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Different Types of Divorce in New York

For many years, New York was the only state without a no-fault divorce statute.   Divorces were contentious and many were forced into court, with witnesses and evidence, and often turned into a contest of which party was guiltier in the breakdown of the marriage. Now, fortunately, New York has a no-fault divorce statute that makes it much easier to get a divorce, even if only one party wants it.

But no-fault divorce can be a double-edged sword. Proving fault in a divorce gives the wronged party more leverage in settlement negotiations and any legal proceedings that may follow. Here the other divorce types in New York, which may be a better choice than no-fault, even though they involve more in the way of legal process.

Divorce based on legal grounds

Until 2010, in order to file for divorce, you had to prove that you had grounds for divorce, meaning that you had been wronged in very specific ways.  Legally recognized grounds included:

  • Abandonment
  • Adultery
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Years of imprisonment

You had to present evidence of the other party's wrongdoing.  If your spouse objected to the divorce, you could even be subjected to a jury trial.

Conversion divorce

Plaintiffs who want a divorce but might not have the legal grounds mentioned above, can seek out a conversion divorce. This process starts by filing for legal separation and having the agreement approved by the court.

The separation agreement includes many of the same issues that a divorce decree addresses, such as spousal support, child support and visitation, and an agreement for paying of joint bills.  After one year of living apart, you can petition the court to convert the separation agreement into a divorce decree.  However, if your spouse argues that you have not fully performed all the duties listed in the agreement, the divorce can be denied.  Since fault is often part of the separation agreement, conversion divorce provides a stronger basis for settlement and negotiation in divorce proceedings.

It is important that you discuss your options with a lawyer before you do anything about a possible divorce in order to determine the best course of action for your particular situation.

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