What is the Process for Divorce in New York?

What is the Process for Divorce in New York?

Steps to Take When You've Decided to UN-tie the Knot

The process of getting a divorce in New York can be daunting. The trained professionals at Venn Mediation can make things easier. From walking you through the steps, and the necessary paperwork and calculations, to helping find an agreement that works for you. Mediation can make the negotiation of terms easier and less painful, keeping conversations productive and focused on what is important. You and your spouse remain in-the-know and in the driver’s seat of your divorce. The result is a better outcome that can save a huge amount of time, money and heartache.

By Ehsan Ali and Alnoor Maherali

So you’ve given it your best effort, and your marriage just isn’t working anymore. When you’ve decided to divorce, you’re likely experiencing a range of emotions: sadness over the coming separation, optimism for your life going forward, and anxiety over the next steps in the process. Hopefully we can alleviate some of that anxiety. If you and your spouse reside in New York State, what follows is a helpful guide about steps to take and things to think about when you’ve decided to UN-tie the knot. And if you pursue mediation, Venn Mediation can help you think through the steps and help find an arrangement that works for both of you. Note: this is information, not legal advice. For legal advice, contact an attorney licensed in your state.  

The first question is whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested.  A contested divorce simply means there is some disagreement about the divorce.  Either one person does not want to get divorced or both people can’t agree to the terms of the divorce (perhaps property division, spousal maintenance, child support or custody arrangements).  

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree that the marriage is not working.  And the grounds for divorce you’ll typically use in these circumstances is “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” lasting more than six months. This is often the easiest approach but requires agreement on all aspects of the divorce – including the financial elements and co-parenting arrangements.

In terms of the process, both contested and uncontested divorces start similarly.  If you are the person seeking a divorce in New York State, you will do so by filing paperwork in New York State Supreme Court – not family court (though you can go there for disputes concerning co-parenting issues later on).   Once you file, you will have to “serve notice” – the court has specific rules about how to get the papers to your spouse –  within 120 days of filing.  After you serve your spouse, they will have 20 days after service of the complaint to respond.  Their response will differ depending on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. 

Uncontested Divorce - Once your spouse has responded, you will submit a separation agreement together for the court’s approval, as well as various other paperwork (income, maintenance, child support, etc.) to allow the court to review the agreement for fairness.   The time it will take to get the court’s approval is based on the court’s availability, schedule and backlog.  In the COVID-19 era, this means that you’re facing more of a delay than usual as the courts are dealing with reduced capacity and a significant backlog of cases.  So you’ll have to figure out how things are going to work both before and after your divorce is finalized by the court. 

Contested Divorce - You should expect this process to take even longer, be significantly more expensive and much more emotionally taxing than an uncontested divorce.  Also, in a contested divorce, there may be the added complication of temporary spousal maintenance payments for the period while the divorce is ongoing.  This will extend until the divorce is finalized – and could be a period of years until you reach a judgment or settlement of all aspects of your divorce.  Contested divorces move even more slowly than uncontested divorces in the era of COVID-19. 

Whether you’re currently in contentious divorce proceedings or trying to minimize the risk of a costly contentious divorce, using mediation to reach a separation agreement gives you the most control and best opportunity to seek what is important to you. Mediation can help you and your former partner get on the same page on both the financial and co-parenting aspects of a divorce.  Using mediation to turn what could have been a contested divorce into an uncontested divorce, you can save a huge amount of time, money and heartache.  And if you have children, you can better maintain a civil and functional relationship as co-parents.   

Whether you find yourself in a contested divorce or are looking for the best way to separate from your spouse;  you might be amazed about what is possible through mediation.  Venn Mediation is capable of assisting even in contentious situations where both people are represented by lawyers. Divorce is never easy, but it can be made easier through mediation.  Venn Mediation is based in New York, but we are experts in online mediation and can work with people anywhere. When you’re ready, let us walk you through the steps of your divorce. We would love to help.

This information is current as of April 28, 2021.

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