No-Fault Divorce Nation
New York Governor David Paterson signed a bill into law this week officially making New York the last state in the nation to allow no-fault divorce. The new law will finally allow couples to get a divorce based on irreconcilable differences alone, and reduces the length of the process from one year to six months. Paterson remarked “Finally, New York has brought its divorce laws into the 21st century,” in reference to the fact that California first adopted no-fault divorce in 1970 and by 1985 every state in the nation had done the same.
Previously, New York divorces could only be granted on grounds of specific fault like cruelty, adultery and abandonment and often resulted in perjury when both spouses wanted a divorce but had to wait one year after a legal separation in order to divorce, or create a fault. People often lied about events, created affairs, and confessed to things they did not do in order to have sufficient grounds for a divorce. The new law requires only that one spouse swear under oath that the relationship has been broken down for at least six months.
Conservative groups and other critics in New York have complained that the no-fault divorce bill is bad for women. The Roman Catholic Church believes the law could lead to higher divorce rates. The New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women opposes the bill and has said it discriminates against women in that the spouse who earns the least in a marriage will be left with little leverage in property division and settlements. This means the person who files for the divorce can start the process of stacking the deck in their favor before the other spouse even knows there is a divorce in the works.
However, without the requirement of assigning blame for the marriage’s collapse there is no arguing that the new law makes it much easier to get divorced in the state. It also reduces the cost of getting divorced. A New York State Bar Association statement held that “By removing the requirement to prove fault, divorcing couples and the courts will no longer have to waste resources litigating on whether a marriage should end, but will be able to better focus on issues such as the welfare of the children, fair division of marital assets and other economic concerns.”
That every other state in the country has agreed on no fault divorce grounds is evidence enough that New York has made a move that empowers the individuals in a divorce and reduces cost and complexity. New Yorkers will still have to employ attorneys and negotiation to determine property division, alimony, child custody and support in complex divorces, but mutually agreed uncontested cases will definitely be easier to accomplish.