So What If I Don’t Agree If My Marriage Is “Irretrievably Broken?”

Rincker Law Family/Matrimonial Law 8 Comments

As I noted in this post, New York now has “no fault” divorce permitting the court to award a divorce based on one spouse’s sworn statement that the marriage has been “irretrievably broken” for at least the prior six (6) months prior to the commencement of the divorce.  So what exactly does it mean for a marriage to be “irretrievably broken” and what if one spouse does not agree to this ground?  In other words, can a spouse contest the fact that the marriage was irretrievably broken to prevent a court from granting a divorce?  Hmmm…. good question!

New York courts have yet to come to a consensus as to whether a defendant-spouse can challenge the no-fault ground for divorce and refute the claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.   In 2011, an upstate New York court, in Strack v. Strack, held that a defendant-spouse can refute that a marriage is “irretrievably broken.”  However, a month later a Long Island court, in A.C. v. D.R., held just the opposite—that the sworn statement of one spouse that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” is sufficient grounds for a divorce.

New York’s first trial on this issue occurred on Long Island, New York early this year in the case of Sorrentino v. Sorrentino.  The case concerned the Sorrentios’ 56-year marriage, which the wife claimed was “irretrievably broken”.  The husband contested the divorce, refuting the claim that the marriage was broken.  In this case, the judge ruled that although the husband has a right to defend against the divorce (as did the judge in the Strack case), the defendant did not sufficiently refute that the marriage was “irretrievably broken.”  Therefore, the judge granted the divorce.

Although no-fault creates a new option for divorce in New York state, the courts are still grappling with whether or not the defendant-spouse can refute that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”   I suggest seeking counsel before contesting a no-fault divorce arguing that the marriage has not been “irretrievably broken” for at least six months prior to the commencement of the divorce.

I receive strange looks from time-to-time when I tell folks that I am a food & agriculture attorney who also does a lot of family/matrimonial law. “Interesting combination…”  Why yes it is.  The way I look at it is this:  divorce (unfortunately) affects a lot of people in a lot of different walks of life, including those who work in the food & fiber industry and folks who live here in my own backyard.  Divorces can be quite harmful for the family farm or agri-business (which is why I am a proponent of prenuptial agreements for prudent succession planning).  It is, however, a reality that many people have to deal with.  I’m not an advocate of divorce nor do I ever want my readers to be believe that a divorce is a quick and easy process.  Even “no fault” divorces can be long and complex depending on the contested issues.  I wish all of my readers a long and happy marriage.  But if the day comes when you are better on your own, I urge my readers to seek competent counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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Comments 8

  1. When we say the words in sickness and in health ,good times and in bad ,for better for worse ,these words press upon the very core values of marriage itself , we might as well just delete them from the wedding vowels we speak during ceremonies…

  2. We might as well just delete the words: “in sickness and in health, good times and in bad, for better for worse” because without satisfying the beginning words of the marriage vows, which are to love, honor, and cherish, what good is the rest of the words (as mentioned previously)?Love, honor, and cherish ARE the very core values of marriage itself.

  3. If a couple decide at the last minute to be together and a divorce has been enter, but neither have signed, can they both still stay married to each other?

  4. Just because them words are said doesn’t mean the person saying them is telling the truth. I was with my wife for a little while before we got married everything was good before we got married and everything was good for a few months after we got married but when your wife turns around and goes outta state for a family matter and cheats on her husband them words don’t mean anything. Women like that make it hard for men to belive in a marriage. Just saying I loved my wife then I stillove my wife. And she refused to sign the divorce papers and still won’t sign them. She also doesn’t want to get back together and work things out so I’m stuck in between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to be married to someone that doesn’t want to even talk to me or have anything to do with me. What should I do. We have been split up for about 11 months and I don’t know what to do.

  5. My wife posted for a 2 years on face book that I am a loving husband and 3 weeks after a Valentines post that said she is glad to have a supporting and loving husband like me , she served me with divorce claiming that our marriage was broken! Will the judge consider contradictory statements?

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