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New York changes its divorce laws... For better or for worse?

Nov 28, 2010 12:01 pm
Carrie Jones Ross of The Kingston Times has a story about proposed changes to New York State's divorce laws, the last in the nation with no “no-fault” grounds.

"Starting Oct. 12, a sixth 'ground' was added to the acceptable reasons for breaking the legal marriage pact. Formerly in New York, couples seeking divorce were forced to cite specific, humiliating reasons: cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, adultery, living separate or apart pursuant to a legal separation or living separate or apart pursuant to a separation agreement," Ross writes. "The law which went into effect last month added to that list 'irretrievable breakdown for six months,' meaning that for six months or more it just hasn’t 'worked out.' The new revision’s proponents say this means that one person no longer needs to accept the blame for the marriage’s collapse, and possibly have untruths about them listed in legal documents, for the marriage to be legally dissolved."

The story goes on to chart lawyers' differences with the new law, and includes statements from the National Organization of Women (against) and Women's Bar Administration (pro).

"While joining the other 49 states of the union in adopting some kind of no-fault rule seemed like a no-brainer, the state legislature got pressured from various religious groups and women’s groups who were concerned with the husband’s ability to divorce his wife without substantial reason, possibly leaving her and the kids vulnerably in the lurch," Ross writes.

She concludes by noting how other pieces of divorce reform legislation attached to the revisions - the “presumption of temporary maintenance” while the divorce is pending if one spouse’s income is less than two-thirds of the other’s, a newly established formula for calculating spousal maintenance (once upon a time referred to as alimony), similar in structure to the one used to determine child support, and the presumption that the spouse with the lesser income gets attorney’s fees paid for as well - have been better received. Formerly spousal maintenance was determined almost exclusively at the whim of the presiding judge.

"Apart from the emotional tolls of dissolving a marriage, it takes a financial toll — according to several mid-Hudson attorneys, divorces range from $3,000 into the tens of thousands, and the majority take roughly one year or more," Ross writes. "Many attorneys require a retainer of several thousand dollars before even accepting the case, with hourly fees ranging from $125-$500. For those with limited income, typically women with young children, the costs are prohibitive. The new law allows attorneys thinking about taking a case a much better idea of how much their client will get when the process is finished."

For the full story, click HERE.

To see the laws themselves, click HERE.

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