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.
Families who will undergo divorce stand to benefit the most from this amendment. The state’s old divorce laws made the emotional rift between spouses worse by forcing one spouse to pin the blame for the marriage’s dissolution on the other. The only grounds for divorce prior to this bill were cruelty, adultery, abandoment, imprisonment of one spouse, and year-long separation by agreement or judicial decree. Of course many couples who wanted divorces had difficulty fulfilling these grounds. Some would resort to perjury, while others would be forced to remain in marriages that were no longer healthy. Now each spouse will have the option to end such unhappy unions without the other’s consent. Studies of no-fault divorce in twenty-seven other states show that domestic abuse and female suicide rates decreased dramatically in states where no-fault divorce is available.
Lawyers believe that the change in law will make settling divorce cases more efficient by reducing the litigation involved. Not only will this reduce costs to clients, but it will also allow lawyers to focus on negotiating custody, visitation rights, child support, spousal support, shared property, and legal fees. Although there may be an initial spike in divorces sought once the bill takes effect, it is likely that theses numbers will level off.
If the rest of the country can survive no-fault divorce, surely New York can too.