Divorce comes in many varieties, including “no fault.” Including North Carolina, almost every state in the nation permits no-fault divorce. California was the first state in the country to pass no-fault divorce laws in 1969, and many states followed suit quickly. Only one state is still currently an exception: New York, which forces one side to prove that the other was at fault before the couple may obtain a divorce. However, New York’s state senate recently approved a bill that would permit no-fault divorce in the state and would allow couples to cite irreconcilable differences as grounds for the termination of a marriage. The state assembly should vote on the change within the next few weeks.
No-fault divorce is a divorce in which neither party must prove wrongdoing by the other in order to obtain a divorce decree. States that allow no-fault divorce permit a judge to grant a divorce by the petition of either party. In North Carolina, a husband and wife must be separated for at least one year before they may obtain a Judgment of Absolute Divorce.
Because New York is the only state without no-fault divorce laws currently, many lawyers note that couples in failing marriages are often forced to essentially lie to a judge in order to prove the other was at fault by one of three standards: adultery, abandonment, or cruel and inhuman treatment. Under New York law, only if both parties notarize a separation agreement and live separately for one year, can a judge grant a divorce. The proposed change could be most significant for the state’s many wealthy residents, who would be able to focus on the division of their assets rather than manufacturing reasons for their own divorce.