Long Island's Divorce Rate Among Lowest in Nation

Tough New York Divorce Laws Credited with Low Divorce Rate.

Married life in Long Island is good. Or at least it is according to statistics. As of 2005, the number of marriage licenses granted in Nassau and Suffolk counties was more than double the number of divorces. In a national ranking of the top 50 counties with the highest divorce rates in the country, Nassau and Suffolk counties - and every other county in the state of New York for that matter - were noticeably absent from the list. And despite the overall number of both divorces and marriages in Long Island decreasing in recent years, there are still more than half a million married couples living here.

The rates of marriage and divorce in Long Island are typical of the rest of the state. Nationally, New York has one of the lowest divorce rates at 2.8 people per 1000, or 8.4 percent of all New York state residents.

The fact that New Yorkers typically wait longer in life to get married is one of the primary reasons attributed for the low divorce rate in the state. Statistics have shown that those who marry in their early 20s - or even sooner - tend to have higher divorce rates than those who wait. Women who marry men younger than them are also more likely to divorce as are those who grew up with divorced parents.

Tough New York Divorce Laws Credited with Low Divorce Rate

While people waiting to get married until later in adulthood is one of the reasons for New York's relatively low divorce rate, it's not the only reason. In fact, many credit New York's tough divorce laws.

Until recently, married New Yorkers wishing to go their separate ways had to allege one of the statutory grounds for divorce, which typically meant that one spouse had to not only blame the demise of the marriage on the other, but had to prove it was their fault as well. The statutory grounds include:

* Adultery;
* Cruel and unusual punishment;
* Abandonment for at least one year;
* Imprisonment for at least three years;
* Living apart for a minimum of one year pursuant to a separation decree granted by a judge; and
* Living apart for a minimum of one year pursuant to a separation agreement entered into by the parties.

The requirement of proving fault based on one of these grounds led to the practice of "institutionalized perjury," whereby one spouse would lie under oath about the reasons for the divorce in cases when none of the available grounds explained the true reason for the failure of the marriage.

While the majority of states began modernizing their divorce laws in the 1970s to allow for no-fault divorce, New York did not. And in 1985, South Dakota adopted a no-fault ground for divorce, giving New York the distinction of being the last remaining state in the country to require divorcing parties to prove fault.

Change in Divorce Laws May Lead to Rise in Divorces

This past summer, the New York legislature finally approved a no-fault divorce law. The Governor signed the bill into law in August and it went into effect on October 12, 2010.

The new law gives New Yorkers the option of choosing "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage" as the grounds for the divorce. Rather than prove that one of the parties caused the breakdown of the marriage, the law requires that one of the spouses alleges under oath that the marital relationship has been broken down irretrievably for at least six months.

In addition, ancillary issues between the spouses, including child custody, child support, spousal support, property division and payment of attorney fees and other expenses, must be decided before the court will grant the divorce.

The statute does not define what irretrievable breakdown means, but generally in other states it has been accepted to mean that the relationship between the spouses is broken beyond repair and reconciliation is not possible.

Some fear that the addition of a no-fault ground for divorce will lead to a rise in divorces in New York. In other states, there was a brief rise in the initial number of divorce filings after the adoption of no-fault divorce laws, but overtime the numbers eventually leveled off.

In New York, it's too early to tell what the effect of the new law will be. While some predicted a landslide of divorce filings on October 12, the actual numbers apparently weren't that high, with many court houses reporting little to no increase in divorce filings.

Contact a Long Island Divorce Attorney

For more information on New York divorce laws, including the new no-fault grounds for divorce, contact a divorce lawyer today.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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