On average, the resolution of an uncontested divorce takes approximately three months. Of course, this will vary depending on the circumstances. Some proceedings go very smoothly and may be settled in as little as six weeks. More complicated cases may take over a year to sort out. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” timeline because there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all divorce.
What’s the Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce?
A contested divorce simply means that the parties do not agree on the terms of the divorce. In other words, they contest the proposed terms of the divorce or they may be opposed to the divorce altogether. When a divorce is contested, it typically requires lawyers, a trial, witness testimony, and a judge who will determine who will get what they want and who will not.
An uncontested divorce (also known as a mutual divorce) means that both spouses are agreeing not only to end the marriage, but on all the terms of the divorce. An uncontested divorce usually means that a trial is not needed and a judge does not need to be involved.
What Might Delay the Uncontested Divorce Process?
Just because a couple decides to proceed with an uncontested divorce doesn’t mean it will go smoothly or quickly. In many circumstances, couples that claim they’ve “agreed on everything” rarely agree on anything! This leads to litigation, court, additional legal fees, and will greatly increase the duration of the divorce process.
Even an uncontested divorce can take a long time if the paperwork is filed late or incorrectly. This is where an experienced attorney can help.
The timeline may also depend on the county where you file, the calendar of the court, and the cooperation between the spouses. Other points that may cause conflict include property, investment/retirement assets, or other items of significant value.
Perhaps most importantly, there may be a far more important factor to consider: children. The presence of children can make the divorce process not only much longer, but also emotionally exhausting.
How Long Will My Divorce Take in New York?
As mentioned, the average divorce process in New York state typically lasts 3 months if uncontested, and 9 months if it is contested. With so many specific factors, it is difficult to predict just how long your divorce might take to be finalized, even if it is completely uncontested.
Let’s break down the steps of the New York divorce process and see if we can get a better understanding of why it can take so long and how you can help speed up your proceedings.
Uncontested Divorce Process in New York
The following is a typical outline for New York’s uncontested divorce process. Before you consider filing for divorce, you must fulfil two conditions. First, there are residency requirements which you can read more about in the official resources.
Second, in New York, not only do you and your spouse need to agree on the terms of the divorce, but you must also agree on the motives behind the legal dissolution of your marriage.
There are seven “grounds”, or reasons accepted by the court, for any divorce:
- Cruel & Inhumane Treatment
- Divorce after a Legal Separation
- Divorce after a Judgement of Separation
- Irretrievable Breakdown
Also known as “no-fault”, an Irretrievable Breakdown means that you and your spouse have been in agreement that your marriage is over for at least six months. In addition, all financial issues related to property and assets, as well as matters pertaining to any children have been mutually decided upon. This would be the grounds most applicable to an uncontested divorce.
After deciding to get a divorce, the next thing you need to do is hire a divorce lawyer. In most cases, though, this is easier said th...
Step 1: Filing
To start the process, a summons must be filed with the office of the county clerk. A summons is an announcement that lets a defendant know that a complaint has been filed against them. A summons with a notice simply means the filing of a specific complaint is yet to come.
Conveniently, these forms may be filed over the internet in some counties. You’ll need to confirm that your county has e-filing as an option. Here are the important things to know when filing:
- The person initiating the proceedings and lodging the complaint is known as the Plaintiff.
- The person being served the summons is called the Defendant.
- Filing requires the purchase of an Index Number or Case Number.
- If finances are a concern when considering the fees involved, you may apply for a waiver.
- If you and your spouse agree that the marriage has, for all intents and purposes, been over for at least six months AND if there are no minor children involved, you may opt to use the “DIY Uncontested Divorce Program” to file.
Step 2: Serving
Serving simply means that the defendant, or the person not initiating the divorce, must be made aware that the process has begun. This is done by “serving” the summons and any relevant paperwork to the defendant in person.
Once the summons is filed with the court, the plaintiff has three months to arrange for the delivery of the documents. However, the plaintiff cannot deliver the news themselves. Someone else must “serve” the defendant. That person must be over the age of 18 and must then submit an Affidavit of Service to prove they carried out the delivery according to the law.
Step 3: Defendant’s Response
Once the defendant has been served, they have three options for a response:
- The defendant agrees to the divorce and signs an “Affidavit of Defendant.” Because there is no dispute, the process can move on to the next step.
- The defendant “answers” by serving the plaintiff. This means they contest the divorce. Since it is no longer uncontested, you will want to consult with a lawyer for the next move.
- If the defendant doesn’t respond within 40 days of being served it is considered a “default” and the process moves on.
Step 4: Calendaring
If the defendant agrees or does not respond, the process moves on to the calendaring stage. This means the case is ready for review by a judge. There are a slew of documents that must be filled out, notarized, and submitted. These papers are usually filed with the county clerk, but you’ll want to double-check your county’s procedures. There is, of course, a fee for filing these papers of around $125.
Again, if there are no children involved, you may choose to use the DIY Uncontested Divorce Program.
Step 5: Judgment
If all of the papers have been filled out and filed correctly and the judge determines the divorce is truly uncontested, they will sign the “Judgment of Divorce.” You may need to pick up the final judgement documents and file them with the county clerk’s office yourself. be sure to check with your county. Finally, the defendant must be served again. This time, a copy of the judgement and another Affidavit of Service must be filed.
So, How Fast Can I Get A No-Fault Divorce In NY?
If both parties truly, mutually agree to move forward through the divorce process, you can apply for a no-fault, uncontested divorce. Some major issues to agree upon before attempting to file for a no-fault divorce include:
- equitable distribution/division of all property;
- the payment or waiver of spousal support;
- the payment of child support;
- the payment of attorney and expert fees and expenses; and
- custody and visitation agreements regarding any minor children.
In a perfect world, the process is smooth and complete in as little as six weeks. If the are mistakes or disagreements, divorces can take months or even years to settle. It all depends on the specific circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable attorney can help ensure the process is completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
With so many steps and so many potential stumbling blocks, it is obvious why most divorce proceedings take more than three months. Although there are plenty of free or inexpensive programs to help you file for divorce online, if you think you may have a difficult or complex situation, your best bet is to get a lawyer. If you and your spouse are truly on the same page about every single issue, you may be able to complete the divorce process quickly and move on with the next stage of your life.