Brady v. Brady
64 N.Y.2d 339, 486 N.Y.S.2d 891, 476 N.E.2d 290 (1985)

  • Edward and Dorothy were married for over twenty years and had four children together. However, their relationship began to deteriorate.
    • Edward testified that Dorothy threw vases and lamps at him and would not engage in sexual relations.
  • Edward moved out, and eventually filed for divorce. He also wanted the house sold and the profits split.
    • Edward claimed constructive abandonment and cruel and inhuman treatment.
  • Dorothy countered that she didn’t abandon Williams or throw things at him. She requested maintenance and child support, but not a divorce.
  • The Trial Court granted the divorce, but gave the house and custody of the kids to Dorothy.
    • The Trial Court found that the marriage was ‘dead.’
  • The Appellate Court modified the judgment and refused to grant the divorce.
    • The Appellate Court found that Edward had not established constructive abandonment and cruel and inhuman treatment.
  • The New York Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The New York Supreme Court found that under New York law, a person must establish a cause of action for divorce. There were only six possible causes of action.
      • The marriage being ‘dead’ is not a cause of action.
    • The Court found that in order to establish cruel and inhuman treatment, there must be a showing of serious misconduct, not just mere incompatibility.
      • The Court noted that the longer the marriage lasted, the more serious the misconduct must be to establish cause. For a long duration, the cruelty must go to “the essence of the marriage.”
        • That’s known as the duration of the marriage rule.
        • The reason for this rule is that a divorce after a long duration marriage is likely to have more economic consequences than a short duration marriage. Since there is a disparity in division of marital property in a fault divorce, the fault needs to be greater in order to justify that disparity.
        • This rule only applies in the context of cruelty. For adultery or desertion grounds, the length of the marriage is not a factor.
  • In the past, divorce was only granted when there was fault. Cases like this one show that people trying to get a divorce often attempted to manipulate the system by alleging cruelty or some other grounds. Eventually, every State established a no-fault divorce, so people weren’t tempted to manipulate the system.