There are three principal players involved in your marriage that will also be involved in your divorce: you, your spouse, and the state. You cannot simply break up, saddle your charger, and ride off into the sunset. Among other legal considerations, you have to give the state an acceptable reason why you should be allowed to break up. The reason is known as the ground for your divorce. Over the years each state has enacted legislation that governs acceptable grounds.

In New York, only the court can dissolve a marriage, either by a divorce or annulment. It also may be altered by a decree of separation, granted by the courts. In any case the case must be brought to the Supreme Court in which case the person seeking the divorce, separation decree or annulment proves "grounds for divorce".

On August 15, 2010, the Governor of New York signed no-fault divorce into law for the state. This law took effect on October 12, 2010. Here's the applicable statute for this new ground: "The relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months, provided that one party has so stated under oath. No judgment of divorce shall be granted under this subdivision unless and until 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."

Prior to this time, the closest concept to a no-fault divorce in New York was divorce by conversion of a separation agreement, pursuant to DRL §170[6]. Our divorce materials can be used for either of the no-fault grounds.

The Separation Agreement is an agreement between the husband and the wife which states the terms and conditions under which they will live apart. The agreement contains the names and addresses of the parties, the date of the marriage, the date of the agreement (when signed and when acknowledged) as well as the terms of the agreement. This agreement, signed by the parties and acknowledged before a notary, is filed with the Clerk of the County where either party resides.

If you have a separation agreement that has been properly executed, the agreement has been filed with the County Clerk's office and you and your spouse have lived apart according to the terms of this agreement for more than one year, then you have a ground for divorce.

The cause of action for divorce in New York state (accusations against the defendant by the plaintiff that are grounds for divorce) are limited to:

  • Cruel and inhuman treatment (Domestic Relations Law §170.1)
  • Abandonment for a continuous period of one year or more (DRL §170.2)
  • Imprisonment for more than three years subsequent to the marriage (DRL §170.3)
  • Adultery (DRL §170.4)
  • Conversion of a separation judgment (DRL §170.5)
  • Conversion of a written and acknowledged separation agreement after living separate and apart for more than one year (DRL §170.6)
  • The relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months (DRL §170.7)

One or more of these grounds for divorce must be used if one party to the marriage wants a divorce.

The grounds do not include accusations of bad conduct against the plaintiff unless such bad conduct rises to the level of cruel and inhuman treatment. In New York none of the following are grounds for divorce:

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Incompatibility
  • No-fault
  • Mutual consent
  • No communication

Again, please remember that our materials are strictly for simple uncontested no-fault divorce actions only.

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