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What Are the Grounds for Divorce in New York?


As a divorce attorney/mediator for over 35 years, I am often asked during a consultation about the grounds for divorce in New York.

There are seven grounds for divorce.

Irretrievable breakdown was added in 2010 as a legal reason – making it possible for many more people to divorce. Before that, people had to make their grounds conform to a standard that did not always fit. The grounds were very specific, such as abandonment or cruel and inhuman treatment.

Today for all the couples who do not have grounds such as cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, or adultery--they can cite irretrievable breakdown.

People can go their separate ways without wrongfully accusing the other spouse of something they didn’t do.

In New York, divorces are handled in the Supreme Court in the county where you live.

The 7 grounds for divorce in New York include the following:

1. Irretrievable breakdown: The relationship between the spouses has been irretrievably broken for at least six months.

2. Cruel and inhuman treatment: This refers to treatment that places your physical or mental health in danger if you continue to live with one another.

3. Abandonment: This means that your spouse has either left you for at least a year or have refused to have sex for you for a year.

4. Imprisonment: If your spouse is sent to jail for three or more years.

5. Adultery: Your spouse commits adultery. This is a tricky one though. You cannot divorce for this reason if you encouraged your spouse to commit adultery, if you forgive your spouse for cheating by having sexual relations with them after you discovered the adultery or if you committed adultery yourself. You also cannot use this as a ground for divorce if it has been more than five years since you discovered the adultery.

6. Judgment of Separation: If you have an official “Judgment of Separation” or “Decree of Separation” for at least one year this can be considered grounds, however it is rarely used. Most people avoid this step and go directly to divorce.

7. Separation Agreement: When you and your spouse have not lived together for at least one year according to a written “Agreement of Separation,” ; however, you must have adhered to the terms of the separation.

These days irretrievable breakdown (or no-fault divorce) is probably the most common ground for divorce chosen by couples.

Judges prefer to use this ground rather than have a “fault” trial.

Divorce is a complex process. If you are thinking about divorce and want to discuss grounds, call me.

My partner and I will walk you through the process, assess your situation, and answer all your divorce questions. We have over 35 years of experience and will provide you with the highest level of legal strategy and support.

Our consultations, which are free, are informative and comprehensive.

All our FREE 1 HOUR CONSULTATIONS are conveniently conducted virtually to reduce risk.

We still have some appointments available for this week.

I look forward to helping you.

Stay healthy and safe!

Warm regards,


Call New York Divorce Lawyer Lois M. Brenner to schedule your free consultation. 212.734.1551.