On June 15, the New York Senate passed a bill that would allow divorce where the “relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of six months”; the bill is now headed to the Assembly, where half of its members had co-sponsored the legislation.
Under the proposed law, custody and financial issues would still have to be resolved before the granting of divorce.
New York is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow so-called “no-fault” divorce, that is, the granting of a dissolution of marriage without one side having to claim specific allegations against the other; currently in New York, divorce may only be granted if one party can show that the other has abandoned them, treated them cruelly or inhumanely, was adulterous or was sentenced to incarceration for at least three years.
No-fault or uncontested divorces may be granted in New York, though, after year-long legal separation.
Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Democrat from the Bronx, who sponsored the bill, said, “The requirement of finding fault is often unfair to children and horrendous for victims of domestic violence trapped in abusive marriages with no way out without the consent of the abuser.”
The Fight Against No-Fault
Even though New York is the only state that doesn’t allow no-fault divorce, that doesn’t mean the bill is without controversy. In particular, a show of solidarity between unlikely allies stands in the way; the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Catholic Church are both fighting the proposed law, albeit for different reasons.
The Catholic Church is concerned about sending a bad “message . . . to young people in particular” that “marriage is disposable,” according to Catholic Conference spokeswoman Kathleen Gallagher.
Meanwhile the NY state chapter of NOW insists the bill could make it easier for the higher earning spouse, often the husband, to take away bargaining power from the lesser earning one; additionally NOW has concerns that domestic violence instances could be overlooked by judges in favor of pushing through a dissolution of marriage on a no-fault basis.
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Read more on the NY legislation at Bloomberg Businessweek.