New York Legislators Approve No-Fault Divorce, Gov. Paterson Please Sign!


New York Gov. David Paterson is in a powerful position for millions of people right now.  If this passes into law, New York will become a no-fault state and couples getting divorced will no longer be pushed into a grounds trial. The New York State Senate passed a bill June 15 2010 (Senate Bill 3890-S and Assembly Bill 9753-A).

What usually happens in cases where the couples cannot agree on big issues? They have to come up with white lies and slaughter each other in court in order for one of the grounds to be proven true. Only then can you get divorced.  The new law stipulates that a marriage is over if the parties have lived apart for six months. Once all the financial matters have been settled, the divorce becomes final.

  • (S3890A/Hassell-Thompson) to provide individuals with the ability to seek a divorce without litigating fault. Other significant reforms include:
  • Establishing post-marital income guidelines for maintenance awards (S7740A/Hassell-Thompson).
  • Ensuring that all parties can afford counsel from the beginning of divorce proceedings (S4532A/Sampson).

No-fault divorce supporters, including the state Bar Association, argued the current system causes hardships because it forces couples to endure a one-year trial separation before divorcing – or one spouse must accuse the other of cruel treatment, adultery or abandonment, pursuant to Domestic Relations Law §170.

The Assembly approved the measure 113 to 19. A spokesman for Gov. Paterson said he will review it.  Many trial lawyers enthusiastically support the no-fault legislation, which they have argued would simplify the divorce process. However, they have concerns about the spousal support element of the package to which it is linked.

Would New Yorkers like to swap their divorce rate for the 56% rate of its neighbor, New Jersey, and have 75,900 divorces per year? Or Connecticut’s rate of 60%, yielding 81,000 divorces in New York?

Yes, Yes, Yes!  Because these numbers do not reflect happy marriages. They reflect not-divorced-yet people. I know of two people who are already remarried under the Jewish Divorce allowance (GET) but the court is still not finding any grounds, forcing these two people to be civilly married. And this is going on for seven years. Can’t these people get divorced simply because they want to?

In cases where autism splits up a family, what do you suggest the mother tell the courts on the grounds trial? Quick, pick one: cruel and inhumane treatment, adultery or abandonment.  Ding!  Can’t pick one? You now must remain married.

Mike McManus, author of “How to Cut America’s Divorce Rate in Half” and his wife, Harriet, co-chair Marriage Savers, a ministry whose goal is to help churches and communities reduce their divorce rates and raise marriage rates.  They asked, Is that a legacy New York wants for its children – more poverty, more academic failure, more unwed births, more crime?”  Yes, because it is still better than sharing a home where children’s issues are not addressed, they become psychiatric, educationally neglected, and their potential not reached, by order of the court.  Come to Brooklyn Family Court, Mr. McManus. Bring your wife along too. Speak to all these mothers of children with autism. Ask them what it is like to disrupt their children’s routines with visitations. And speak to the mothers who have lost custody because they do what is right for their children, such as Board of Ed recommended speech therapy, etc.

Just ask these mothers. We can tell you that we would embrace poverty over hostility.  We will not merit to see academic failure, unwed births, or more crimes. Because we will help our children reach their potential. Like we always did. Give us a chance to get divorced, and be able to do what is right for our kids.

Annette G. Hasapidis, co-chair of the Legislation Committee for the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, said no-fault would permit victims of domestic violence to get out of dangerous situations faster and make it less likely they’ll have to testify in court against their abusers. Also, she said, issues of monetary support will be dealt with more quickly.

“Victims of domestic violence need safety and independence, and our current system of divorce laws does not reliably provide them with either.  It is time to reform our divorce laws so they no longer present such an insurmountable obstacle to victims,”  Ellen C. Schell,Esq., Legal Director CDWBA Legal Project, Inc said.

And my final argument is that big government has a no fault marriage policy. You can get married to each other without asking permission. You don’t need to solemnly swear to get along, not hurt each other, or threaten to rob a bride of her future children. You can simply get married. And so too, we should simply be able to get divorced without all the drama of white lies regarding custody and divorce grounds. Enough of all the suffering.

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