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What are the grounds for an at-fault divorce in New York?

You may be familiar with the terms at-fault and no-fault when it comes to divorce, but knowing precisely what they mean and how they can affect your divorce filing can be more complicated. No-fault may be the simplest, as it simply means that neither party holds any specific responsibility or fault for the divorce, and it is most commonly referred to as an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. An at-fault divorce is filed on specific grounds, or specific reasons. In total, the state of New York has six different grounds that you can file for an at-fault divorce.

Abandonment and imprisonment are two of those grounds. For abandonment, your spouse must have either kicked you out of your home or left for the period of one year, and there must be no intention of returning. To file on the grounds of imprisonment, a spouse must have been sentenced to jail for at least three years. Also, if you have suffered cruel or inhumane treatment, such as mental or physical abuse, then you may file on these grounds for a divorce. However, if the abuse ended five or more years ago, then this is no longer a valid ground for divorce.

Adultery may also be cited as the cause of a divorce. However, the same five-year rule applies, and you may no longer file on divorce grounds once five years has passed since discovering the cheating. A less common reason, a judgment of separation, is only a valid ground for divorce if you and your spouse have already been separated -- meaning not living together -- for a year or more.

Each of these six reasons generally requires some sort of proof or evidence to be able to file for divorce. For this reason, some couples in New York may find that they prefer filing for a no-fault divorce instead. For those who would prefer to file on specific grounds, ensuring that you have the proper evidence can be of crucial importance.

Source:, "New York State Grounds for Divorce", , Sept. 1, 2014

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