NY Divorce Law: What's New since 2019?

New York Divorce Law: What's New Since 2019?

Divorce law in New York State is now significantly different than how it was prior to 2019. Many important changes have been made that couples considering divorce or separation should be aware of. With the new updates to the law, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of how these changes may impact your case - particularly if you have children involved in the process.

In 2019, the New York State legislature passed a package of laws that substantially revised the state’s domestic relations laws. These changes have made it easier for some couples looking to end their marriage or partnerships. However, with any legal changes, there are many potential pitfalls that should be considered, particularly in cases where children are involved.

In this article, we will discuss the most important changes made to the law since 2019 and how they may impact your case. We will also explore the importance of retaining an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and protect your rights at every stage of your divorce proceedings.

The Role of Mediation in New York Divorce Cases

One of the most significant changes made to New York divorce law since 2019 is the addition of new provisions regarding the use of mediation to resolve disputes. According to the law, parties are now required to attend at least one mediation session to try to resolve their disputes before proceeding to court.

Mediation is a process where a neutral third-party mediator helps couples reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce. If the couple can reach an agreement during mediation, they can then submit a signed copy of the agreement to the court. Mediation can be more cost-effective, less time-consuming, and less stressful than traditional litigation. However, it is important to remember that a mediator does not represent either party and cannot provide legal advice.

Changes to Child Custody Laws in New York

Another significant change to New York's divorce law since 2019 concerns child custody. The traditional joint physical custody and sole physical custody arrangements have been replaced by a new “shared custody” designation. The law also sets out criteria that judges must consider when making child custody determinations. These criteria include factors such as the ability of each party to provide for the child's needs and the preferences of the child if they are of a sufficient age and maturity level to make such a decision.

Additionally, in cases where one parent wishes to relocate with the child, new rules now govern such requests. The court must consider the potential impact of the move on the child's relationships with family and other important people in their lives. These changes have made the process of determining child custody more complex, and parties with children should always seek the advice of a qualified attorney to help them navigate the legal landscape.

New Rules Regarding Alimony in New York

Finally, the changes to New York's divorce law since 2019 have also altered how courts must address alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance. It is essential to note that the tax treatment of alimony after a divorce has undergone significant changes in the last few years, so it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced lawyer or tax professional before making any decisions about spousal support.

Under the new law, the duration of alimony payments largely depends on the length of the marriage. In general, the longer a couple has been married, the longer alimony payments will last. The law also sets out different formulas to determine the amount and length of alimony payments, depending on the income of each party and various other factors.

New York's Equitable Distribution Law

Equitable distribution refers to the distribution of marital property in a divorce, which can be an incredibly complex and contentious issue. The changes made to New York's divorce law since 2019 have resulted in significant changes to the state's equitable distribution laws. Under the new law, the term "marital property" has been expanded to include a broader range of assets, and the valuation of certain assets, such as businesses, has been clarified.

It is also important to note that New York is an "equitable distribution" state, which means that assets and debts will be divided in a manner that the court considers fair - which doesn't necessarily mean a 50/50 split. Again, this is an area in which an experienced divorce lawyer can be an immense asset, as they can help interpret the law and present arguments that support your interests in the property division process.

New Forms of Divorce in New York

Since 2010, New York has recognized "no-fault" divorce, which allows couples to dissolve their marriage without having to prove that one party was at fault. In addition to "no-fault" divorce, New York has also introduced two new forms of divorce since 2019 - "conversion" divorce and "summary" divorce.

Conversion divorce is where the couple begins with a separation agreement and then converts it to a divorce agreement after a specified amount of time. Summary divorce is a more straightforward process suitable for couples without children, where the couple agrees on how to divide their assets and debts.

It is important to note that while these new forms of divorce can make the process quicker and more straightforward, they may not be suitable for all couples. Again, it is always best to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand your options and which form of divorce is most appropriate for your unique circumstances.

Final Notes

In conclusion, the changes made to New York's divorce law since 2019 have far-reaching and significant implications for couples considering divorce or separation. Below is a summary of the key takeaways from this article:

  1. Divorce law in New York State is now substantially different than it was prior to 2019
  2. Mediation is now required to resolve disputes between couples before proceeding to court
  3. The traditional joint physical custody and sole physical custody arrangements have been replaced by a new “shared custody” designation
  4. New rules now govern requests for one parent to relocate with the child
  5. The duration and amount of alimony payments are now determined by different formulas, depending on the income of each party and various other factors
  6. The changes have expanded the definition of marital property and clarified how certain assets, such as businesses, are valued
  7. Two new forms of divorce have been introduced since 2019 - "conversion" divorce and "summary" divorce

It is essential to work with an experienced family law attorney to understand how these changes may affect your unique situation and to ensure that you receive a fair and equitable settlement. If you are considering divorce or separation and live in New York State, we encourage you to reach out to a qualified attorney for guidance and support.


  1. New York State Unified Court System. (2021). Divorce and separation. NY CourtHelp. https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/family/divorce.shtml
  2. Petrella, N. Z., & Bertolini, A. (2020). The Impact of Recent Reforms on New York Domestic Relations Law. Buffalo Law Review, 68(3), 883-959. https://digitalcommons.law.buffalo.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2895&context=lawreview
  3. Bajorin, J. (2021). What Is Equitable Distribution in Divorce? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/12/realestate/equitable-distribution-divorce.html

Additional References: Changes to New York Divorce Law Since 2019


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