In New York, a couple must provide a “ground,” or a reason, for their divorce in order to move forward with the divorce process. There are four fault-based grounds for divorce and one no-fault ground recognized by the New York divorce courts. Abandonment, Adultery, Imprisonment, Cruel and Inhuman Treatment are considered “fault-based” and Irretrievable Breakdown of the Relationship is considered “no-fault.”

Technically, there are seven grounds for divorce that couples can cite, but two of these, divorce after a legal separation agreement and divorce after a judgment of separation, require the couple to be legally separated for a period of time before they can divorce. Below are the five grounds most commonly discussed.


There are two types of abandonment that can be cited as a reason for divorce: physical and constructive. Physical abandonment is the act of leaving the marital home with no intent to return. Constructive abandonment is the act of refusing to engage in sexual relations with one’s partner. Either of these conditions must be present for one year or longer to constitute abandonment.

AdulteryDivorce in New York

To cite adultery as the reason for a divorce, the filing partner must provide proof that his or her spouse was not faithful during the marriage. This evidence must come from a party other than either member of the divorcing couple.

Irretrievable Breakdown of the Relationship

When both parties agree that their marriage has been over for six months or longer and all related issues, like child support and property division, have been settled, they may cite this ground as the reason for their divorce. This is also known as “no-fault” divorce. It is often cited in uncontested divorces. The couple may show that they settled their divorce issues on their own or that they were determined by court order.


If one spouse enters prison during the marriage and stays there for three years or longer, his or her partner may cite imprisonment as the reason for their divorce. A spouse may use this ground for divorce while his or her partner is incarcerated or within five years of his or her release from prison.

Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

Cruel and inhuman treatment is defined as treatment that causes the victim’s physical or mental health to suffer. Cruel and inhuman treatment is more than just arguing; it is actions that create an environment where one spouse does not feel safe. If this ground is cited as the reason for a couple’s divorce, the court will examine the evidence presented to determine whether specific actions within the preceding five years of the marriage constitute cruel and inhuman treatment.

Work with an Experienced Brooklyn Divorce Attorney

Getting divorced is complicated. For help determining the most appropriate ground to cite for your divorce and how to move forward with the process, work with an experienced divorce attorney. To get started, contact Theodore Alatsas ESQ to schedule your free consultation in our office, during which we can discuss the specific details of your case in greater detail to provide personalized legal advice.

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