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Rockland & Westchester County Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > Did the Trial Court Err When Failing to Grant Wife “Cruel and Inhuman Treatment”?

Did the Trial Court Err When Failing to Grant Wife “Cruel and Inhuman Treatment”?


In one case emerging from the Second Court of Appeals, Szablyar v. Zuralau, the parties were married in January 2009. In the original complaint, the plaintiff stated grounds for divorce as cruel and inhuman treatment pursuant to Domestic Violence Relations Law § 170(1). Later, however, both parties stipulated that the grounds for this particular divorce would be the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

New York permits an individual to specify certain grounds for a divorce. It also permits a couple to specify no grounds at all. The latter is known as a no-fault divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the grounds for divorce are simply stated as the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” In other words, the marriage is simply broken and cannot be rehabilitated. In the case mentioned above, the trial court ruled that it would grant a no-fault divorce to the wife but not grant a divorce on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment.

The wife appealed this decision.

Analyzing the appeal

 The plaintiff argued that the trial court erred by not granting her a divorce on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment. The appeals court, however, ruled that the wife effectively waived any objection that could be made on appeal concerning grounds upon which the trial court granted the divorce. At the inquest, the wife failed to raise an objection to the stated ground which she and her husband already stipulated during the preliminary conference.

In this case, the wife only recovered $249.18 cents from the divorce settlement. The trial court found that the couple’s only marital property was a joint bank account, with $498.36. The wife was entitled to half this figure. She was also awarded legal fees totaling $20,000.

Divorce due to cruel and inhuman treatment 

New York State allows a spouse to pursue a divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. This is known as a fault-based divorce. In such cases, the courts will evaluate arguments under the grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment.” This includes both psychological and physical abuse. To pursue a divorce on these grounds, the courts must believe that it is unsafe for the couple to continue to share a residence together.

Acts that constitute “cruel and inhuman treatment” include:

  • Assault or physical abuse
  • Refusal to have sex or forced sex
  • Public adultery
  • Verbal abuse or intimidation
  • Threats of deportation
  • Threats made against a couple’s children

In New York, the court will review whether or not the alleged acts of cruelty were isolated events before determining whether or not a litigant can pursue a divorce on these grounds. The court can find that the incidents were isolated or out of character and would be less likely to grant a divorce on these grounds. The petitioning spouse must show that the conduct was consistent and repeated.

Talk to a Rockland County, NY Divorce Lawyer Today 

The Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine represents the interests of Rockland and Westchester County residents in divorce proceedings. Call our Westchester County family lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your next steps right away.



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