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Grounds for Divorce in New York State

Making the decision to end a marriage isn't merely a question of personal resolve, but also one of legal pragmatism. As much as divorce is a personal issue, it is also fundamentally a legal process that involves careful thought, preparation, and understanding of the legal landscape. At Bullock Law, we strive to provide guidance about the legal perspectives to consider when you're contemplating divorce.

Grounds for Divorce in New York State

Residency Requirements for Divorce in New York

In New York State, to file for divorce, either the petitioner or the respondent must have been a resident of the state for at least two consecutive years immediately prior to filing. Alternatively, the petitioner and respondent must have been residents of the state on the day the divorce was filed and the grounds for divorce arose in New York.

Grounds for Divorce in New York State

Let's give a brief overview of common grounds for divorce in New York.

1. Irreconcilable Differences

Under New York law, you can file for divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship for at least six months, commonly known as "irreconcilable differences". If both spouses agree to the divorce and there is a settlement about property, debts, and child custody, this can be a relatively straightforward legal reason for divorce.

2. Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

Legal grounds for divorce also include "cruel and inhuman treatment". This can involve any form of physical, emotional, or mental abuse that endangers the plaintiff's physical or mental well-being, making it unsafe or improper for the couple to continue living together.

Some examples of "cruel and inhuman treatment" may include, but are not limited to:

Physical Abuse

This is one of the most clear-cut examples of cruel and inhuman treatment. It could involve :

    • hitting
    • slapping
    • punching
    • kicking
    • or other forms of physical violence.

Severe Verbal Abuse

Constant shouting, name-calling, or humiliation can also constitute cruel and inhuman treatment if it affects the mental health of the victimized spouse.

Threats of Violence

Threatening to harm or kill the other spouse, or to harm the spouse's loved ones or pets.

Sexual Abuse

Forcing a spouse into non-consensual sexual acts.

Psychological Manipulation and Gaslighting

Continual mental and emotional abuse can qualify as cruel and inhuman treatment.

Refusing Basic Support

Withholding financial resources or essential care


Cutting the spouse off from friends, family, or other forms of social contact.

Excessive Alcohol or Drug Use

While the mere use of these substances may not be enough to constitute cruelty, if the spouse's behavior while under the influence is harmful to the other spouse, it could be grounds for divorce.

Due to the complexity of this issue, consulting with a professional divorce mediation lawyer is recommended when pursuing a divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment.

3. Abandonment

"Abandonment" is another fault ground for divorce in New York State. According to the New York Domestic Relations Law, abandonment may be used as a ground for divorce if one spouse has abandoned the other for a continuous period of one year or more.

The law requires that the abandonment continues for a certain period (one year) and that the spouse who left or refused sexual relations intended to abandon the other spouse. Furthermore, the remaining spouse must not have consented to live apart from the abandoning spouse.

As with any legal process, if you're considering divorce on the grounds of abandonment, it's recommended to consult with a professional divorce lawyer to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities.

4. Adultery

While difficult to prove, adultery is another legal ground for divorce in New York. It's important to note that this must typically be substantiated with hard evidence, which can be challenging, and there are also specific defenses to this that may render it invalid, such as forgiveness of the act by the other spouse. Adultery can be difficult to prove, and it's important to note that mere suspicion or accusations are not enough for a court to grant a divorce on the grounds of adultery.

Because proving and defending against adultery can be complex, it's advisable to consult with professional legal counsel if you are considering this as a ground for your divorce. Contact Bullock Law today.

5. Legal Separation

If you and your spouse have lived apart for at least a year under the terms of a court-approved separation agreement or a court judgment of separation, you can seek a divorce. This agreement must be adhered to by both parties for the full year before applying for a divorce.

6. Incarceration

Finally, if your spouse has been in prison for three or more consecutive years after the marriage, you can file for divorce in New York. However, if your spouse was released more than five years ago, you cannot use this ground.

Contact Bullock Law

At Bullock Law, we understand that divorce is a delicate matter requiring not only legal acumen but also empathy and discretion. Our team of experienced divorce attorneys is committed to guiding you through this challenging journey, providing you with the information, resources, and representation you need to make informed decisions. If you're contemplating divorce and need legal counsel, please don't hesitate to contact us.

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