Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No-Fault Divorce in New York

Last week the New York Times posted a great series of professional perspectives on the state's shift to no-fault divorce law.  From the introduction to the series:

In 1969, Gov. Ronald Reagan of California signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce law. He later called it the worst mistake of his life. But other states eventually followed California’s lead, and no-fault — under which one spouse can end a marriage, with no proof required of wrongdoing by either party — more or less became law of the land. New York State was the longtime holdout, since South Dakota passed its law in 1985.

That may be about to change. On Tuesday evening, the State Senate approved legislation that would permit no-fault divorce after a marriage has “irretrievably” broken down for six months or more, without the need to identify a fault, like adultery or abandonment. The package must still pass the State Assembly, which is considering two bills that would adopt some version of no-fault divorce.

New York’s failure to permit more accessible divorce has long been denounced as archaic, but longtime opponents of “liberalization” have included the Catholic Church and the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women.

What should the New York Legislature consider as it works out the details of its no-fault measures? What do we know about the effects of no-fault laws in the rest of the country?

  • Betsey Stevenson, economist, University of Pennsylvania
  • Robin Fretwell Wilson, law professor, Washington and Lee University
  • Andrew J. Cherlin, professor of sociology, Johns Hopkins
  • Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Institute for American Values
  • Marcia Pappas, New York president, National Organization for Women
  • Read each commentator's view here.


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