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Application of New York no-fault divorce law gets clarification

New York hasn't always been a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. As a matter of fact, New York only gave couples the right to file a no-fault divorce in 2010. Prior to that, you had to have grounds to obtain a divorce. That required proof and a trial. Now, couples only have to show an "irretrievable breakdown" in the marriage. This is supposed to make it easier for couples to obtain a divorce and possibly avoid having to go to trial.

The thought of not having to go to trial was appealing to one man who initially filed for divorce in 2009 based on claims of abandonment. This was before New York became a no-fault state. When New York became a no-fault state, while his original divorce proceeding was still pending, the man filed a no-fault divorce claim under a separate action.

His estranged wife sought dismissal of the no-fault complaint on the grounds that she would have to defend against both cases. While the lower court ruled in her favor, the appeals court recently ruled against her.

The court determined that a no-fault divorce is designed to allow couples to avoid having to litigate grounds for divorce. And, on that basis, the judges ruled that the husband had the right to file the second no-fault case. They did not go so far as to combine the two cases, although they indicated that the lower court could do that.

Filing for divorce always comes with complications and couples typically benefit from understanding the relevant laws and procedures. Being able to file a no-fault divorce may eliminate at least some of the stress that some couples face when ending their marriage. It may also allow couples and New York courts to focus more on issues such as property division, resolution and child custody, instead of hashing out who did what to whom.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Man wins bid to seek no-fault divorce after filing on fault grounds," Dan Weissner, July 12, 2012