In order to obtain a divorce in New York it is no longer necessary to prove grounds.
It is legally sufficient for a spouse seeking a divorce to simply swear under oath that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down” for a period of at least six months. This is essentially a “no fault divorce” because the other spouse cannot dispute that the marriage has broken down; there is no right to a trial on the issue.
In the past, a spouse seeking a divorce had to prove grounds such as adultery or cruel and inhuman treatment. These are still grounds for divorce in New York, but nearly everyone now obtains a divorce by alleging “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” It is simpler, and it avoids messy fights about who was at fault.
Sometimes a client will ask whether proving grounds such as adultery or cruel and inhuman treatment will help to obtain a greater share of the marital proceeds. Usually, the answer is no. Case law has established that unless the cruelty “shocks the conscious of the court” it will have no impact on equitable distribution. But divorce judges have seen nearly everything, so almost nothing shocks them.
A spouse’s conduct during the marriage can certainly influence a judge tasked with determining the legal and physical custody of the children. But those facts can be raised as part of the custody case. They do not have to be part of the grounds for divorce.