How Long Will No Fault Divorce Take to Be Finalized for New York?
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
While New York allows couples to divorce on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the divorce process will move faster if the couple can put aside their differences and reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce. Further, couples may not even begin the divorce process unless the marriage has been broken for six months or more and at least one spouse meets the residency requirements for the state.
In 2010, New York became the last state in the country to pass no-fault divorce legislation. Prior to 2010, couples could only divorce if they had fault grounds or if the couple was separated for at least a year. Fault grounds, such as adultery or cruelty, placed the blame for the breakdown of the marriage on one spouse. Couples who could not place blame on one spouse could only divorce if they executed a separation agreement, which could be converted to a divorce after a full year. Couples in New York may now divorce if the marriage is irretrievably broken. The new grounds do not place blame on either spouse, and do not require a year of separation, but the divorce complaint must state that the marriage has been broken for at least six months.
To get a divorce in New York, you must meet requirements for grounds, as well as residency. You may file for divorce if you or your spouse has lived in the state for at least two years. If you got married in New York or lived in the state as a married couple, you may file for divorce if you or your spouse lived in the state continuously for the last year prior to filing. Further, if your marriage became irretrievably broken while living in New York, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state, while the length of residency is irrelevant.
Although you may file for a no-fault divorce, it does not necessarily mean that the divorce is uncontested. An uncontested divorce means that the couple agrees on the grounds for divorce and they have reached a settlement agreement that provides the terms of the divorce, including property division, spousal support, child support and custody. A divorce is initiated by filing a Complaint with the court and serving it on your spouse. Your spouse may waive formal service of the Complaint and the 40-day waiting period to have the matter scheduled for a hearing. The court will schedule a hearing to review the settlement agreement, after which the divorce will be finalized.
When a divorce is contested, the process will be considerably longer. After the initial complaint is filed, the spouse who filed has up to 120 days to serve the other spouse. After which, the other spouse has 20 days to respond to the divorce complaint. The spouses must attend a preliminary conference to determine the schedule for discovery, which allows the spouses to exchange information. Next, the court may schedule a compliance conference to see how discovery is progressing. The discovery process may last up to six months, after which the court will schedule a trial to finalize the divorce. However, the couple may reach a settlement agreement at any point throughout the process to finalize the divorce without going to trial.
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."