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New York to become last state to pass no-fault divorce law

New York will soon be the last state to pass a measure that allows citizens to file unilaterally for no-fault divorce, a move proponents say will reduce domestic violence and suicide rates among women. The measure was passed by the New York legislature on July 1, and Gov. David Paterson is expected to sign the legislation soon.

Under the current law, divorces in New York were only granted on the grounds of cruelty or adultery, or only after a court-sanctioned one-year separation agreement. Proponents of the new bill say that current law required determining one spouse was a bad person made it difficult for women in long-term marriages to get a divorce on grounds of cruelty. By eliminating the process of determining which party is at fault, the cost of divorce can be significantly reduced. Proponents also cite statistics from other states where no-fault divorces are in effect that show lower domestic violence and suicide rates among women.

However, opponents of the measure, such as the New York Catholic Conference and the New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women, say that no-fault divorces make marriages disposable and will increase the state’s divorce rate, which is low at three percent. They also argue no-fault divorces could make it easier for wealthy husbands to hide assets and harder for battered women to prove abuse in court.

No-fault divorce originated in the 1970s and has been adopted by all states except New York in the years since. Women’s groups and legal organizations have lobbied New York legislators for years to adopt a no-fault law with opposition often coming from religious groups.

For more information about divorce laws in your state, tune in to Beasley Allen’s LawCall on July 25.