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CNY sees highest divorce numbers in nine years

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: CNY sees highest divorce numbers in nine years
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An analysis of the state figures by a Syracuse law firm shows the highest divorce numbers for the region in almost a decade. Sarah Blazonis reports.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Attorney Brianne Carbonaro said she's seen more divorce cases come across her desk recently. It's an increase that wasn't unexpected.

"I believe that's a direct reflection of New York's no-fault divorce law, which was enacted October 12, 2010," said Carbonaro, a matrimonial and family law associate with the Syracuse law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC.

Carbonaro said couples no longer have to prove grounds like cruel and inhuman treatment to end their marriage. Under the new law, they just have to show their relationship has broken down irretrievably for at least a six-month period.

"I typically don't see any grounds divorces come across my desk anymore. Everybody is pretty much filing under the no fault divorce because parties don't like to air dirty laundry," said Carbonaro.

She said the law also likely contributed to a region-wide increase of divorce numbers in 2011.

Tully Rinckey analyzed figures from the State Department of Health for the five counties in Central New York. Cayuga and Madison counties didn't see major changes from the year before, but Cortland, Onondaga, and Oswego saw substantial jumps.

Overall, Central New York saw more than 2500 divorces -- its highest numbers in nine years.

Another possible cause could be the rebounding economy.

"Historically, anytime there's a recession, people don't typically want to go get divorced and then have to incur the expense of the divorce process, but also maintaining two separate households," said Carbonaro.

A provision in the no-fault law allows the lower-income spouse to file a motion for mandatory temporary maintenance. That helps them afford to maintain their lifestyle and afford attorney's fees. Carbonaro said she doesn't expect numbers to keep up their climb.

"At some time, it's probably going to plateau," said Carbonaro. "But I think a lot of people who, in the past, were resigned to the fact that they had to just stay in an unhappy marriage for financial reasons or because they didn't necessarily meet the grounds for divorce....now they feel a little more comfortable."

And that can make it a little easier for clients to move on.

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