Grounds for Divorce in New York

New York residents who wish to get a divorce must prove one of seven grounds for divorce. Grounds for divorce are legally acceptable reasons to end a marriage. Understanding the grounds for divorce can be essential when it comes to developing a successful divorce case. 

If you are considering seeking a divorce in New York, it is essential to speak to an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible. At CDH Law PLLC, we understand that divorce is rarely a simple process. Our award-winning divorce lawyers have a proven track record of successfully representing clients through the process of divorce. Contact us today to schedule your initial appointment with one of our experienced Syracuse divorce attorneys.

The Difference Between No-Fault Divorce and At-Fault Divorce

Those seeking a divorce in New York must meet the residency requirements in New York. They must also have a ground for divorce, meaning a legally acceptable reason to end the marriage. In 2010, New York state became the last state to adopt a version of no-fault divorce. If you are planning on seeking a divorce, you can pursue a no-fault divorce or an at-fault divorce. 

In a no-fault divorce, you must prove that your marriage has “broken down irretrievably” for at least six months. You do have to have been legally separated for six months to meet this requirement. In an at-fault divorce, you will need to allege one of the following specific grounds for divorce that will justify your marriage’s dissolution under New York law. 

Grounds for Divorce in an At-Fault Divorce


Adultery is the most commonly used ground for divorce in New York and across the U.S. The spouse requesting the divorce must prove that their spouse engaged in sexual conduct with someone other than his or her wife or husband. Sexual conduct includes sexual intercourse, including oral sexual conduct and anal sexual conduct. The spouse must be voluntarily engaging in sexual conduct with someone other than his or her spouse. 

Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

Under New York law, a spouse may file for divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. Cruel and inhuman treatment includes physical and emotional abuse. Cruel and inhuman treatment also includes conduct that “endangers the physical or mental well-being” of the spouse who is filing for divorce, which makes it unsafe or improper for the spouses to cohabitate. 

The spouse seeking a divorce must provide evidence that their spouse’s mental or physical cruelty makes it unsafe for the spouses to keep living together. Evidence of cruel and inhuman treatment can include verbal abuse or intimidation, threats of deportation, assault or physical attacks, public adultery, threatening of children, and assault or physical attacks. Cruel and inhuman treatment also includes forced sex or refusal of sex. 


Spousal abandonment is another ground for an at-fault divorce under New York law. Abandonment happens when a spouse leaves another spouse for at least a year. It can also occur when one spouse kicks another spouse out, and the spouse who left does not intend to return home. A spouse has a right to file for divorce when her spouse has abandoned him or her for one or more years. 


What happens to the spouses of those convicted of crimes and given a prison sentence in New York? Imprisonment is a valid ground for divorce in New York. The imprisoned spouse must have received a prison sentence for at least three or more years after the marriage began. 


Separation is also a ground for divorce. When the spouses have a court-ordered “Decree of Separation” or “Judgment of Separation,” for at least one year, the separation agreement will serve as a ground for divorce. This ground for divorce is not common, however. Most people avoid getting a Judgment of Separation and instead file for divorce directly. 

The spouse seeking divorce can also use a written Agreement of Separation as a ground for divorce. Both spouses must have adhered to the terms of the separation agreement for at least one year. They must also be able to prove that they haven’t lived together for at least a year under their separation agreement. 

Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage

Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is relatively new ground for divorce in New York state. New York was the last state to recognize no-fault divorce. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only no-fault divorce ground in the state of New York. A spouse who seeks divorce using this ground must prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably for at least six months. 

No-fault divorce allows New York residents to end their marriage without having to prove inhuman treatment, adultery, or another wrongdoing. No-fault divorce enables them to file for divorce without having to live separately for a year under the terms of a separation agreement. 

In a no-fault divorce, only one of the spouses must claim that an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage happened. The spouse seeking the divorce will need to swear under oath that an irretrievable breakdown has occurred. Keep in mind that the spouses will still need to resolve the other matters involved in a divorce, such as the separation of property. The spouses can create an agreement themselves and ask the court to incorporate their wishes into a divorce judgment. When the spouses cannot agree, the court will decide. 

Contact Our Syracuse Divorce Attorneys Today

Divorce in New York state is a complex process, regardless of the grounds for divorce that a spouse uses. If you’re seeking a divorce in New York state, experienced legal advice from a well-qualified divorce attorney will be extremely beneficial. Before taking any steps to begin the divorce process, we recommend speaking to one of our highly experienced divorce lawyers. Contact CDH Law PLLC today to schedule your initial consultation. We will evaluate the factors of your case and advise you as to the best way to move forward with your divorce.