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Grounds for Divorce in New York State

7 Legal Reasons for Divorce

Is your spouse to blame for your divorce?

The state of New York allows spouses to file for divorce on either fault-based or no-fault grounds. In this context, “grounds” refers to reasons for getting a divorce. While it’s easier, cheaper, and faster to file for divorce on no-fault grounds, many spouses still choose to prove why their partner is at fault for the divorce. There are many reasons for this, two being:

  • proving fault can result in more favorable allocations of marital property
  • proving fault does not require spouses to live apart for at least 6 months

Choosing a no-fault divorce is essentially saying that there was an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship for at least 6 months. As such, spouses filing on no-fault grounds must live apart for at least 6 months and handle all economic issues among themselves, including debt, property division, and child custody/support. Keep in mind that an irretrievable breakdown for at least 6 months is technically considered a ground for divorce in New York, although it’s often referred to as a “no-fault ground.”

Moreover, spouses who choose a fault-based divorce can choose one of six grounds, or reasons, for the divorce. They include the following:

Cruel and inhuman treatment: Treatment that you consider cruel and inhuman may not appear so to a judge. The cruelty must be so harmful to your physical or mental health that it is unsafe or improper for you to live with your spouse. For example, if you can prove that your spouse physically or emotionally abused you by threatening you, intimidating you, or otherwise showing no respect for you and it causes you to develop anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or the like, then a judge may grant you a divorce. Note that a judge will review the specific acts of cruelty that occurred over the last 5 years.

Abandonment: Your spouse must have abandoned you for at least one year, or else you cannot file for divorce using this ground. Abandonment can be physical or emotional (also called “constructive” in court), meaning your spouse may have left the home with no plans of coming back or refused to have sex or be intimate with you, respectively.

Imprisonment: Your spouse must have been incarcerated for 3 years in a row or longer during your marriage in order to use this ground for divorce. This ground is valid while your spouse is in prison or up to 5 years after their release, so keep that in mind if you are contemplating filing for divorce for this reason.

Adultery: Unfortunately, infidelity is a common reason spouses file for divorce in the US. Should you choose to file for divorce using this ground, know that you may have to hire a private investigator to gather evidence to help prove that your spouse cheated on you during the marriage. Testimony from you, family, and friends won’t be enough, as a judge will most likely require other types of evidence from sources outside of your inner circle.

Divorce after a legal separation agreement: Many spouses choose to get a legal separation rather than a divorce as a sort of “test” to determine if divorce is really the right decision. As such, they may realize that divorce is the best route for them after being separated for so long. If that is the case for you, know that you and your spouse must have signed and filed a valid separation agreement containing certain requirements and lived apart for at least one year in order to file for divorce on this ground.

Divorce after a judgment of separation: Rarely used, this ground requires the Supreme Court to make a judgment of separation and order you and your spouse to live apart for one year. After that year ends, you may file for divorce using this ground.

If you are looking to get a divorce in Putnam County but are unsure of which route is best for you, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (845) 605-4330!