What Are Grounds for Divorce in New York? (2024)

Getting divorced can be intimidating. Depending on the situation, it can also be complicated. There are many different agreements and terms to consider, not to mention a large amount of time, money, and legal help it takes to complete the divorce process.

One of the most frustrating parts of the divorce process is determining the grounds on which you wish to divorce your spouse. This can be difficult, and it is important to understand the basics before you begin the divorce process.

Do You Need a Reason to Divorce?

Many people stress themselves out trying to determine the legal grounds on which they will divorce their spouse. However, as of 2010, no-fault divorces are legal and permissible in New York. This means that you do not have to select one of the other reasons to divorce your spouse. It also frees you of the obligation to prove your reason to the court, which is required in all other scenarios.

If you file for a no-fault divorce, you must be able to truthfully say that your marriage has been “irrevocably broken” for the past six months or more, but this is the only requirement. Previous to this option, couples had to live separately for 12 months before they could file for a divorce without one of the standard reasons.

Grounds for Divorce

In some cases, working on your relationship for six months is not possible or will not result in any sort of reconciliation. If a single event or chain of specific events led to the divorce, you could file for divorce under one of the below grounds. If this is the route that you take, you and your divorce attorney will have to offer proof that this type of activity or treatment has occurred.


Abandonment occurs when one spouse leaves or kicks the other spouse out of their home. This must last for a period of one year, and the spouse responsible must not have the intention of returning.


Adultery is a common reason for divorce. In these scenarios, one spouse says that the other has engaged in sexual activities with someone who is not their spouse. This can be any kind of sexual activity as long as it is not encouraged by the spouse who is filing for divorce.

Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

In many cases, these grounds for divorce are appropriate for victims of domestic violence. If one spouse perpetuates physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or makes it otherwise unsafe for the other spouse to live with them, the latter spouse may file for divorce under cruel and inhuman treatment.


If one spouse is in prison for three consecutive years or more, the other spouse may file for divorce. A spouse may use these grounds for up to five years after their spouse has been released from prison. In order to be accepted, the incarcerated spouse must have gone to prison after the couple was already married. If the couple got married while one individual was in prison or was about to go to prison, the other spouse waives their right to use these grounds for divorce.


Though you can use a no-fault divorce to separate after only six months, you can still use separation as a reason if you and your spouse have been living apart for at least one year. You will have to prove to the court that you have followed their guidelines for separation during this time.

FAQs About Grounds for Divorce in New York

What Are the Legal Grounds for Divorce in New York?

The legal grounds for divorce in New York include cruel and inhuman treatment, imprisonment, separation, irretrievable breakdown, adultery, and abandonment. Though all of these reasons require proof in court, they allow couples to divorce right away. No-fault divorces can occur after the marriage has been “irretrievably broken” for at least six months. These grounds allow certain couples to seek legal divorce more quickly, despite the need for evidence.

How Many Years Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in New York?

There is no minimum number of years that a couple must be married for alimony or spousal maintenance. Rather, spousal maintenance agreements are made based on the income of both spouses as well as any prenuptial agreements that the two made when they got married. Generally, a couple that has been married ten years or less may require spousal maintenance but for a limited period. If the couple has been married for over ten years, the support may be indefinite.

Do You Need Legal Grounds for Divorce?

No. You can file for a no-fault divorce if your marriage has been “irretrievably broken” for the past six months or more. Since this is a relatively vague term, it is often the easiest for couples who are divorcing because they have grown apart rather than because something specific has occurred. With a no-fault divorce, you do not have to provide as much proof as you do with other grounds for divorce.

How Do I Show Proof of Divorce?

If you are divorcing your spouse on specific grounds, rather than using a no-fault divorce, you and your attorney will need to provide evidence of your situation. The way you do this will depend upon your situation, and your attorney will help you to identify and assemble the proper pieces of evidence. In general, text messages, emails, voicemails, letters, photos, videos, police reports, and witness accounts from family and friends can work as proof in your case.

Contact Trotto Law Firm, P.C.

For many years, our Rochester divorce lawyers have been helping couples through a divorce in New York. We understand the emotions that are often involved in divorces, and we work diligently to offer ruthless representation with compassionate, one-on-one service. Because we are highly experienced in divorce and family law matters, we are well qualified to help you through your divorce claim, no matter how complicated your situation may be. You can trust our firm to help you through this difficult time and to give you the best possible foundation for your future.

For more information, contact Trotto Law Firm, P.C.

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