone lies a little (except lawyers, of course, all of whom hold themselves to the highest ethical standards). But could being honest with family members actually benefit you in court one day? An appeals panel in Albany said yes in a 3-2 ruling earlier this month. The panel decided that an extended family can be considered a "community" for the purpose of introducing evidence of a witness' reputation for truthfulness in a criminal trial, according to the New York Law Journal.