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 may be procured 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 in which minor children are involved.
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.
New York Divorce Process: The Basics
Wading through pages of statutes or procedural rules is sometimes necessary to understand what you need to do, but it also helps to have pertinent resources in one place -- and in plain English. The helpful chart below has links to forms that you will need to get through the divorce process in New York.
New York Domestic Relations Law DOM § 170, et seq.
Required Documents for an Uncontested Divorce
Note: The exact forms you will need for your divorce depend on your specific situation (for instance, some of the forms pertain to minor children).
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
New York Divorce Process: Step-by-Step
No two divorces are exactly the same, but the following steps will give you a roadmap of what to expect:
1. Prepare and File the Necessary Forms
New York courts require divorcing parties to fill out a relatively large number of forms, beginning with Form UD-1 (or UD-1a) and Form UD-2. Make two additional copies of these forms before filing them in the county in which you or your spouse live. You will be assigned an index number (which will be added to your forms) and charged a $210 filing fee. If you qualify for a "Poor Person's Waiver," you won't have to pay the fee.
2. Serve the Forms on Your Spouse
An adult (18 years old) resident of New York State must personally serve the initial documents discussed above, a copy of the "Child Support Standards Chart," and a copy of Form UD-7 with form instructions to the other party (your spouse). This must be cone within 120 days of the filing date.
3. Response by Your Spouse
If your spouse agrees to the divorce, they must return a completed Form UD-7 to you within 40 days of receipt. If your spouse fails to complete this form, then the individual who served the documents will need to prepare a copy of Form UD-3 (in addition to Form UD-4 if the marriage was commenced in a religious ceremony, a copy of which must be sent to your spouse).
But if your spouse disagrees with anything in your divorce papers, it is no longer uncontested.
4. Get Your Case on the Court Calendar
In order to get your 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.
Research the Law
New York Divorce Process: Related Resources
Seeking Divorce in New York? An Attorney Can Help
As you can see, the New York divorce process is rather complicated, even where a divorce is uncontested. 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 New York divorce, consider contacting a local divorce attorney.
Contact a qualified attorney.