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Aftermath of New York's 2010 divorce reform law

Though New York State now allows for no-fault divorce, it did not pass this important reform until 2010, making it one of the last states in the U.S. to introduce the concept to its family law courts.

As we have explained before in this blog, in a no-fault divorce system, a married person may file for divorce simply because the relationship with his or her spouse has become irreparably broken. Prior to California becoming the first no-fault divorce state in 1970, an American who wanted a divorce had to provide one of a limited list of reasons considered legitimate by the state, and show that the other spouse was to blame.

In New York, the list had only a single item until 1966: adultery. No other reason, such as abandonment or domestic violence, was considered good enough to grant a divorce under state law, Verdict reports.

Though New York lawmakers resisted no-fault divorce for decades, the legislature finally passed a bill allowing it in 2010. The bill also declared that a divorce is not final until an “equitable distribution of marital property” has been determined, and questions of spousal support, child support and legal fees have been resolved, ensuring that no spouse must walk away empty-handed.

As a compromise with no-fault opponents, a temporary change in the alimony system was included to further ensure that no spouse would be impoverished by divorce. That part of the law was controversial, with some criticizing it as non-need-based “redistribution of wealth,” while others noted that alimony was a lifeline for many low-income women fleeing abusive marriages without receiving financial support during the separation period.

A new law is set to change alimony in New York yet again, so people filing for divorce in the near future will need an attorney who is caught up on the law to protect their rights.

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