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Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What are the Legal Grounds for Divorce in New York?

Some states require a spouse to claim one or more grounds for divorce to end a marriage. Grounds are “reasons” for the divorce. Other states have adopted a no-fault divorce process whereby one spouse can end the marriage for any reason. New York has chosen to combine the reasons for a divorce. Our New York family law lawyer discusses the seven grounds for divorce in New York in this article.

Seven Grounds for Divorce in New York

New York courts recognize seven acceptable reasons to end a marital union. In no particular, the grounds for divorce in New York are:

1.    Adultery
At one time, adultery was the only grounds for divorce in New York. Adultery is having a sexual relationship with another person while you are married. However, adultery can be difficult to prove. You cannot simply testify that you are confident your spouse had sex with another person. You must have evidence that the sexual relationship occurred between your spouse and another person. You cannot use adultery as grounds for divorce if you forgave your spouse after discovering the adultery, encouraged your spouse to commit adultery, or remained with your spouse for more than five years after discovering adultery took place.

2.    Inhumane or Cruel Treatment
In most cases, you must prove that the treatment rose to the level of mental or physical danger or harm to claim this ground for divorce. The treatment must make it unsafe for you to continue living with your spouse. Normal arguments between spouses typically do not rise to the level of cruel treatment.

3.    Imprisonment
If your spouse has been imprisoned for more than three consecutive years, you may apply to the court to end the marriage.  However, the marriage must have occurred before your spouse was imprisoned. You may use this ground for divorce for up to five years after your spouse is released from prison.

4.    Abandonment
If your spouse leaves home with the intention of not returning and is gone for at least one year, you can claim abandonment as a ground for divorce in New York. You may also claim “constructive” abandonment if your spouse refuses to engage in a sexual relationship with you.

5.    Divorce After Legal Separation
You and your spouse can enter a valid separation agreement and live apart for at least one year to obtain a divorce. A divorce may be granted to either party who petitions the court after living apart for one year. A legal separation allows parties who may not be sure they want a divorce the chance to work out their differences to reconcile.

6.    Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marital Relationship
New York now has a no-fault ground for divorce. To obtain a no-fault divorce, you must testify that the marriage ended at least six months before filing the divorce petition.  Also, all other issues related to the divorce, including property division, custody, child support, and spousal support must be resolved without the necessity for court intervention.

7.    Divorce After A Judgment Of Separation
This ground for divorce is rarely used in New York. The New York Supreme Court drafts a judgment of separation requiring the couple to live apart for one year before the divorce is finalized.

Contact a New York Divorce Attorney for More Information

If you are contemplating a divorce, it can be very helpful to consult with a New York divorce attorney as soon as possible. You may be able to obtain a divorce under one or more of the grounds for divorce. However, depending on your situation, it may be better to use one ground for divorce instead of another ground for divorce.  Contact one of our experienced divorce attorneys to help you determine which option is best in your situation.


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