New York is the only state that does not have a no-fault cause of action for divorce. A cause of action is what needs to be proven for your divorce action to prevail. Most states have an irreconcilable differences cause of action, where one side does not have to prove the other side committed some unsavory act such as adultery or cruel treatment.
New York currently has four fault-based grounds for divorce:
- Adultery (which is still a criminal offense in the Empire State and hard to prove since you cannot testify against your spouse)
- Cruel and inhumane treatment (so as to affect the physical or mental health of the charging party such that it is not safe to remain in the marriage)
- Abandonment (one spouse intentionally leaves the other or refuses sexual relations for more than one year)
- Incarceration of one spouse for more than 3 years
In addition to these, the parties can agree in a written separation agreement to live apart for one year. The agreement must contain the terms of the separation and ultimately the divorce. This is the closest NY comes to no-fault.
Davis v. Davis, a recent NY case stated that mere social abandonment was not sufficient to prove constructive abandonment. The wife in this case did not plead sexual abandonment. The appellate court saw the pleadings as nothing more than a way to get around NY’s lack of a no-fault ground for divorce and that the courts would not usurp the legislature’s power to determine law for the people of New York.