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.
On October 12 of this year, The Divorce Reform Act of 2010 will become effective in New York and this state will have a no-fault divorce provision that will hopefully cure this problem that’s been plaguing couples and courts for years. The fault-based grounds will remain in tact, however, the statute (Domestic Relations Law Section 170) will now include 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 new law also modifies 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, where 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 will require 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, will soon be able to legally end those marriages that courts had previously deemed insufficiently unhappy. No more lying and pointing fingers…just good ole–or new, however you want to look at it–fashioned divorce.