No-fault divorce issue causes rift in National Organization for Women in NY

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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.

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  1. Being one of those “old fashioned women” people put down, married at 18 and have spent 37 years tending to his needs and my children, now face a legal separation and with this bill, a divorce sooner for him as he wants it. I have no money, am disabled and he is living with his mistress, and she makes almost as much as him, his salary is ONLY 70,000, we live check to check here on Long Island. This bill/law is NOT good for those women who have not been educated, who cannot support themselves, whose husbands have a midlife crisis and we are thrown to the curb. I would fight under the current law to get what I will need. Now, Well its the streets for me, no health coverage but clinics, something to end up with after loving and taking care of the man you love, while he was cheating behind your back. This is WRONG.. and why women in my age group are the highest poverty stricken group there is.

  2. Having passed the Senate as part of a package of three bills that includes no-fault divorce, the State Assembly is currently considering passing a similar support bill. Together, these bills will replace the current statute for determining maintenance (the New York equivalent of alimony) with a mathematical formula based on post-marital income and the length of the marriage. The proposed formula uses just two of the 12 factors currently used to determine maintenance, the ones that are easiest to measure – the respective incomes of the parties and the duration of the marriage. The rationale is that using these parameters is simpler and yields more consistent results than the current statute. The legislation does not take into account the unique aspects of each case and does not lead to more equitable or workable outcomes, just very different ones. The new guidelines are presumptive, not advisory. While theoretically rebuttable (potentially at great cost and with no guarantees), if history is any precedent, they will be relied upon heavily by the courts. Simply put, whether or not applying the guidelines produces equitable or workable results, it will be the quickest and easiest way to make determinations. The bottom line is that simpler and more consistent does not necessarily equate with better (or more equitable) and could easily equate with worse, even much worse. Since there are relatively inexpensive methods available to analyze needs and paying abilities in different settlement contexts, it is an unnecessary workaround that substitutes one set of problems for another. Though well-intentioned, this is bad legislation.

  3. This article points to the real problem in New York divorce, but, as most articles go on the subject, it dances around the problem. The problem is a corrupt divorce industry that bills new yorkers well over 1 billion a year and has zero outside oversight and a maze of insane, unregulated processes and fees enforced by a heavy-handed complicit court system with untouchable officials. This is not a Woman’s issue, it is not a Men’s issue, it is an issue for the citizens of New York. The divorce industry charges unregulated fees that drain college accounts, foreclose houses and ruin the lives of parents and children’s, all of for the simple action of terminating a legal contract. We are bound by the NY constitution to settle our matrimony differences in a special insular part of the court system that is seemingly lawless if the verdicts were ever examined outside of appellate courts by constitutional lawyers. The outcomes of New York divorce courts consistently violate the 1st and 5th amendments to the US Constitution and until we challenge the rulings of the NY Supreme Court Matrimony Part on constitutional grounds we will never see a change. A billion dollar plus industry with zero regulation won’t die easily, but it’s time has come. The industry has not adjusted to new economic realities and their damage to family’s and children will remain uncounted until we demand change as citizens.

  4. M Katz above is absolutely correct. This is about a corrupt matrimonial and supreme court system that needs an overhauling of corrupt lawyers and judges who rob families of their lifes savings just to get out of a contract. Constitutional rights are being violated as matter of daily practice by a system that rewards corruption at every level. !!

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