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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The last stand

The cost of divorce in New York

Panel Asks New York to Join the Era of No-Fault Divorce

Published: February 7, 2006

ALBANY, Feb. 6 — A commission appointed to look into New York State's matrimonial laws called on Monday for an overhaul of divorce and child custody rules, including the authorization of no-fault divorces, which would put New York in line with all the other states.

By not allowing couples to end their marriages by mutual consent, New York has kept some of the strictest barriers to divorce in the nation. Currently, one party in the divorce must allege cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, or abandonment — literal or sexual — for a year. That rule has often resulted in costly legal proceedings and bitter custody fights in cases where both sides want a divorce.

The Matrimonial Commission, which was appointed by the state's chief judge in 2004 and has taken testimony around the state, called for a range of changes to bring New York's matrimonial laws more in line with practices around the United States. In addition to allowing no-fault divorces, the panel called for an emphasis on mediation and procedures to move cases more swiftly through the system.

The commission's report was seized on by the state's chief judge, Judith S. Kaye, who said that the changes "would be front and center" on her agenda in the coming months. And it comes as several prominent groups, including the bar associations of New York City and State, have urged that New York allow for some kind of one-step, no-fault divorce.

"Divorce takes much too long and costs much too much— too much money, too much agony, too hard on the children," Judge Kaye said on Monday in her annual address on the state of the judiciary. She said afterward that no-fault divorces would mean that spouses "don't have to invent charges against each other."

Some Roman Catholic and women's groups have historically opposed no-fault divorces, and in recent years conservative groups have been pushing for more restrictive barriers to divorce. But in New York there has been a shift in sentiment in favor of no-fault divorce, with the Women's Bar Association reversing its opposition in 2004.

But for no-fault divorce to come into being, the Legislature would have to agree, and lawmakers have had bruising fights over the issue. While the report, from a commission led by Justice Sondra Miller of the State Supreme Court's Appellate Division, gives the proposals a new immediacy, the issue languished in the Legislature after Judge Kaye called for no-fault divorce a year ago.

Lawmakers said on Monday that they had yet to review the report. Helene E. Weinstein, a Democratic assemblywoman from Brooklyn who is chairwoman of the Assembly's Judiciary Committee, said she had supported no-fault divorces in the past, with some reservation, and was working on "a potential draft proposal."

Leaders in the Republican-led Senate suggested that the focus might be on more incremental changes

posted by Steve @ 12:42:00 AM

12:42:00 AM

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