Simon Taub poses for a photo at his home in the Brooklyn borough of New York in this January 16, 2007 picture. Feuding spouses Simon and his wife Chauna built a wall through their three-story row house because neither would give it up.
Jurors on March 28, 2007 shot down the "cruel and inhuman treatment"Ms Taub cited as grounds for divorcing her husband after more than 20 years of marriage and four children. The case has been dubbed Brooklyn's "War of the Roses," after the 1989 movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
Chana looks at a drywall partition she and her ex built through the middle of their home.
KEEP FIGHTING - YOU CAN'T SPLIT
Wall Built To Separate N.Y. Couple Because Of Dated Divorce Law
By Nahal Toosi
NEW YOK - Chana and Simon Taub can't stand each other.
He claims she is a gold-digging liar. She claims he abused her. Things got so nasty during their divorce case that a court-ordered wall was put up in the feuding spouses' Brooklyn house to keep them apart.
It would seem like an open-and-shut divorce case, with no shortage of reasons to justify ending the marriage once and for all. But it is never that easy in New York, where you can get just about anything except a fast, blameless divorce.
New York is the only state that won't allow the speedy dissolution of a marriage without proof that one spouse is somehow at fault, experts say. Adultery is sufficient grounds, but irreconcilable differences are not. "He beats me" (with proof) works, but "We grew apart" doesn't cut it.
The system has been ridiculed as hopelessly outdated, and sometimes results in endless litigation and spouses leaving the state to evade the law. This week, in what some see as more proof of the law's absurdity, a jury denied the Taubs a divorce.
Under New York divorce law, couples can split up without either spouse being assigned blame, but only if they first sign a division-of-property agreement and live apart for a year. Couples who want to end a marriage more quickly than that have been known to lie, move or tarnish their own reputations.
If the desire for a divorce is mutual, but neither side wants to wait a year, one common ruse is to have one take the blame. A popular ground is "constructive abandonment," in which one spouse alleges the other won't have sex. The other spouse agrees not to contest the allegation.
Another approach is what divorce lawyer Bernard Clair calls "watered-down cruel and inhuman treatment."
The plaintiff, (the wife, let's say) can claim, "He told me he didn't love me anymore, that he wanted his freedom, that he had made a mistake from the beginning." The husband neither admits nor denies the charge.
The moving option often comes into play when the desire to divorce is not mutual. But it doesn't always work.
During his nearly decade-long attempt to get a divorce, Charles Rudick moved to Vermont for 18 months. But his divorce there was denied after the state determined he wasn't really committed to living in Vermont.
Rudick, now 64, said he wanted out of his marriage because he and his wife had grown apart and he was in love with another woman. Eventually, the two came to terms. The divorce was granted on the grounds that he abandoned her.
"It's just ridiculous that we're so backward and antiquated in this state," said Rudick.
No-fault divorce laws became popular beginning in the 1960s, but efforts to introduce such a system in New York have long failed. The main reason, observers say, is the lobbying strength of the Roman Catholic Church and the state chapter of the National Organization for Women.
To Catholic leaders, marriage is a sacred contract that should not be ended on a whim. The women's organization views a no-fault system as biased against women.
"The moneyed spouse, with no-fault, can literally hide the assets, take off, get married before the wife even knows what hit her," said Marcia Pappas, head of the state chapter of NOW.
A fault system gives the woman a bargaining chip, Pappas said. For example, she can deny her husband a divorce until she is happy with her share of the property.
Irwin Rosenthal, lawyer for Chana Taub who was denied a divorce Wednesday, said the current system wastes a lot of judicial time.
"If two people don't want to be married, why try the case?"
The New York City bar supports a no-fault divorce law, as does the state's chief judge, and the state Women's Bar Association backed the idea in 2004 after long opposing it. But there is no sign the law is about to be changed.
- Associated Press