Divorce Basics

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

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

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

The person who files for the divorce is called the Plaintiff. The spouse (the person 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, speak with a lawyer or the court before filing for a divorce.

Divorces can be uncontested or contested.

An uncontested divorce is one where the spouse agrees with all parts of the divorce. In some cases, the spouses have a settlement agreement that explains what they have agreed on.

If the spouse does not agree to divorce, the divorce is contested. There are many reasons why a spouse might not agree to a divorce. The spouse could disagree with how property will be divided, who will be responsible for debt, child custody, or even the divorce itself. Contested divorces can be very complicated.

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

If you have money or parenting issues to work out with your spouse, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may help. ADR refers to a variety of processes where both sides work together with a professional to find a solution.

ADR often takes place outside of court and can help you save time and money. It can also be less stressful than traditional court proceedings.

There are different kinds of ADR processes. Divorce mediation and collaborative family law are two kinds. ADR may not be an option for you if there is a history or fear of domestic violence or abuse.

To get divorced in New York State, you must meet residency and grounds requirements.

To get a divorce in New York State, residency is required. This means that you or your spouse must have lived in New York State for a certain amount of time.

You must also prove that there is a legally acceptable reason to get a divorce. This is called grounds.

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 spouse. 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 complicated. It is always a good idea to speak with an attorney about your specific case, before filing any papers with the court.

If you are filing for an uncontested divorce and have no children under 21, you can use the DIY Uncontested Divorce Program to make your papers.

If you are filing for an uncontested divorce and have children under 21, use the paper Uncontested Divorce Packet.

If you are filing for a contested divorce, it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer. Usually, for a contested divorce you and your spouse will have to go Supreme Court several times before the Judge can decide the issues you disagree with.

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