New York recognizes both “fault” and “no-fault” grounds for divorce. In a “fault” divorce, one spouse will claim that the other spouse engaged in some misconduct, which led to the divorce.
The fault grounds in New York include the following:
These fault grounds don't typically influence a judge’s decisions regarding alimony and property division. But other types of bad behavior, such as one spouse's waste of assets, may affect an alimony award and the final distribution of assets. In addition, courts may consider more egregious misconduct, such as a history of abuse, when making custody decisions.
In a "no-fault" divorce, there is no need to point a finger or blame your spouse for the break up. You don't have to provide a specific reason for the split and can base your divorce on any of the following grounds:
Yes. You can represent yourself, but that’s not always the best idea. If you have a very straightforward divorce case (for example, you don’t have children, don’t have many assets to divide, don’t expect to pay or receive alimony, and agree with your spouse on most issues), you may feel fairly comfortable representing yourself.
If, however, you and your spouse can’t resolve issues on your own, or if your case involves complex financial or custody issues, it’s best to consult with an experienced family law attorney. Divorce laws regarding custody, property division, and alimony (also referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance”) are complex. If you have a complicated case, but don’t know how to represent yourself and protect your rights, it would be wise to consult with an experienced professional.
Many people get divorced without the added cost of an attorney, but it's not right for everyone. To learn the basics about doing your own divorce, and the important issues you'll need to consider, see Ten Tips for a Do-It-Yourself Divorce.
You can file for divorce in New York if one of the following applies to your case:
No. In recognition of the very personal nature of divorce proceedings, New York law keeps matrimonial matters private by prohibiting the court clerks and court reporters from allowing anyone, other than spouses or their attorneys, to examine or copy any of the legal paperwork filed in divorce court (e.g., pleadings, affidavits, findings of fact, conclusions of law, judgments of dissolution, and written agreements of separation).
It’s impossible to predict how much a divorce will cost, but a few things are certain. First, whether or not you represent yourself, you will have to pay court fees, which are charged every time you file a petition or other legal paperwork with the court. Check the New York State Unified Court System’s website for a current list of filing fees in New York.
Second, if you hire an attorney, you (or your spouse) will have to pay attorney’s fees. Divorce lawyers in the New York area charge hourly fees that start at around $175 per hour and go up to $450 an hour for the most experienced experts in the field.
Third, if you have substantial assets, you may need to hire experts that charge hourly rates in addition to your attorney’s fees. Experts may be necessary for the following:
Additional expenses and costs may be incurred for transcripts (e.g., wirtten transcripts of depositions or court hearings), or for serving legal documents, such as subpoenas.
As you can see, various factors play a role in determining how much your divorce will cost. The more complex your case is, the more likely it is that you’ll need to hire an attorney and/or expert(s). And, if you and your spouse can't resolve divorce-related issues, you’ll probably end up in a costly court battle, which will certainly increase your legal fees. So, while it’s difficult to predict, most attorneys will agree that a highly-contested divorce with numerous issues or substantial assets can become quite expensive.