There are generally two types of divorce available in most states: contested and uncontested. A “contested divorce” means that the spouses don’t agree on some or all aspects of the divorce so that a judge must hold a trial, hear witness testimony, and make decisions about who “wins” and who “loses.” In contrast, in an uncontested divorce (sometimes called a mutual divorce in New York), the spouses agree on all of the issues required to end their marriage, so there’s no need for the judge to hold a trial.
This article discusses uncontested divorce in New York. If you have further questions regarding whether or how to obtain an uncontested divorce in New York, you should consult with a New York divorce lawyer.
In New York, an uncontested divorce is where both spouses agree to a end their marriage and have settled all of the divorce-related issues in their case, such as division of property and alimony. In New York, you and your spouse also have to agree on the “grounds” or reason for your divorce.
Before 2010, New York only had “fault-based” grounds for divorce, like adultery or cruelty. In 2010, the law changed to allow for the “no-fault” ground of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least six months before filing for divorce. “Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” means that you and your spouse no longer want to be married, and it’s not likely that you and your spouse will get back together. (N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 170 (7).) Irretrievable breakdown is the most common ground used to obtain an uncontested divorce in New York.
The benefits of an uncontested divorce in New York are many. Because you and your spouse have already agreed on everything, there is no need for a trial. Since there’s no trial, there’s no need to “air your dirty laundry” in public, which makes the process much quicker and less expensive than a contested divorce.
You also don’t necessarily need a lawyer to get an uncontested divorce in New York. However, lawyers can assist spouses in negotiating an agreement, can ensure the accuracy of the paperwork, and file the documents timely.
In New York, you can file for an uncontested divorce when you and your spouse agree about the following:
To able to file for divorce in New York, you also have to satisfy the “residency requirements” of the law, meaning either:
Even though an uncontested divorce in New York is quicker than a contested divorce, it is still a long and sometimes complicated process with a lot of paperwork. Luckily, all of the necessary forms with step by step step-by-step instructions are available online from the New York State courts.
Complete the necessary divorce paperwork
You will need to complete the following papers to obtain an uncontested divorce in New York:
The first step in obtaining your uncontested divorce in New York is to prepare the Summons With Notice or Summons and Verified Complaint and make two copies. Then, bring it to the County Clerk’s Office where you have to purchase an “index number,” which is just a file number assigned to your divorce, and place it on the Summons With Notice or Summons and Verified Complaint before filing it with the Clerk.
Serve your spouse
Next, your spouse has to sign the Affidavit of Defendant. You can give this form to your spouse with the Summons With Notice or Summons and Verified Complaint and the Notice of Automatic Orders. You should also provide your spouse with a copy of the instructions on how to fill out the Affidavit of Defendant. Your spouse has to send the completed form back to you before the court places your case on the court calendar. Once your spouse completes and returns the form to you, you can place your case on the court’s calendar immediately.
If your spouse doesn’t return the Affidavit of Defendant to you, you will have to serve your spouse, meaning someone other than you must hand your spouse the papers. If you and your spouse have children under age 21 together, you also have to serve a copy of the Child Support Standards Chart. Whoever serves your spouse has to fill out an Affidavit of Service. Once you serve your spouse, you will have to wait 40 days to place your case on the court’s calendar.
Obtain an appearance date
“Placing your case on the court’s calendar” means that you get a court date. However, to get this date, you have to complete the following steps.
First, you have to complete Forms UD-3 through UD-13. If you and your spouse have children together under age 18, you also have to complete the Addendum Form 840M. You also must complete the Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage, the postcard, and the Divorce and Child Support Summary Form, if applicable. Then, you take all of these completed forms, along with a copy of the Summons With Notice or the Summons and Verified Complaint, and file everything at the County Clerk’s Office and pay your filing fee.
Your next step is to submit all of your paperwork to the judge. The judge will review the documents and, if approved, will sign the Judgment of Divorce. After the judge signs the Judgment of Divorce, you have to file and enter it in the County Clerk’s Office. This process differs depending on the county in which you file, so ask the County Clerk in your county for specific instructions. Lastly, you must serve a copy of the signed and entered Judgment of Divorce on your now ex-spouse along with a completed Notice of Entry.
For instructions and forms required for filing an uncontested divorce, check out the New York State Unified Courts’ Divorce resources webpage.