Family Law Reform Blog
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
  Statement on New York Divorce Reform
Here's what I told a columnist about this today --

New York has been affected by the nationwide culture of unilateral divorce, but its much tighter divorce law does help keep marriages from falling apart -- New York has one of the nation's lowest divorce rates. The current law also favors negotiation over unilateral action. That's a major reason why out-of-court "Collaborative Divorce" has been so successful in New York.

If the Assembly wants to do something about ugly "fault" divorces and encourage collaborative divorces, they should do so directly, by switching the waiting periods around -- have a one-year waiting period before filing a "fault" divorce, and a much shorter waiting period for truly "mutual consent" divorces, where the couple has worked out an agreement on all the details, such as custody and finances.

But that is very different from unilateral "irreconcilable differences" divorce, a tragic experiment the first time around, and a farce if it is repeated now. The Assembly should look carefully at the experience of the rest of the U.S., where the well-intended 1960s movement to replace fault with a more therapeutic, consensual process went tragically awry. Many states passed laws saying that before granting a divorce, judges should carefully examine whether the couple really had "irreconcilable differences", referring them to counseling whenever it might help. But these laws quickly broke down into mere "unilateral divorce", because judges did not have the time or training to implement them, so they decreed that filing for a divorce was proof of "irreconcilable differences".

Nationwide, unilateral divorce has produced more divorces, longer divorces, and uglier divorces.
 




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