Divorce Basics

A marriage doesn't legally end until a Judge signs the Judgment of Divorce.

In New York, the Supreme Court is the only court that handles divorce cases.

You can't get a divorce in Family Court. But Family Court can help you with custody, visitation, and child support issues before you file for a divorce.

The person who files for the divorce is called the Plaintiff. The spouse (the husband or wife who the Plaintiff wants to divorce) is called the Defendant.

New York State does not recognize common law marriage except in certain situations.

If you think you have a common law marriage, get more information from a lawyer or the court before filing for a divorce.

Divorces can be uncontested or contested.

An uncontested divorce is one where the spouse (the husband or wife) doesn't argue with any aspect of the divorce. In some cases, the two spouses have a settlement agreement with the details of what was worked out.

If the spouse does not agree to the divorce, the divorce is a contested divorce. The spouse could disagree with how the property will be divided, child custody, or even the divorce itself. These kind of divorce cases can be very complicated so get more information from a lawyer or the court before filing for a divorce.

Before a Judge will sign the Judgment, all financial and parenting issues must be worked out.

If you have financial or parenting issues to work out with your spouse, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be a way to do it. ADR refers to a variety of processes where the two sides work together with a professional to find a solution.

ADR often takes place out of court and can help you save time and money and is less stressful than traditional court proceedings. There are different kinds of ADR processes. Divorce mediation and collaborative family law are two kinds of ADR processes.

ADR may not be an option for you if there is a history or fear of domestic violence or abuse.

You must meet the residency requirement and have a legally acceptable reason to get divorced in New York State.

In New York, there are residency requirements that shows that you or your spouse have lived in New York State for a certain amount of time.

You must also prove that you have grounds, a legally acceptable reason, to get divorced.

You must know where your spouse is.

New York State requires that the court papers for the divorce are personally delivered to the Defendant, your husband or wife. If you don't know where your spouse is, ask the Supreme Court Clerk's Office for more information about alternative service.


Starting a Divorce Case

Divorce cases can be very complicated and you should meet with a lawyer.

If you are filing for an uncontested divorce:

If you are filing for a contested divorce, you should meet with a lawyer. Both you and your spouse will have to go Supreme Court many times before the Judge can decide the issues you disagree about.

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