In New York, an uncontested divorce is where both spouses agree to end their marriage and have settled all of the major issues in their case, such as property division, child custody, and financial support. While you must complete and file documents to get an uncontested divorce, you typically do not have to attend a hearing to end the marriage.
An uncontested divorce is much faster and cheaper than traditional divorce—spouses can often use a DIY solution like an online divorce service. They do, though, also have the option of getting professional help.
In New York, an uncontested divorce is where both spouses agree to 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.
New York allows "no-fault" divorce, so you don't need to claim "fault-based" grounds for divorce, like adultery in cruelty. Instead, you can use the "no-fault" grounds 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).)
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 instructions are available online from the New York State courts. Or, you can use a DIY service like DivorceNet's Online Divorce, which fills out the forms for you. The basic steps are as follows.
Prepare your paperwork. The first step in obtaining your uncontested divorce in New York is to prepare your forms, including the Summons, Verified Complaint, and Settlement Agreement. If you have minor children, you must complete additional paperwork concerning child support and custody. For more information and the full list of forms, see the New York Courts website.
Purchase an index number. Next, purchase an "index number" at County Clerk's office in the county where you or your spouse lives. You must add the index number to your Summons and Verified Complaint.
Send the forms to your spouse. You must provide copies of the paperwork to your spouse, along with an Affidavit of the Defendant. If your spouse signs the Affidavit, the case can move forward. If your spouse doesn't return the signed Affidavit of Defendant to you, you will have to serve your spouse, meaning someone other than you must hand your spouse the papers. Whoever serves your spouse has to fill out an Affidavit of Service.
File with the County Clerk. File the completed papers, including the Affidavit of Defendant or Affidavit of Service, at the County Clerk's Office (in the same county where you purchased the index number). In some counties, you have the option to file online. You must pay a filing fee, but you might qualify for a fee waiver if you cannot afford it.
Finalize your divorce. 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.
You don't need to hire a lawyer to get an uncontested divorce in New York and you can represent yourself during the process. Spouses can try to handle everything themselves or use an online service that eases the process. Even though there's no court battle in an uncontested divorce, one or both spouses can hire attorneys to help them through the uncontested divorce. You might want to talk to a lawyer, for instance, if your case feels complex or you have unanswered questions.
If you choose to work with one, an attorney can give you advice on your proposed settlement, make sure you complete the paperwork correctly and see that you file your paperwork on time. Another kind of professional—a mediator—can help spouses reach agreements and prepare the paperwork that finalizes the divorce.