Legal Controversies Concerning NY No-fault Divorce

In 2010, New York joined a host of other states that allow couples to obtain a divorce without assigning fault to either party. Recent changes to New York’s domestic relations law allow spouses to more easily obtain a divorce under the new grounds of irretrievable breakdown. This allows a court to grant a divorce simply on the sworn statement of one spouse that the relationship is broken beyond repair and has been so for at least six months.

Despite this clear statutory language, it took little time for New York’s trial courts to split on their interpretations of the new provision. New York supreme courts in Essex and Suffolk counties have adopted the view that the sworn statement of one party that a marriage is irretrievably broken may not be enough to establish grounds for divorce, even under the new no-fault provision. The Supreme Court in Nassau County, however, has found that—so long as other statutory conditions are satisfied—the sworn statement of one spouse is sufficient to obtain a no-fault divorce.

Basically, when viewed in the context of previously established principles of law, the new no-fault law may not be as simple as it seems. Even though the statute requires only the sworn declaration of one spouse, the capacity of that spouse to make such a statement may be subject to review when conditions such as advanced age, mental incapacity, or undue influence from third parties exist. At least one court has allowed this.

The bottom line is that only a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can help you navigate through this complex legal maze and obtain a fair resolution to your divorce.

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