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Intricacies of Divorce in New York: What to Expect from the Process

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Published on
22 January 2021

Navigating the twists and turns of getting a divorce in the Empire State

When faced with the end of a marriage, the foremost question on many New Yorkers' minds is how long the divorce process will take. The truth is, it varies. In New York, the timeline hinges on whether you're looking at a contested or uncontested divorce.


In an uncontested divorce, things can move swiftly—if both parties can amicably settle differences and agree on matters concerning children and finances. With cooperation and efficient legal counsel, this type of divorce can be resolved in just a few weeks.


On the other hand, contested divorces, where court intervention is needed to hash out disputes, take much longer and are significantly costlier. The process kicks off when one spouse files a legal action and then serves the other spouse within 120 days. The served spouse has 20 to 30 days to respond. The courts aim to wrap up standard contested divorces within a year from the Request for Judicial Intervention, giving more complex cases additional time. Despite the complexities, many of these cases do settle before reaching trial. However, if settlement proves elusive, a trial date is set, and the courts take over the decision-making process.


Responding to a Divorce Summons: Time is of the Essence


In New York, a tight 20-day window is all you have to respond to a divorce summons. This means you need to promptly secure a divorce attorney who aligns with your needs and can navigate your case with the skill and respect you deserve.


The Early Bird Gets the Worm: Early Stages of Divorce


The initial stages of divorce are critical, particularly when it comes to finances. Once the word 'divorce' is in the air, financial documents have a way of vanishing. Quick action is crucial to preserve financial information. Experienced New York family attorneys can be invaluable during this time, ensuring confidential communication and the recovery of any missing documents.


Discovery: The Financial Fact-Finding Mission


In contested divorces, financial discovery can be arduous. Both sides exchange detailed inquiries (interrogatories) and requests for financial documents, which must be answered truthfully under oath. Divorce attorneys may also issue subpoenas to third parties for additional information. These efforts culminate in depositions, where individuals are questioned under oath by attorneys, a process meticulously documented by a court reporter.


Adultery's Impact on Divorce Proceedings


Although New York practices "no-fault" divorce, meaning the reasons behind the dissolution of marriage don't usually sway the division of assets, there are exceptions. For example, if a spouse has squandered marital funds on an affair, the court may compensate the other spouse in the division of assets. Likewise, inappropriate conduct in front of children by a spouse can influence custody decisions.


The Road to Court: Preparing for Litigation


Law firms like Hannon De Palma pride themselves on preparing clients for all stages of divorce litigation. From clarifying the discovery process to walking clients through each court appearance, they ensure you understand each step. This comprehensive preparation, while aimed at settling before trial, equips you for court should it become necessary.


To Litigate or Negotiate: Deciding the Best Course


While negotiation is less costly than trial and offers more control over the outcome, sometimes litigation is unavoidable. It's generally reserved for when the disputed amounts justify the expense, and there's confidence in a successful outcome. Experienced divorce litigators can often narrow down the trial issues, focusing only on the most contentious points.


Divorce is undeniably complex, but with the right approach and legal support, navigating the process can be made clearer and more manageable, paving the way to a new beginning.

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