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How no-fault and the economy affect a New York divorce

The only way to divorce in New York two years ago was to place blame on a spouse. The October 2010 addition of no-fault divorce to the actions involving inhuman treatment, cruelty, abandonment or adultery gave more unhappily married couples a less contentious and often less expensive way to divorce.

Older laws, which are still in effect today, included the opportunity for couples to negotiate a divorce settlement. After the resolution of all marital and child custody and support issues, spouses were still required to separate physically for a full year before obtaining a divorce decree.

The establishment of no-fault divorce laws in New York -- the last U.S. state to have them -- caused the state divorce rate to rise, as expected by matrimonial attorneys. More than 64,000 divorce actions were filed in the state last year, an 8 percent increase over 2010 when no-fault rules were enacted.

According to state statistics, the number of 2012 divorces may surpass last year's figures. While it appears New Yorkers are on a divorce spree, some attorneys say the "surge" isn't quite what they expected after no-fault divorce was approved.

Some lawyers revealed that they had some clients withdraw divorce filings, an unusual situation related to couples' money problems. No-fault divorce actions are generally granted more quickly -- as soon as six months after filing -- and are less expensive than other divorces, since evidence of marital "wrongdoing" is unnecessary.

Divorce attorneys are wondering if New York couples are waiting until the economy has recovered in full before pursuing a marital dissolution. For now, at least some spouses may feel that marriage is tolerable compared to the costs of splitting finances and households.

Many attorneys in the state agree that New Yorkers have taken advantage of the no-fault divorce laws and seem to appreciate less complicated divorces. Whether the state divorce rate will continue to climb as the national economy rebounds remains to be seen.

Source: bizjournals.com, "NY divorces rising on law's anniversary-but why?" Adam Sichko, Oct. 12, 2012

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