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What are the grounds for divorce in New York?

On Behalf of | May 19, 2022 | Family Law |

Ending a marriage is governed by New York law. Courts recognize seven legal reasons.


Spouses must file for divorce in a New York State Supreme Court in the county where they live. New York courts issue judgments covering marital property, debt, child custody and spousal and child support.

One of these seven legal grounds for divorce must be asserted and approved by the courts.

No-fault divorce

This is also known as an irretrievable breakdown. It is the most common type of divorce in New York.

For approval, the marriage relationship had to irretrievably breakdown for at least 6 months. A court will grant this divorce only after the spouses settle matters such as property, debts, child custody, visitation, and spousal and child support.

Cruel and inhuman treatment

These grounds may be asserted when a spouse’s life is in danger because the couple lives together. But if the most recent abuse occurred over five years ago, this cannot be grounds for divorce over a spouse’s objection.


Abandonment constitutes grounds when a spouse leaves their partner or makes them leave. The abandonment must last for at least 1 year and the spouse does not intend to return.


Imprisonment may be grounds if a spouse is incarcerated for at least 3 years and their release did not occur within 5 years. The imprisonment had to begin after marriage.


Adultery is grounds for divorce unless the spouse encourages their partner to commit adultery, the couple has sexual relations after the adultery was committed, or both spouses engaged in this behavior.

The adultery had to occur within 5 years of a spouse’s discovery. An aggrieved spouse cannot be a witness for these grounds and another witness must testify.

Judgment of separation

This occurs when spouses lived apart for at least 1 year because of a court-issued decree of separation or judgment of separation. Both spouses must comply with all of the terms of the condition or decree.

These grounds are rarely used. Most couples proceed directly to divorce proceedings.

Conversion divorce

Conversion divorce is grounds when spouses lived apart for at least 1 year under a written agreement of separation. There are formal requirements for executing this agreement, which must be followed, such as notarized signatures, or the agreement will be invalid.

There are many legal issues that must be addressed in a divorce such as custody, support, and property division. Attorneys can assist spouses through this process and seek a fair and reasonable decree.