Divorce in New York state

In 2010, New York became the last state to provide no-fault divorce

April 19, 2011

[Note: Also see “Getting Divorced in New York City” and “Getting a divorce in Buffalo.”]

By Mike Hinshaw

In years past couples who divorced anywhere in New York state could do so only on certain grounds:

No ‘wrongdoing’ necessary to be proven

However, since October 2010 New York has joined the ranks of the so-called “no fault” states.

According to an August 2010 post:

No-fault divorce means that a couple need not prove any instances of wrongdoing or abuse in order to file for divorce in a court of law.  New York is the last state to adopt this stance, which officially makes our nation a “no-fault divorce nation”.  This is one of the rare instances in which all 50 states show some sort of uniformity on an issue.

Previously, couples who wanted a divorce in New York without proving fault had to be separated for at least one year before becoming eligible to file.  Under the new law which takes effect in October, spouses are allowed to terminate their marriages within a period of six months after declaring that their marriage is “irretrievably” broken down.

California gave birth to the no-fault divorce movement in 1969.  Several states quickly followed, and by 1985 all states but New York had some form of no-fault divorce law in place.

Couples in agreement can have uncontested proceedings

If you and your spouse are both in agreement to pursue divorce, you can have an uncontested divorce. According to the New York state court’s FAQ page:  “If your divorce is uncontested, and you and your spouse have reached agreement on all financial and parenting issues, you may use the Court’s free Uncontested Divorce Forms Packet.

“If you have not reached agreement, and you think you and your spouse could come to an agreement with some help, you might want to consider divorce mediation or collaborative family law.”

But it takes only one for contested proceedings; state strongly suggests retaining an attorney

However, the FAQ continues:

Your divorce will be contested if either you or your spouse:

  • Do not want to get a divorce
  • Disagree about the grounds (legal reasons) for the divorce
  • Disagree about what will happen with your children, your finances, your property after the divorce.

Because the judge will require detailed information to decide the issues you disagree about, your contested divorce will require you and your spouse to go to the [New York] Supreme Court numerous times. If your divorce will be contested, you should seriously consider finding a lawyer to represent you.

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