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Interesting Case Shows the Evolution of Divorce Law


It is amazing just how much domestic law and divorce law has changed over the past 50 years. Prior to 1967, a married couple who wanted to get divorced could only obtain a divorce on the grounds of adultery. If neither spouse committed adultery, the courts of the state would not allow the couple to divorce. In 1967, New York legislature added the additional grounds for divorce under mental cruelty. Section 170 of the Domestic Relations law was amended to state that a divorce may be maintained by a husband or a wife if they were dissolving the marriage on the grounds that they were suffering cruel and inhuman treatment at the hands of the other spouse. A New York Criminal Lawyer said this treatment would have to be so egregious that the conduct endangered the physical or mental well-being of the abused party and made it unsafe or improper for the couple to live together. These were also the grounds for any kind of legal separation.

In 1970, a case came before the courts of New York that dealt with a petition for a divorce. The couple was married in New York in 1957. The husband was 28 years old and the wife was 37. She had a 15-year-old son by a previous marriage. The couple had a daughter, who was ten years old at the time of the trial. The pair had a volatile relationship by any standards with four separations and three reconciliations between 1961 and 1967. Throughout their relationship, they only testified to one act of domestic violence. This incident was the cause for the first separation. In 1961, the husband was in the kitchen of the home with some friends. The daughter began to cry, and the husband told her to be quiet. The wife came in to the kitchen and struck him. She then told him to get out of the house. The husband filed for divorce in 1970 claiming mental anguish. The courts determined that even under the changes in law in 1967 that would allow a divorce for cruel and inhuman treatment, the arguments that this pair had were not serious enough to meet the minimal qualifications to get a divorce. The court stated that the responsibility for managing their differences was not the responsibility of the courts.

Rather, the court pointed out that it was the responsibility of the two married people to learn to get along with each other without relying on the courts to step in and solve their problems. The exact term was that the courts of justice have no cure for the ills that these people bring upon themselves. They must minister unto themselves to solve their differences. This is in stark contrast to the customs of today. Now a couple can divorce for any reason. There are no such stipulations that must be met in order for a divorce to be petitioned. A couple may still obtain a divorce under this type of situation, even if the other party does not want to get a divorce. This change in the law was enacted to protect the victims of domestic violence. An uncontested divorce action is possible without any kind of violence, adultery, or other misdeed.

In the case of this particular couple, a trial court first allowed the divorce. The wife filed an appeal. The appellate court determined that the trial court had erred in their judgment because there was no evidence that the arguments between these people met the qualifications to be inhuman or cruel. A Brooklyn Criminal Lawyer said the appellate court overturned the divorce verdict and found in the wife’s favor.

Since, Stephen Bilkis & Associates Domestic Violence Lawyers are familiar with handling divorce cases; we can offer the client the amount of representation that they need. Whether you have been accused of domestic violence, sex crimes or theft, contact us right away. We have convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area. Being able to defend the client’s interest is important to us. We can negotiate on your behalf in order to obtain a positive outcome.

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