Grounds for Divorce—No One’s Fault

On October 12, 2010, New York became the last state in the country to adopt a no-fault provision as grounds for ending a marriage.

Domestic Relations Law §170(7) now allows for dissolution of marriage if one party swears under oath the marriage relationship has broken down irretrievably and if major issues such as support, child custody, and property division are agreed upon.

Intended to create an equitable means to end a marriage, the statute created inequities with long-reaching consequences for divorcing spouses. The fallout from the new statute includes the following:

  • Cap on alimony: The income of the payer, or higher-earning spouse, is subject to new formulas for temporary spousal maintenance. For a payer earning over the $500,000 cap, judges employ a subjective system of factors, including establishment of a pre-marital joint household, to determine support amounts. Length of marriage is unaddressed, leaving the possibility of significant alimony being awarded following a short-term marriage.
  • Attorneys’ fees: Intended to equalize the legal playing field during the process of divorce, the payer is responsible for all attorneys’ fees under the new statute. While providing access to quality legal representation for both parties, this law could lead to longer, higher conflict divorce proceedings if the less wealthy spouse proceeds in bad faith to protract the litigation.

Some of these no-fault divorce changes could cause a downturn in quality of life for divorcing spouses. It is essential that your attorney understands the new law and aggressively protects your rights—in and out of the courtroom.

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