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What Is No-Fault Divorce?

What is No-Fault Divorce?


What is No-fault divorce?

In August 2010, Governor Paterson signed the bill that finally brought 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.

On October 12, 2010, The Divorce Reform Act of 2010 became effective in New York, curing this problem that had been plaguing couples and courts for years. The fault-based grounds will remain intact. However, the statute (Domestic Relations Law Section 170)  now includes a no-fault ground that allows one party to file for divorce by attesting to the irretrievable breakdown of his or her marriage for a period of at least six months.

The law also modified the Domestic Relations Law concerning counsel fees in matrimonial actions by leveling the playing field, so to speak. Currently, the wealthier spouse (who generally makes a living outside of the home) has had a major advantage in terms of litigating, whereas the less-wealthy spouse (who traditionally would stay at home, raise the children, and take care of the house) has been stuck at an immediate disadvantage, as money and resources are difficult to come by when litigation is commenced. The new law requires the wealthier spouse to grant the other spouse counsel fees and expenses at the outset of the case as opposed to the end of the case, ensuring that each spouse can adequately defend him or herself.

Essentially, unhappy husbands and wives who know their marriages are beyond the point of no return, are now able to legally end those marriages that courts had previously deemed insufficiently unhappy.

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