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Serious Grounds: Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

In October 2010, legislation passed in New York to provide an additional ground for divorce.  Irretrievable breakdown became the New York version of a no-fault ground for divorce.  Although couples could previously divorce without declaring fault through legal separation for a year or more, the new ground enabled couples to move toward divorce with only a sworn statement of marital breakdown lasting six months.

While the addition of this ground lightens the load of divorcing couples by removing the need for proving fault, or separating for a year, there remain four grounds for at-fault divorce, including:

  • Abandonment for over a year
  • Adultery
  • Imprisonment over three years
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment

While many consider stony silence or lack of attention from their spouse as cruel and inhuman, the persistent disagreements and unhappiness that lead many couples to divorce is not the premise of this ground.

According to New York law, cruel and inhuman treatment is behavior so threatening to a marriage partner that cohabitation is not safe—meaning mental or physical cruelty.  Examples include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Verbal abuse like persistent screaming
  • Unfounded accusations of infidelity
  • Flagrant display of an adulterous relationship

No one deserves cruel treatment, or to suffer domestic violence or abuse at the hands of their spouse.  The severity of the ground echoes in the severity of the experience of those who suffer it.  If you have questions about this ground for divorce, call my office today.

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