New York Court Bars Alcoholic Wife From Her Home

A Nassau County, New York Supreme Court Justice has barred a woman from the Long Island, NY home she jointly owns with her husband, saying that she had abandoned her residence during her unexplained absences while she was struggling with alcoholism.

He granted exclusive occupancy to the husband pending the resolution of a divorce action, saying that the wife had relinquished her residence by staying away during two different periods between stays at alcohol treatment facilities.

Based upon the lengthy periods of time the wifewas living in an alternate residence, which was not necessary for her alcohol-related problems, the Court found such a time away from the marital residence to be voluntary.

The 51-year-old wife first tried to treat her alcoholism in May 2005. She has been in hospitals and rehabilitation programs at least seven times since then. In the past two years, she spent most of her time in four treatment programs while her husband, a 53-year-old self-employed businessman, stayed home and cared for their two 15-year-old daughters.

The wife returned from one treatment in Florida in February 2009. The husband advised her against returning to the family dwelling, and he rented her a nearby house. However, the judge noted that there was no testimony that the locks were changed or legal action was taken that would have prevented her from returning at that time.

It appearedto the Court that from February through July 2009 the wife did nothing to reestablish her residency in the marital home. In March 2010, the husband applied for a temporary restraining order to preventher from returning home, saying her presence would endanger their children, and filed for divorce after more than 21 years of marriage.

The judge noted that New York law gives judges the authority to grant exclusive occupancy to one party in a divorce case where the other party has established an alternative residence and her presence has caused “domestic strife” or if that action is necessary to protect the safety of persons and property.

The judge observed that New York courts generally do not grant exclusive possession to one party without a showing that the spouse’s presence is dangerous. However, he added that the standard should not be “so inflexible” as to exclude other circumstances. Here, he said that the wife’s unexplained absences in the intervals between treatment presented such a justification.

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