No Fault Divorce in New York City

NYC No Fault Ground For Divorce

Only a decade ago, New York finally joined the other 49 states by adding the option for no-fault divorce as grounds for divorce.

This is a beautiful change for couples who wish to file for an uncontested divorce in New York. After you have decided to separate and do all the hard work of having the terms of settlement mapped out, you no longer have to move backward and figure out who will be “at fault” in the divorce papers filed with the court.

New York No-fault divorce means there does not need to be a reason for wanting a divorce.  This ruling untangles protracted litigation, where formerly a spouse had to claim a specific reason.  New York was the last of the 50 states to adopt this law, and it’s a significant amendment to the current status of divorce law in New York.

Along with the no-fault reform, New York also altered the process by which temporary maintenance (spousal support) is awarded when the divorce is still pending.  The reform created a formula and a list of criteria for spousal support, expediting the awarding process, and thus preventing the lesser-earning spouse from going into poverty during divorce proceedings.

These two new laws also led to the presumption that the lesser-earning spouse in the divorce was entitled to reimbursement or payment of attorney legal fees.  Previously, a spouse unable to afford divorce attorney representation had to petition the court for litigation fees after the divorce process.  This often led to the lesser-earning spouses being unable to procure proper representation, and they would often have to forgo relevant legal rights due to a lack of funds.

The bill giving divorcing couples these rights was passed on July 1, 2010.  It passed the New York State Assembly and was signed into effect by then-Governor Paterson, who was quoted as saying that the bill would “fix a broken process that produced extended and contentious litigation (and) poisoned feelings between the parties…”   The new law would go into effect 60 days after July 1, 2010, and those divorcing at any point after that date would benefit.

How to file for no-fault divorce in New York?

The new grounds require that one spouse say (in writing on the divorce papers) that the marriage has been “irretrievably broken for at least six months.” The statute does not define “irretrievably broken.” Maybe the legislature is now “getting” the fact that it takes two people to make a marriage work – and if you only have one willing person, the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The other thing accomplished by the new statute is the end of limbo. In the past, if the person who did not initiate the separation didn’t want a divorce, he or she could effectively block the divorce forever.

Many people contact divorce attorneys for uncontested divorces; they have been living apart from their spouses for many years, unable to divorce. In these cases, the spouse would not cooperate with the uncontested divorce action. In one case, the couple had been separated for seven years, and although the wife lived in Texas and their children were grown, she would not cooperate with the husband’s efforts to file for a divorce.

The recent change to the law finally acknowledges that it takes two to tango – if any of the spouses say the marriage is broken, then it probably is. There is no reason to force anyone to stay married.

If you wish to file for a no-fault divorce, an attorney can offer you and your spouse a civilized, short, and economical process to help you reach a divorce agreement acceptable to both of you.

Preventing False Justifications

In a nutshell, no-fault divorce eliminates the need for a spouse to create a false reason for wanting to divorce.  Previously, a spouse wanting a divorce had to present and prove a reason for wanting the divorce, such as adultery, abandonment, or cruelty.  It was a blame game, pitting one spouse against another.  If the motive for divorce did not fall under these three categories, a false reason would often be invented.  This, in turn, could lead to a lengthy, drawn-out bitter litigation, as the accused spouse would try to dispute the (false) allegations.  It would, in the end, be expensive not only for the couple divorcing but also for New York’s court system.  According to a recent year’s data, 13,212 divorces in New York were contested, about ¼ of all divorces total.  Therefore, it is no surprise that this new law has been well received.  Stephen Younger, President of the New York Bar Association when the bill passed, had this to say about the bill:

“By removing the requirement to prove fault, divorcing couples and the courts will no longer have to waste resources litigating on whether a marriage should end, but will be able to better focus on issues such as the welfare of the children, fair division of marital assets and other economic concerns.”

New York has a history of following behind other states’ divorce decisions.  For example, from 1787 – 1966, one could only get divorced on the grounds of adultery.  The 1966 Divorce Reform in New York amended this, allowing other reasons for divorce.  California was the first state to pass a no-fault divorce bill in 1969, and many other states expeditiously followed.  Now that New York has gotten on board, former New York Governor Paterson declared.

Uncontested Divorce – DIY or Through Divorce Mediation?

Even if you and your spouse are separating on good terms and agree on most issues, you may wish to consider reviewing your agreement with a qualified mediator. This will ensure that all aspects of your divorce agreement were addressed and considered prior to filing the divorce forms to the court.

Once an agreement has been reached on all the issues, the court has a packet of uncontested divorce forms, which must be prepared and filed with the court. If you and your ex have settled all issues, you can file the uncontested divorce forms yourself – you are not required to use an attorney!

The forms are a little complicated, however, and most people choose to have an attorney fill out the forms and then make the three trips to the court that it takes to complete the divorce filing.

If you require help filing for an uncontested divorce, a New York attorney can prepare and file the forms for a fee of approximately $1000. If the court requests additional information or wants a form revised, that work will be done by us at no additional charge.

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