The New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women’s support of no-fault divorce legislation puts it at odds with NOW’s statewide chapter, which has long opposed making New York a no-fault state.
“Women seeking assistance for divorce are the No. 1 helpline call NOW-NYC receives. Most women call because they can’t afford to get divorced, while others are broke and desperate and exhausted from their ongoing legal battle,” Sonia Ossorio, executive director of the New York City chapter, said in a statement. “Every day we see first-hand the devastation caused to women and their families due to New York’s difficult divorce laws. The New York Legislature needs to take this matter seriously and enact reforms that help women, not hurt them.”
Marcia Pappas, president of NOW New York State, said the New York City chapter’s support is “meaningless because they don’t have the authority to support this legislation.”
The difference of opinion between the New York City chapter and the state group is being resolved internally, she said.
Ossorio could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.
New York is the only state that does not have some form of no-fault law. That means that couples can only get divorced if there is a finding of fault, such as adultery or abandonment, or if both spouses agree on a separation and live apart for a year or more. The no-fault bill, which the Senate is expected to take up today, would allow a divorce after a marriage has “irretrievably” broken down for six months or more and all financial and custody issues have been resolved.
NOW New York State supports two of the other bills that seek to change matrimonial laws, but it thinks they should be in effect for a few years to ensure they are working well for women before lawmakers take up the no-fault divorce issue, Pappas said. Passing the no-fault law now is “putting the cart before the horse,” she said.
The other two bills would require counsel fees to be awarded at the onset of the divorce process and establish post-marital income guidelines. Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who is sponsoring the no-fault and the income bills, said state law doesn’t provide enough guidance on dividing the assets of future income fairly.