NY 'Grounds' for Divorce: You Can’t Divorce For Just Any Reason!

New York always likes to stand out among other states, even when it comes to divorce. Two partners to a marriage may agree to a divorce, but this is simply not enough. Unlike many other states, New York still requires that divorcing couples have one or more specific ‘grounds’ for divorce. Think of ‘grounds’ for divorce to be a given set of circumstances that would allow the court to say "Yes, this spouse should be awarded a divorce." Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your circumstances) if one party (the Plaintiff) is not able to establish one or more of these grounds, the court will not grant the parties the divorce they request.

What are Some Grounds for Divorce?

Domestic Relations Law Section 170 sets forth the six acceptable grounds used to obtain a New York State divorce:

  1. Cruel and Inhuman Treatment - Under this ground for divorce, the Plaintiff must establish that the conduct of the Defendant (the other spouse) so endangers the physical and / or mental well-being of the Plaintiff that it is unsafe or improper for the Plaintiff to live with the Defendant. Specific acts must be alleged occurring within five (5) years of the date of the commencement of the divorce action.
  2. The Abandonment of the Plaintiff by the Defendant for a period of one or more years immediately prior to the filing for divorce (actual abandonment). (This ground could also be used when the Defendant refuses to have sexual relations with the Plaintiff for a period of one or more years immediately prior to the filing of a summons for divorce. This is called constructive abandonment.
  3. The Confinement of the Defendant in Prison for a period of three or more consecutive years after the marriage of Plaintiff and Defendant.
  4. The commission of an act of Adultery (usually not a preferred ground to choose, as this ground could make a divorce even more contentious and can be difficult to prove).
  5. The husband and wife have lived apart pursuant to a decree or judgment of separation for a period of one or more years after the granting of such decree or judgment, and satisfactory proof has been submitted by the Plaintiff that he or she has substantially performed all the terms and conditions of such decree or judgment.
  6. The husband and wife have lived separate and apart pursuant to a written agreement of separation, subscribed by the parties thereto and acknowledged or proved in the form required to entitle a deed to be recorded, for a period of one or more years after the execution of such agreement and satisfactory proof has been submitted by the Plaintiff that he or she has substantially performed all the terms and conditions of such agreement.

‘Grounds’ for divorce in New York CAN play an important role, or can merely become a formality that is easily dispensed with.

For more information, please see the Article "Choosing Your Grounds for Divorce in New York"


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