On August 15, 2010, Governor Paterson signed into law new statutes that significantly change divorce law in New York.
No Fault Divorce
The most significant of the statutes adopts a true no-fault divorce law, making New York the 50th state to adopt such a law. The new statute eliminates the need for a person seeking a divorce to claim that they either have been living apart pursuant to a written separation agreement for a period of one year or that the spouse has committed adultery, abandonment, cruel and inhuman treatment or has been sentenced to prison for a period of three years or more.
The party seeking the divorce simply has to claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” for a period of six months. The other party does not have to consent or agree to it. Once the allegation is made by one party, there is no defense available to the other party that will stop the divorce from going forward. The court then has to deal with issues involving child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, equitable distribution of property and other related matters.
Temporary Maintenance Awards
In addition, one of the new statutes changes the process by which courts grant temporary maintenance (money) to a spouse while a divorce is pending. The statute creates a formula and a list of factors to govern these awards. The purpose is to allow for a quick resolution of temporary spousal maintenance issues and enable the financially worse-off party to continue with litigation without being impoverished.
The third statute creates a presumption that the less well-off spouse in a divorce proceeding is entitled to the payment of his or her attorney fees. Under existing law, a party might be unable to secure legal representation must make an application to the court for attorney fees at the end of the litigation process.