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Thiele: Overhaul Of Divorce Laws Adds No-Fault Option, Reforms Spousal Support Standards

Originally Posted: July 07, 2010

Sag Harbor - Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) announced that the Assembly passed legislation that will reform the state's antiquated divorce laws, allowing the state to offer no-fault divorce if a relationship has broken down irretrievably for a period of six months (A.9753-A). Currently, New York is the only state that mandates a divorce be obtained by alleging fault.

"Presently, the law is written that someone must be at fault for a marriage to fail," Assemblyman Thiele said. "But family relationships are complicated, and government doesn't need to be in the middle of it. Sometimes it is best for both parties to end the relationship in an amicable way. There is no benefit in keeping two people locked in a marriage when they both want to move on with their lives separately."

The legislation provides that no-fault divorce can be granted to a husband or wife without assigning fault to either of the parties. However, the judgment may only be granted after a court decides issues of equitable distribution of marital property, spousal and child support, custody and visitation, and payment of counsel fees and expenses.

Studies show that no-fault divorce dramatically decreases female suicides, domestic violence for both men and women, and reduces the number of women murdered by their partners.

"In New York, a couple has two options to end their marriage: they must either allege fault against their partner, such as adultery or abandonment, or file for a separation and live apart for more than one year," Thiele said. "Neither option is ideal. A party then must either demonize his or her spouse in court to justify ending the marriage, or both parties may end up separating and maintaining two separate households for a year - thereby doubling the cost of living."

Assemblyman Thiele supported additional equally important legislation that will provide clearly articulated numerical guidelines for temporary maintenance awards - financial support a spouse receives while a divorce proceeding is pending - similar to the state's child support guidelines, when one spouse's income is less than two-thirds of the other (A.10984-B).

"Serious concerns have been raised that current law does not reflect a divorcing couple's life circumstances when granting or denying spousal support," Thiele said. "Spousal support decisions are inconsistent and unpredictable. Families often don't have substantial assets to divide - sometimes the greatest asset of the marriage is income, leaving one spouse at the mercy of another."

Under this measure, the New York State Law Revision Commission will conduct an in-depth review and assessment of the economic consequences of divorce on couples along with a review of maintenance laws in our state.

"Separation and divorce can be a confusing and stressful time for a family and adopting these clear guidelines for temporary maintenance awards is a real step forward. They will ensure fair and adequate support for spouses across the state," Thiele said. "This legislation will make the transition easier by giving spouses the opportunity to file for an amicable divorce, while ensuring all parties are financially protected."

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