Can “Abandonment” Be Used as a Reason for No-Fault Divorce in New York?

The State of New York is the only state in the Union that has not adopted strict “no-fault” divorce law.

In New York, there are six reasons or “grounds” for filing a divorce. But only one of these reasons allows the spouses to voluntarily agree to proceed with a no-fault divorce.

The six “grounds” for divorce in New York state are:   

– Cruel and inhuman treatment (Domestic Relations Law §170.1)

– Abandonment for a continuous period of one year or more (DRL §170.2)

– Imprisonment for more than three years subsequent to the marriage (DRL §170.3)

– Adultery (DRL §170.4)

– Conversion of a separation judgment (DRL §170.5)

– Conversion of a written and acknowledged separation agreement after living separate and apart for more than one year (DRL §170.6)

Only the last bullet point listed above allows the spouses to voluntarily agree to proceed with a divorce (and agree to a separation of assets, debts, obligations, etc.) without attributing any fault to one party or the other.

The ground for divorce that you reference in your e-mail, abandonment, requires the attribution of fault to one of the parties in the marriage.  As is indicated in Standard Legal’s divorce software information, only when the parties are in full agreement to all issues when seeking to end a marriage may the no-fault forms provided be utilized.

In New York, only with a separation agreement and by living apart for more than one year are the parties not attributing fault, and thus eligible to use Standard Legal’s no-fault divorce forms. Thus, if you are seeking to utilize Standard Legal’s software while pursuing a ‘fault’ based divorce, then the software forms are inapplicable.

HOWEVER, if you wish, you may modify the Standard Legal forms, manually striking the language provided within to indicate the following grounds:

Abandonment by the defendant for one year or more. DRL 170(2) – (a) voluntary separation of one spouse from the other; (b) an intent not to resume cohabitation; (c) lack of consent of the other spouse; and (d) no justification

Instructions on editing the baseline content of the forms is outlined in the FAQs, under the heading HOW DO I CHANGE / CUSTOMIZE THE BASELINE CONTENT OF THE FORMS?