January 10, 2008

South Carolina v. New York

by PG

With regard to no-fault divorce, it seems to be a wash between the two states. Despite many claims that New York is the only state that lacks no-fault divorce, in fact the grounds for divorce are quite similar in both. S.C. Code Sec. 20-3-10 says, "No divorce from the bonds of matrimony shall be granted except upon one or more of the following grounds, to wit: (1) Adultery; (2) Desertion for a period of one year; (3) Physical cruelty; (4) Habitual drunkenness; provided, that this ground shall be construed to include habitual drunkenness caused by the use of any narcotic drug; or (5) On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year."

The first three parallel New York's fault grounds: adultery, abandonment for one or more years, and cruel and inhuman treatment. Because New York permits a more expansive definition of "cruelty," rather than specifying it must be physical abuse, mental cruelty can be a ground there but not in South Carolina. On the other hand, incapacitation due to substance abuse is a ground in South Carolina but not New York, while imprisonment for three or more years is a ground in New York but not South Carolina.

The fifth South Carolina ground is the "no-fault" one, which requires only that the couple have been separated for a year. This is very like the New York no-fault ground of one year of living apart under a court's separation judgment or under a separation agreement signed by the parties. Admittedly, the ground in New York is actually a conversion of the separation into a divorce, whereas it seems to operate a little more informally in South Carolina. Nonetheless, the practical reality -- if one or both parties want a divorce, they either need a fault ground or need to separate for a year first -- is true in both states, and thus makes the common complaint that only New York lacks no-fault divorce seem inaccurate.

On nepotism, South Carolina is the clear winner. In New York, politicians' offspring actually have to pass the bar exam; South Carolina House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison boasted of his daughter Caroline's "hard work" in getting a section of the bar exam thrown out for her and 20 other applicants, enabling them to pass after all.

January 10, 2008 03:13 PM | TrackBack
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