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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Separation Agreements Fall in Wake of No-Fault Divorce in New York

A recent report by The New York Law Journal indicates that since the introduction of the no-fault divorce in New York state, the number of legal separation agreements has plummeted, even as the number of marriages dissolving has spiked. 

Our Brooklyn no-fault divorce attorneys know that for years, separation agreements steadily preceded about 7 percent of all divorces in the state, paving the way for many couples to smoothly start the process of separation. However, in the last 3.5 years, since the state legislature first adopted the no-fault model, the number of separation agreements has been halved. The New York State Department of Health reports that the number of separation agreements in divorces fell from 7.2 percent in 2001 to 6.8 percent in 2010 (the year after the law passed), 4.9 percent in 2011 and 3.2 percent in 2012. 

Meanwhile, the number of divorces reflected the opposite trend. In 2001, more than 66,000 couples in New York legally divorced. In 2009, that figure had fallen to less than 50,000. However, in 2010, it jumped back up to more than 56,000 couples, and it's continued on this upward trend in the years since. 

The reasoning is fairly straightforward. Prior to the introduction of the no-fault divorce, couples who wished to divorce either had to provide a grounds for the divorce or wait a full year. Sometimes, establishing fault in a divorce makes sense, particularly in cases of domestic violence (cruel or inhumane treatment) or when one party is seeking the upper hand in the divorce settlement. 

But for a lot of couples, this really isn't necessary. Both concede a share of the blame and simply want to part ways without dragging one another through the mud. However, this wasn't really possible prior to the introduction of no-fault divorce, unless they were prepared to wait a year. When couples went forward with that year-long wait period, it made sense to establish a separation agreement, wherein the terms of bill pay, child support, child visitation, etc. were all clearly spelled out. 

Then after the year was up, the couple could formally file for divorce. 

Now, however, spouses can put an end to their union simply by citing an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage that they allege has lasted for at least six months. They don't have to technically have been separated that long. They only must admit the marriage has been broken for that long. 

So in essence, the divorce process has gone from a two-step affair to a one-step affair. This is good news for many couples, and it's part of the reason why we've seen an increase in the number of divorces. 

However, there are still circumstances under which a separation agreement could be beneficial to couples. These include cases where it is expected the proceedings may extend beyond several months. Another example might be if one spouse needs to remain on the other's health insurance plan for the duration of the proceedings. 

If you are seeking help with either a separation agreement or an uncontested Brooklyn divorce starting at $399, we are available to help. 

Call the Law  Office of George M. Gilmer at  at (718) 864-2011.


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