If you are considering filing for divorce, you are not alone. States around the country are expecting a surge of divorce filings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are realizing that their marriages are over. Being isolated with their spouse for a significant amount of time has revealed to people that it is time to end the marriage. 

Access to New York courts is still limited, even as New York begins the process of re-opening. Nonetheless, you are still able to file a divorce petition online. Understanding the recognized grounds for divorce in New York will help significantly. In New York, you cannot file for divorce without a valid reason, or grounds for divorce. New York state recognizes seven reasons or grounds for divorce that are legally acceptable.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in New York

The first step in filing for divorce in New York is to ensure that you meet the residency requirements. There are several different ways to meet the residency requirements in New York state:

  • Either your spouse or yourself has been living in New York State continuously for two or more years before you file for divorce
  • You or your spouse have been living in New York State continuously for at least one year before you petition for divorce and you were married in New York State, or you lived in New York State as a married couple, or the grounds for divorce happened within New York State
  • You and your spouse are residents of New York State when you or your spouse file the petition for divorce in New York State. 

Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage

There are seven recognized grounds for divorce in New York. The newest ground for divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This ground is often referred to as the ground for “no fault divorce.” New York was the last state to allow no fault divorce. To file a divorce under this provision, you will need to prove that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least six months. 

You will also need to show that you have settled economic issues, and decided how to divide the marital property. Finally, you will need to show that you agree when it comes to child support, alimony, and child custody issues. 

Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

Cruel and inhuman treatment is another ground for divorce in New York. If you are using this ground for divorce, you will need to prove that your spouse engaged in specific acts of cruelty against you. Having arguments, and verbally fighting is not enough to prove cruel and inhuman treatment. Instead, the cruelty must rise to a level that puts you in physical or mental danger, making it unsafe or improper for you to continue living with your spouse. You will be able to use issues that happened within the last five years as evidence of cruel and inhuman treatment. 


If you are using the ground of abandonment, you will need to prove that your spouse abandoned you for at least a year or longer. Your spouse might have left your shared family home without any intention of returning. Or, you spouse might refuse to have sex with you, which is considered under New York law as “constructive” abandonment. Either way, you will need to provide evidence that your spouse has indeed abandoned you.


Imprisonment is another ground for divorce in New York. You will need to prove that your spouse was in prison for three or more years in a row. Additionally, you must prove that your spouse began his or her prison sentence before you got married. Timing is important if you are claiming the ground of imprisonment. You will need to use this ground for divorce while your spouse is in prison. Or, you can use this ground for divorce up to five years after your spouse becomes released from prison.


Adultery is one of the most well-known grounds for divorce. If you plan to use this ground for divorce, you will need to prove that your spouse committed adultery at some point during your marriage. Proving this ground can be difficult. Most spouses deny adultery charges, so you will need evidence from someone beside your spouse that your spouse committed adultery. 

Divorce After a Legal Separation Agreement

For those who would like to use this ground for divorce, you and your defendant will need to sign and file a valid separation agreement. You will need to live apart for at least one year. Your separation agreement must meet specific legal requirements under the laws of New York in order to be valid. 

Divorce After a Judgment of Separation

This ground of divorce is less common and is not used very often. For you to be able to use this ground fo rdivorce, the Supreme Court needs to draw up a judgement of separation. You as a married couple will need to have lived apart for at least one year. 

Do I Need to Hire a Divorce Attorney in New York?

You are under no obligation to hire a divorce attorney for your divorce. However, hiring a lawyer is extremely helpful. It can be challenging to think about paying a large bill for your divorce, but hiring an experienced lawyer can make sure that your assets are protected. Your lawyer can help you advocate for spousal maintenance and enough child support for your children. Divorce cases can quickly become high-conflict. 

Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer As Soon As Possible

Navigating the New York divorce process is extremely challenging. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer will help you gain a strategic advantage. Even if you anticipate that your divorce will be non-confrontational, it is still important to hire a lawyer who will look out for your best interests. If you are one of the many people who are considering filing for divorce in New York, Thomas Weiss & Associates can help. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.