In the State of New York, a divorce is granted for a reason. You cannot “just get divorced.” This is because the state believes in the institution of marriage and believes that it should not be entered into, or gotten out of, lightly. For this reason, you must plead and prove something called grounds for your divorce. New York allows divorce based on seven different grounds, all of which are listed below. All of these grounds, except the last one, require proof. This means that you cannot just say that your spouse was engaged in adultery or that they abandoned you, you need to prove it. This is also why, since the last ground was introduced in July of 2011, it has become the most popular, because it does not require any proof.
- Cruel and inhuman treatment: “Cruel and inhuman treatment” by your spouse. This means that your physical or mental health is in danger if you continue living together. There are many behaviors that are considered cruel and inhuman. If the abuse occurred more than 5 years ago, you cannot divorce for this reason if your spouse objects.
- Abandonment: Your spouse “abandons” you for at least a year. This means that your spouse has left you, or kicked you out, and does not intend to return.
- Imprisonment: If your spouse goes to jail for three or more years. However, if your spouse was released more than 5 years ago, you cannot divorce for this reason.
- Adultery: Your spouse engages in sexual relations with another person during the marriage. However, you cannot use this ground if you forgive your spouse by having sexual relations with them after you discover the adultery, or commit adultery yourself. You also cannot divorce because of adultery if it has been more than 5 years since you discovered the adultery. To obtain a divorce on this ground, you must have testimony from another person besides you and your spouse or have other evidence that proves the adultery.
- Judgment of Separation: You and your spouse have not lived together because of a “Decree of Separation” or “Judgment of Separation”, given by the Court, for at least one year. You must obey all the conditions of the decree or judgment. It is unusual to have a Judgment of Separation because it requires similar proof to that which is needed to get a divorce. Most people skip the Judgment and go directly to divorce.
- Separation Agreement: You and your spouse have not lived together because of a written “Agreement of Separation” for at least one year. Both you and your spouse must sign this agreement before a notary. You must obey all the conditions of the agreement.
- Irretrievable Breakdown (also known as “No-Fault” divorce: The relationship between you and your spouse has broken down irretrievably for at least six months. If you filed before October 12, 2010, you can not use this new reason. Also, you can only obtain a divorce based on these grounds after property, custody, visitation, spousal support, and child support have been settled or decided.