Money is one of the most common reasons a couple delays filing for an uncontested divorce in New York. Divorce is seldom simple. But New York offers a less costly alternative to hiring a divorce lawyer for an uncontested divorce.
Filing for Divorce: The Alternative to Hiring a Lawyer
Instead of hiring a divorce lawyer, New York residents have an option for do-it-yourself divorce. You obtain a copy of the uncontested divorce packet at the county clerk’s office where you live. The packet itself is free, but they charge a fee for copying.
Do not feel overwhelmed by what looks like a paperwork overload. It is simpler than it looks. Inside the larger packet is a smaller one with filing instructions. A glossary of terms makes it easier for the average person to understand.
Couples on public assistance or those earning less than $400 per week can save money by claiming “Forma pauperis” status. You can also opt to request help from the public defender’s office or the legal aid society in your county. They may be helpful if you are unable to afford the cost of filing fees in New York. When you first file, you receive an index number or case number that appears on all documents related to your case.
Causes for Divorce
New York requires you to cite a cause when filing for divorce. For an uncontested divorce, if it applies, choose one of the two forms of abandonment. This is probably your best bet.
- Continuous Abandonment
The respondent has been absent the home for a year with no intention of returning, or
The respondent has been absent from the marital home for at least three years due to incarceration.
- Constructive Abandonment
Constructive abandonment occurs when a spouse refuses to engage in sexual relations with the other spouse for a minimum of one year.
The Divorce Packet
Approximately 60 percent of the information in the packet contains paperwork involving children: child support, child custody, and visitation. If you have no children, you may remove this paperwork from the packet. This makes for a faster, easier divorce.
Once you complete the paperwork and file with the court, you can expect to move forward in sixty to ninety days. This depends upon your spouse agreeing to the “affidavit of defendant,” admitting to summons and complaint papers, and exercising a waiver of any other paperwork included in the divorce action. The courts permit them to receive a copy of the final divorce decree.
The petitioner may draw up an agreement concerning property division for the other spouse to sign. This agreement must include child support payments; distribution of personal assets or profits from the sale of personal assets; and other assets such as jewelry, cars, real estate, etc. You then send the agreement to the court together with the second part of the divorce packet.
The Final Step
Once your spouse receives their portion of the divorce petition to sign and notarize, the court allows them 40 days to reply. If they do not respond, you can file a “default” status.
After you sign and file all the paperwork in the divorce packet, the court provides the final divorce order. You then file for a Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage. The county clerk’s office enters the signed judgement, and your divorce will be complete. You are now legally single.