Your Long Island Divorce: The Basics

When you said “I DO,” you thought your marriage would be longer than the Long Island Railroad. After several years, however, it started to derail and you can’t seem to get your relationship back on track. If you are considering filing for divorce, it’s important to know your rights and understand the basics of your Long Island divorce.

This article provides information on filing for divorce in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Check that You Meet the Residency Requirements

Before you can proceed with your divorce in Long Island you need to meet certain residency requirements. That means you must have lived in the State of New York for a required period of time.

Decide the Legal Grounds for Your Divorce

“Grounds” are the legal reasons for which a court may grant a divorce. The grounds for divorce in Long Island are as follows:

  • “No Fault” (AKA “Irretrievable Breakdown of the Relationship”): Your relationship with your spouse has been broken for at least 6 months and it cannot be repaired. If you use this reason, you are not blaming your spouse for the relationship ending.
  • Cruel and Inhuman treatment: Your physical and mental health will be in danger if you continue living with your spouse. An example of such treatment is recent and continued abuse. You will have to explain your spouse’s behavior in detail and how it affected you, if you chose this justification for divorce.
  • Abandonment: Your spouse kicked you out of the house or he or she left the house without your consent, has been gone for at least one year, and does not plan to return.
  • Imprisonment: Your spouse was incarcerated for 3 or more continuous years during the marriage. You cannot claim imprisonment as the cause of divorce if your spouse was released more than 5 years before you file for divorce.
  • Adultery: Your spouse had sex with another person during the marriage. This ground is rarely used because there are specific legal requirements you must prove.
  • Separation Agreement: You and your spouse have not lived together for at least one year, you have a notarized Agreement of Separation, and you have followed the conditions of the agreement.
  • Judgment of Separation: You and your spouse have not lived together for a year, you have a Judgment of Separation, and you have abided by all requirements in the Judgment.

Open Your Divorce Case in Long Island

The first step to opening a divorce case in Long lsland is filing a Summons and Complaint or Summons With Notice with the County Clerk’s Office. At a minimum, you will need to file a Summons With Notice to start your case. A Complaint states the grounds for the divorce and requests orders you want the judge to make about your property, children, and financial support. There may be a legal strategy for initially filing one type of paperwork instead of the other, and an attorney may be able to help figure out which to use.

There is a fee to file the divorce paperwork, but it can be waived if you meet certain low-income qualifications. You will encounter additional court costs later in the divorce process, which generally vary depending on the level of judicial involvement in the case.

You may be eligible for a default divorce if your spouse fails to respond to the paperwork. In a default judgment, the court may hold a hearing where you testify about your grounds for divorce and any court orders you requested. If your spouse objects to the divorce, or any proposed orders, he or she must file a notice contesting the divorce.

Consider Alternatives to a Contested Divorce: A contested divorce can be prolonged and expensive, but there are alternate methods that may expedite the process and save some costs.

  • Uncontested divorce: An uncontested divorce is an option if you and your spouse both want the divorce and agree on what will happen to your children, property, and other financial issues after the divorce. There are self-help resources available to assist with dissolving your marriage through uncontested divorce.
  • Mediation: Spouses who opt for mediation meet with a neutral professional to discuss areas of disagreement in an attempt to create a divorce settlement. Both Nassau and Suffolk counties (10th Judicial District) offer free or low-cost mediation services.
  • Collaborative Divorce: In Collaborative Divorce, specially-trained attorneys represent you and your spouse spouse and all parties meet together to address issues needed to resolve the divorce. As with mediation, the goal is to develop a divorce agreement.

Trial on the Disputed Issues

If you are unable to reach an agreement through negotiation, the judge will set a trial date to hear evidence on the disputed issues. Before the trial, you will need to attend a mandatory conference and exchange required paperwork. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge may make long-term orders on several issues, including the following:

Next Steps: Free Case Review

Breakups of any kind are usually stressful and emotionally challenging. A divorce, which is the legal termination of a marriage, can be lengthy, legally complex, and downright overwhelming. An attorney can help explain your rights and suggest the best legal course for your situation. Get started today with a free case review by a family law attorney in Long Island.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.