Understanding State Laws: The Ins and Outs of Grounds for Divorce

In the United States, 39 percent of marriages end in divorce. While this means you’re slightly more likely to stay together forever than end up divorcing, it still pays to know what to expect if you do need to get your divorce lawyer involved.

In New York State, there are seven grounds you can use to get a divorce. Let’s take a look at the different legally recognized reasons for ending a marriage to find out more.

Irretrievable Breakdown

Also called a no-fault divorce, this ground requires your marriage to have broken down to the point of no repair for at least six months. You would also need to have settled all economic and family issues for the Supreme Court to grant you a divorce due to irretrievable breakdown. These include the division of property, debt payments, and, if you have children, child support and custody.

Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

The court will only accept this as grounds for divorce if continuing to live with your spouse endangers your physical or mental health. The cruel and inhuman treatment also needs to have happened within the last five years to apply.


If your spouse left you or ejected you from your shared home more than a year ago, you can qualify for divorce due to abandonment.


The state of New York will grant you a divorce on the grounds of imprisonment if your spouse goes to jail for a consecutive period of three years or more. But the imprisonment must have started after you got married and been within the last five years to qualify.


Adultery comes to most people’s minds when they consider common reasons to divorce. Although, even if your spouse has cheated, you cannot cite adultery as grounds for divorce if you do any of the following:

  • Encourage your spouse to commit adultery
  • Engage in sexual relations with your spouse after discovering the adultery
  • Commit adultery yourself

The adultery also needs to have happened within the last five years and be supported by a witness testifying on your behalf.

Legal Separation Agreement

To use this ground, you and your spouse must sign and file a valid Separation Agreement and live apart for at least a year. To be valid, the agreement needs to follow specific New York divorce laws. You also need to obey all the conditions stated.

Judgment of Separation

This ground isn’t used very often since it requires similar proof to that needed for divorce. To use this ground, you’ll need the court to draw you up a Judgment of Separation before living apart from your spouse for at least a year. As with a legal separation agreement, you have to obey the conditions of the judgment.

Understanding Different Grounds for Divorce

As this list shows, the grounds for divorce are varied and can be complex depending on your unique situation. This is why it helps to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side.

With our expert knowledge of New York divorce laws, there’s no one better to help you through the divorce process than Miller Zeiderman LLP. For more information, get in touch with us today!