Irreconcilable Differences Nearing Reconciliation in New York

For the past twenty-five years, New York has been the only state in the country without a no-fault–irreconcilable differences–divorce. It seems as that may finally change as a bill that aims to reform domestic relations law, by adding irreconcilable differences as a ground for divorce, has advanced in the state Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

Another bill approved by the Senate committee would create guidelines for determining the amount and duration of maintenance payments to the “non-monied” spouse. However, Judges would have discretion to depart from the guidelines if they state their rationale in writing.

Currently, a divorce can only be granted if a plaintiff alleges and proves one of the five grounds contained in Domestic Relations Law section 170 such as abandonment, adultery, and cruel and inhuman treatment. David King, of The Gotham Gazette, writes that “proponents of no-fault divorce say that forcing couples to accuse each other of wrongdoing, abuse, infidelity, neglect, can make a difficult process even worse — not only for the couple but for the children involved and also can lead to tremendous legal costs. ‘No one cares about no-fault divorce until their marriage is falling apart and they find out, “Oh, my god, there is no no-fault option”,’ said Sen. Liz Krueger, who supports the Hassell-Thompson legislation. ‘Couples find out they have to allege something that may not really be true.'”

With the change in law, a party can simply allege that irreconcilable differences have arisen and there is no prospect of reconciliation. If a couple lives separate and apart for a period of one year, there is a presumption that there is no prospect of reconciliation. This ground will enable a party to obtain a divorce without proving fault, instead, the party will establish that the marriage is over and there is no prospect for reconciliation.

According to King, Assembly member Jonathan Bing replied that “the legislation will decrease domestic violence by helping the abused partner get out of a bad marriage quickly. ‘I think for years there was concern that women in a lesser financial situation than their spouse would be in a bad position,’ said Bing, ‘But we’ve seen it work in other states, and it has reduced rates of domestic violence and the cost of divorce, because people aren’t spending years in litigation.'”

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