Isn't it romantic?
No-fault divorces officially took effect in New York yesterday, making it much easier for unhappily married couples to call it quits -- but few Big Apple spouses rushed to take advantage of the new law.
While many divorce lawyers and experts predicted a flood of filings on Day One, there was only a smattering throughout the city.
In Manhattan Supreme Court, four no-fault cases were filed, while in The Bronx, there were only two. In Queens, clerks didn't have a breakdown of how many no-fault cases were filed, but overall there were 24 divorce petitions -- which officials there described as a typical day. Officials in Brooklyn and Staten Island didn't have breakdowns.
The new law lets spouses unhitch simply by declaring the marriage irrevocably broken, providing an alternative to the state's longtime "fault" system, where one party had to take the blame for adultery, abandonment or cruel and inhuman treatment.
"This is going to help a lot of people divorce peacefully," said matrimonial lawyer Suzanne Kimberly Bracker.
It's also going to take some people by surprise -- she said she got phone calls from two men yesterday whose wives had told them at breakfast that they were divorcing them, and she predicted more would be coming soon.
State Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, one of the sponsors of the bill, which Gov. Paterson signed into law earlier this year, said there might be a slight surge in the number of divorces around the state initially, but that trend would pass.
He said that in other states where similar laws had been passed, "there has been an initial spike, but over time the divorce rate has actually gone down."
"This is not divorce on demand. This allows an option of divorce with dignity, and brings New York in line with the rest of the country," Bing said.
New York had been the last state without a no-fault option, and Bing said people told him they'd moved out of state so they could get unhitched without the hassle.
Not everyone can afford to give up their home, and Bing said the old law had been keeping some women trapped in abusive relationships while it also forced some couples who were trying to split amicably to lie under oath about the reasons they were breaking up.
Matrimonial lawyer Richard Wallace, one of the first to file a no-fault divorce on behalf of a client, agreed with Bing. "My sense is that many, if not most, consensual divorces involved perjury. What the new law does is it does away with the pretty routine perjury," he said.