History of the "No-Fault" Divorce Law in New York
For decades, the closest thing New York had to a "no-fault" ground
for divorce was a couple's physical separation for at least a year,
pursuant to a Separation Agreement or Separation Judgment. That tide changed
in August 2010, when then-Governor David Patterson signed legislation
by which New York finally joined the ranks of the rest of the forty-nine
states of this great nation offering a true no-fault ground for divorce.
(The law became effective on October 13, 2010.)
If you have been reading about the recent divorce filings of the rich and
famous, such as J-Lo and Mark Anthony or Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries,
then you no doubt have heard the term "Irreconcilable Differences"
touted as the basis of their divorces. Until October 2010, any person
seeking to end a marriage because he or she simply no longer got along
with their spouse would have been disappointed to find that New York did
not recognize such incompatibility as a valid reason ("ground")
to terminate a marriage.
As a result, many people had to find other reasons upon which to base their
complaints for divorce. This forced people who simply did not want to
be married to each other anymore to construct reasons for a divorce that
both parties wanted.
Filing Divorce Before New York Was a No-Fault State
In many cases, the parties would have to testify that one refused to have
sexual relations with the other for a period of a year or more (Constructive
Abandonment)—even if that was not completely truthful—just
to establish a ground for divorce. In still other cases, one party would
decide to move out of the marital home to create the ground of Actual
Abandonment (one party moving out of the marital residence for a period
of a year or more without the remaining spouse's consent), or the
parties relocated to nearby states offering an "irreconcilable differences" ground.
Since New York must always be different, our no-fault ground for divorce
is not called "irreconcilable differences," but the "irretrievable
breakdown of the marriage." Sounds good, right? But what does "irretrievable
breakdown of the marriage" mean?
Defining "Irretrievable Breakdown" in New York Divorces
While the legislature did not provide a definition of "irretrievable
breakdown" in the statute, the courts have held—and the law
confirms—that a marriage is broken down to the point of being "irretrievable"
when at least one party believes that the discord between the parties
has reached a point where there is no possible chance of reconciliation
or remediation of the marital relationship. Essentially, the marriage
has reached the "point of no return."
In New York, this discord has to continue for a period of six months or
more, and only one party needs to assert "irretrievable breakdown"
as a reason for requesting a divorce. Therefore, if you are in a situation
where you have been married for just three months and you and your spouse
just cannot get along, you will not have a basis for divorce under this
ground until you have been married and unhappy for a period of at least
Get More Information from a Staten Island Divorce Lawyer
So, now that you understand the "Irretrievable Breakdown" ground
for divorce in New York, you may have additional questions about your
own divorce matter that you need me, Attorney A. Sheralynn Dow, to answer
for you. If that is the case, please call my offices for a private legal
strategy session to address your concerns. We promise to offer you
Diligent Representation in Your Divorce or other Family Law Matter and look forward to hearing from you.
Stay tuned for my next blog entry "That Ship Has Sailed:
Serving Your Spouse With a Divorce When That Spouse Is Overseas!"