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What does no-fault divorce mean for property division?

To a couple going through divorce, there is likely a reason the marriage failed. Infidelity, money woes, physical or mental abuse -- the list of reasons people in Buffalo get divorced is limited only by the imagination.

But which spouse is responsible for the marriage falling apart, if either one truly is, does not matter in New York State. That is because New York is, like virtually every other U.S. state, a no-fault divorce state.

Decades ago, the state would not grant a divorce unless the spouse who filed for divorce proved that the other spouse did something to cause the filing, such as abandonment or infidelity. Simply being unhappy and wishing to move on from the marriage was not acceptable.

Today, the law recognizes that it is bad policy to force people to prove fault before getting divorced. The flip side of no-fault divorce is that, most of the time, the fact that one spouse cheated, did not keep the house clean or spent every weekend in a bar has little, if anything, to do with the division of assets.

For instance, a woman may feel that she worked hard to make her small business a success during her marriage, while her husband contributed nothing. Why should she have to share the value of the business with her husband in the divorce settlement?

It may be best to think of divorce as the dissolution of a business partnership. Of course, it is much more than that. But you might understand the law regarding property division, alimony and so on if you look at it that way.

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