New York Finally Enacts No-Fault Divorce

Governor David Patterson signed New York’s no-fault divorce bill into law yesterday, bringing New York in line with the 49 other states that already have some version of the law. So what exactly does this bill do? It amends Section 170 of New York’s Domestic Relations Law, which sets forth the grounds for divorce, and will now permit couples to divorce if one spouse swears under oath that the relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months. Here’s a link to the bill that was signed.

Claiming that there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage will not automatically result in divorce. That won’t happen until the couple has resolved the economic and child-related issues between them. But it will end one spouse’s ability to prevent divorce by forcing the other to prove fault such as cruelty, abandonment or adultery, thereby trapping a spouse in the marriage until she or he gives into the economic or parenting demands of the other. And it will eliminate the need for couples who agree to divorce to allege that one of them was to blame.

Every divorce lawyer I know has been in favor of no-fault divorce. Not only because it will help their clients emotionally and financially, but also because it will eliminate the need for the attorneys to falsely certify their clients affidavits in which they “admit” such wrongdoing. Additionally, judges will no longer need to pretend they don’t know that false evidence is being presented when two parties, who clearly agree that they want a divorce, come before them and present their divorce papers for signature. This sensible law was long overdue.

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