Fault divorce is granted when one spouse proves that the other spouse did something which resulted in the failure of the marriage. Under New York Domestic Relations Law, grounds for fault-based divorce include:
- Cruel and inhuman treatment. DRL §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
- DRL §170.4
At the time of this case, while no-fault legislation was pending, New York was the only state that did not provide for no-fault divorce. The law changed in August 2010. New York now allows for no-fault divorce.
Plaintiff Jeffrey Molinari filed a petition for divorce from his wife, defendant Paula Molinari, in the Supreme Court of New York. At the time, New York was the only state in the United States that did not provide for no-fault divorces. The Plaintiff alleged constructive abandonment as the ground for divorce. However, the presented little evidence to support his contention that all efforts had been made with Paula to resume cohabitation. The parties disagreed on the circumstances surrounding Jeffrey’s departure from the home.
The issue before the New York Supreme Court was whether a fault-based divorce should be granted without sufficient proof of constructive abandonment.
The court concluded that before the New York Supreme Court was whether a fault-based divorce should be granted without sufficient proof of constructive abandonment. The spouse alleging abandonment must repeatedly attempt to resume cohabitation. Because New York does not have a no-fault divorce option, New York residents seeking a divorce tend to face a long, slow process. Proving fault is difficult and can be complicated.
In this case, the plaintiff must show that he made repeated attempts to resume cohabitation. This will increase the amount of time it takes for him to obtain a divorce. Jeffrey’s situation illustrates the impact of an exclusively fault-based divorce scheme. However, there is a pending no-fault bill. The court stayed the determination of the grounds issue of this case until the legislature determines the pending no-fault bill or until further order of the court.