Your spouse refusing to eat meals with you or to acknowledge holidays is not a ground for an “abandonment” divorce in New York.
Your withholding sex, however, is.
When we were studying for the New York bar exam, we were surprised by how arcane New York divorce law seems to be. New York divorces are granted only on “fault” grounds — such as cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, or adultery — or after the couple signs a written separation agreement and completes a year of separation.
New York is the only state that does not allow no-fault divorces. The old “irreconcilable differences” are of little use here.
The New York Law Journal points to a recent decision in which Brooklyn appellate court refused to grant a woman a divorce based on her allegations that her husband refused to eat with her, go to movies, or celebrate holidays. She argued this constituted “social abandonment.”
But “abandonment” has long been defined to mean “unjustifiably and continually refus[ing] to engage in sexual relations,” the opinion says.
The court said the “social abandonment” claim was basically a no-fault claim and that the legislature, not the courts, would have to create it as a legal basis for divorce.
The woman seeking the divorce still has an outstanding claim for cruel and inhuman treatment.
New York’s tough divorce laws were brought to light in the season finale of Mad Men, where Betty Draper had to fly off for an extended stay in Reno because (other than Don’s rampant adultery, for which she had no real proof) a New York divorce was going to be too difficult to obtain. Of course, that was 1963, so we might expect things to be a little different.
New York: it’s a family values state.
Read the full NYLJ article here.
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