What are the grounds for divorce? What is “No Fault Divorce”?

In order to obtain a divorce, the party seeking the divorce must establish “grounds” for the divorce.  In other words, each state determines what reasons they believe justify a divorce and, to receive a divorce, one of those reasons must be proved.

VIDEO: No-Fault Divorce and Legal Grounds in NY

New York has seven different grounds for divorce:

  • The parties were married in New York, and either party is a resident of New York when the action is commenced and has been such a resident for a continuous period of one year immediately prior to commencement proceeding, or
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment of the plaintiff by the defendant such that the conduct of the defendant so endangers the physical or mental well being of the plaintiff as renders it unsafe or improper for the plaintiff to cohabit with the defendant.
  • Abandonment of the plaintiff by the defendant for a period of one or more years.
  • Confinement of the defendant in prison for a period of three or more consecutive years after the marriage of plaintiff and defendant.
  • Commission of an act of adultery.
  • Each spouse having lived separate and apart pursuant to a decree or judgment of separation for a period of one or more years after the granting of such decree or judgment, and satisfactory proof has been submitted by the plaintiff that he or she has substantially performed all the terms and conditions of such decree or judgment.
  • Each spouse having lived separate and apart pursuant to a written agreement of separation, subscribed by the parties thereto and acknowledged or proved in the form required to entitle a deed to be recorded, for a period of one or more years after the execution of such agreement and satisfactory proof has been submitted by the plaintiff that he or she has substantially performed all the terms and conditions of such agreement. Such agreement shall be filed in the office of the clerk of the county wherein either party resides. In lieu of filing such agreement, either party to such agreement may file a memorandum of such agreement, which memorandum shall be similarly subscribed and acknowledged or proved as was the agreement of separation and shall contain the following information: (a) the names and addresses of each of the parties, (b) the date of marriage of the parties, (c) the date of the agreement of separation and (d) the date of this subscription and acknowledgment or proof of such agreement of separation.
  • The relationship between the spouses has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months, provided that one party has so stated under oath, and the economic issues of equitable distribution of marital property, the payment or waiver of spousal support, the payment of child support, the payment of counsel and experts’ fees and expenses as well as the custody and visitation with the infant children of the marriage have been resolved by the parties, or determined by the court and incorporated into the judgment of divorce.

DRL § 170.

It is tremendously important to discuss the final grounds for divorce, commonly referred to as “irretrievable breakdown for a period of six months or more,” or “no fault divorce.”   It was passed into law in 2010, only a few short years ago, and has made proving grounds tremendously easier.  Rather than having to prove adultery or cruel and inhuman treatment, all that is required is for one spouse to swear, under oath, that the relationship between the spouses has been irretrievably broken for a period of at least six months.  This has saved countless unhappy couples a great deal of time, expense, and emotional trauma in having to re-live and prove the couples’ reasons for needing or wanting a divorce.

Although the facts of a particular case may justify obtaining a divorce on grounds other than irretrievable breakdown, irretrievable breakdown has become the most frequently used grounds for obtaining a divorce.

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