Anyone who has been through a divorce will tell you it's a difficult process, typically fraught with intense emotions and frayed nerves. Some divorces are amicable, however, and you may be able to get a divorce without much conflict. Whatever situation you find yourself in, it's important to understand the New York divorce process (at least the basics) before you take any action. This is especially true for divorces involving minor children.
The following information is intended to help you navigate the divorce process in the Empire State. Before filing for divorce, however, it may be in your best interest to consider mediation through a collaborative divorce.
Wading through pages of statutes or procedural rules is sometimes necessary to understand what you need to do, but it also helps to have resources in one place, and in plain English. Here's what you need to know and the steps you need to take to get a divorce in New York.
For New York courts to take your case, you must show that either you or your spouse have lived in New York for at least a year before you filed for divorce.
In addition to the residency requirements, you also have to show your reasons for getting a divorce. New York recognizes seven grounds on which you can ask for a divorce. These are:
A divorce is considered uncontested if one of the following two things occur:
To fill out the forms for an uncontested divorce, you will need a number of things, including:
New York courts require divorcing parties to fill out a relatively large number of forms. These forms vary depending on whether you have children.
After you make sure your forms are correct and complete, you need to file what is called a Summons and Complaint with your County Clerk's Office. Some courts allow you to file your papers over the internet using NYSCEF. Check the e-filing county list to see if your county has an e-filing system.
You must ensure that your spouse knows of the divorce case. Thus, you need to make sure they get all the divorce papers in person. This process is known as service. Service must be done within 120 days of the filing date.
Note that you, personally, can't serve your spouse. Rather, you must assign another person who is a resident of New York and who is at least 18 years old to serve your spouse.
If your spouse agrees to the divorce, they must return a completed form to you within 40 days of receiving your papers. If your spouse fails to respond, then it means your spouse has defaulted.
But if your spouse files an answer disagreeing with anything in your divorce papers, then the divorce is no longer uncontested.
If your spouse agrees to the divorce or defaults by failing to respond, the next thing you need to do is get your case on the court's calendar.
In order to get your divorce case on the calendar, you will have to fill out the remaining applicable forms (see the New York Courts' document "Introduction to Uncontested Divorce Instructions" to learn more). When you've completed the necessary forms, you can file them with the clerk.
If approved by the judge, they will issue a divorce judgment.
If your spouse disagrees with anything in your divorce papers, then the divorce will become a contested divorce. In these cases, the court will likely make decisions on the issues you and your spouse disagree on.
Unlike other states, New York doesn't have any waiting period before filing for a divorce. That means you don't have to show you have been separated for a period of time before you ask for a divorce.
The cost of getting a divorce in New York depends on whether you decide to have an attorney and how complicated your divorce is.
The initial filing fee to get a divorce in New York is $210 (as of 2020). There are also additional costs like notary services and mailing fees as the process goes on. If you don't have enough income to pay for the fee, you might qualify for a fee waiver.
Having an attorney will ensure you have the best outcome, especially if your spouse contests. But that does not mean you can't file for a divorce by yourself. The New York Unified Court System provides the resources you need to file for divorce without using an attorney.
However, if your spouse disagrees with the divorce or significant issues in the divorce, it is recommended that you speak to an experienced family law attorney.
As you can see, the New York divorce process is rather complicated. While some divorces are relatively simple, divorces involving children, complicated property division issues, or other disputes generally benefit from a legal professional's guidance.
If you need help with your divorce, consider contacting a local divorce attorney. Findlaw.com's directory provides access to lawyers across New York state, including lawyers in New York City and Buffalo.
Contact a qualified attorney.