The Assembly just gave final passage to a no-fault divorce bill, which previously was approved in the Senate. If signed by Gov. David Paterson, New York would no longer be the only state that doesn’t allow no-fault divorce. The unofficial Assembly vote was 113-19; no one spoke against the bill during the debate.
Assembly sponsor Jonathan Bing, D-Manhattan, said lawmakers were “creating history” by voting on the issue.
“We are making the world better for our children and our grandchildren to provide them with an opportunity so that if they are part of a relationship that has ended, they will able to leave that relationship with dignity and with respect and with a better relationship with their children for it,” he said.
Under no-fault divorce, couples would be allowed to divorce after six months and the resolution of all financial issues. They would not have to prove fault, such as abandonment or adultery, or develop a separation agreement and live apart for at least a year in order to get divorced. Proponents said the changes would save time and money and court resources.
The Assembly and Senate previously approved two other bills related to no-fault divorce. One would require counsel fees to be awarded at the beginning of a divorce process and the other would require the spouse with more money to pay counsel fees for the other spouse at the onset of the divorce process.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said earlier today that he had no assurance from Paterson that he would sign the bills, “but I assume he will. I have reason to believe he will.”
The Women’s Bar Association, Legal Aid Society and state Bar Association support the no-fault bill, but the state Catholic Conference and New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical Christian group, does not.
The interim spousal-support guidelines create a framework for deciding the amount and duration of awards, said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, Westchester County, the bill sponsor in her house.
“The maintenance guidelines are a much-needed tool for courts to calculate temporary awards in a way that is fair and equitable to both parties,” she said in a statement. “It will lead to more predictable awards, allowing couples to better prepare for the financial consequences of divorce.”
If no-fault divorce were passed without the temporary support bill, it could have a negative financial impact on lesser-earning spouses, often women filing for divorce and their children, said Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Helene Weinstein, D-Brooklyn.
The legislation would revise the factors used in calculating post-marital income support, and it would require the state Law Revision Commission to review the maintenance awards in New York and their impact on post-marital income disparities. The commission, whose preliminary report would be due in nine months, would make recommendations to ensure that divorcing spouses fairly share the economic consequences of the split.