By Gerri Elder
While most other states have a no fault divorce law, New York does not and this makes getting a divorce in the state much more time consuming, expensive and complicated than it has to be. Because there is no such thing as a no fault divorce in New York, either the husband or the wife has to prove that the other is responsible for ending the marriage. In cases where people simply wish to amicably go their separate ways, this can make divorce tricky.
Divorce cases in New York that begin as a simple parting of ways can quickly become nasty, just because the divorce laws in the state require fault to be established. Some people resort to invent issues that are untrue just to place the blame, and in the process perjure themselves. Others fight it out to the bitter end, using all of their personal resources and court resources as well, in order to prove that their spouse is at fault for the divorce. In either of these situations, divorces could be simplified by the existence of a no fault divorce law.
According to an article in Newsday, in one New York divorce case, three judges refused to grant a man a divorce even though he had not lived with his wife for more than five years and currently lives with his two year old child's mother, who he wants to marry - if only he can ever get a divorce.
In June 2008, the State Assembly in Albany adjourned without voting on a bill that would allow no fault divorce in New York. The bill has not moved out of the judiciary committee. Legislators in New York have not voted on a no fault divorce bill since 1990, and don't seem inclined to do so now. This puts people in New York who are filing for divorce in a tough position, with no way to get out of marriages that have died.
The New York State Catholic Conference and the New York State chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), both powerful lobbying groups, are opponents of a no fault divorce law in New York. The New York State chapter of the NOW says that women are at a financial disadvantage during the divorce process.
The Women's Bar Association of the State of New York was a long time opponent of no fault divorce, but now supports the legislation in New York.
New York also lags in using divorce mediation, which can help couples resolve issues in order to avoid a lengthy and often nasty court battle. Mediation to assist couples with resolving child custody and financial issues are only available in counties with pilot projects. The state's Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution only gets $5 million of the court system's $2.4 billion annual budget. Mediation is definitely not a priority in New York divorces, instead the system forces couples to fight it out in court rather than attempt to reach an agreeable settlement.
The lack of a no fault divorce law and available mediation programs, coupled with the state legislators resistance to change create a circus atmosphere in court during New York divorces, and for the time being, most people seem happy with that – except for the poor souls who are trying to get a divorce.