The divorce process can be quite lengthy, often resulting in serious stress, huge expenses, and tarnished relationships. For this reason, when dealing with a divorce, it’s in your best interest to have a White Plains, NY Uncontested Divorce Lawyer by your side, to help you navigate this difficult period of your life.
An uncontested divorce is one where there are no disagreements between the couple on almost all issues, including child support, custody, debt allocation, division of property, and spousal maintenance. The divorcing spouses can typically navigate the process quickly, cheaply, and seamlessly. Since they avoid litigating in court, they can move on with their lives sooner.
If you and your partner are looking to divorce amicably and avoid traditional divorce proceedings, you should get in touch with our law office to talk to an experienced lawyer about an uncontested divorce. Just as with all family law matters, an uncontested divorce can be complex, which is why working with an uncontested divorce lawyer is critical.
At Douglas Family Law Group, we have a team of experienced divorce attorneys who can guide and advise you on your best options. Our team is highly experienced in all areas of New York family law and is committed to making sure you get the best possible results from your separation.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is a divorce process where both partners come to a mutual agreement on nearly all matters regarding the divorce. In other words, both parties have agreed to end the marriage, and have settled all of the major issues of the case, including child custody, property division, and financial support.
Since these issues have been settled, there’s no need to litigate them in court, making the divorce process much faster and cheaper compared to a contested divorce. In most cases, a judge will simply sign off on the agreed terms of the divorce and then issue a final decree of divorce.
What Are the Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce?
To be granted an uncontested divorce in New York, you and your spouse have to agree on the “grounds” or the reason for filing a divorce. New York state laws allow for a “no-fault” divorce, meaning you don’t have to claim “fault-based” grounds like abandonment and adultery for divorce.
Agreement on No-Fault Grounds
Previously, New York followed a fault-based system as grounds for divorce. In 2010, new legislation was enacted to allow for no-fault grounds for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least 6 months before filing for a divorce.
The “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” refers to a situation where you and your spouse no longer want to be married, and there’s no likelihood that you will work things out.
As long as you have been separated from your spouse for 6 or more months, you can request your White Plains, NY uncontested divorce attorney to claim this basis for a no-fault divorce. This is the most common ground for divorce used in New York. It’s also the most cost-effective approach.
Agreement on Major Issues
You can file for an uncontested divorce in New York when you and your spouse agree on the following elements:
- The desire for the divorce
- The grounds for divorce
- Property division
- Child support
- Child visitation
An uncontested divorce might not be possible if any of the key issues listed above are a topic of dispute. In case you cannot reach an agreement for an uncontested divorce, then a contested divorce will be your final option.
Also note that to qualify for a divorce in New York, you must meet the “residency requirements” outlined by the law.
You or your partner must have been living in New York for at least 2 years continuously immediately before you filed for divorce.
You or your spouse must have lived in New York for a minimum of one year continuously before you file for the divorce, and you got married in New York or lived in New York as a married couple, or the grounds for your divorce happened in New York.
At the Douglas Family Law Group, we can help determine if you meet the requirements for an uncontested divorce and guide you through the process.
How Do You Get an Uncontested Divorce?
While an uncontested divorce in New York tends to be quicker and cheaper than a contested divorce, it can still be a long and tedious process, involving a lot of paperwork and complications. Fortunately, a lawyer can help guide you through filing the necessary paperwork and all the proper steps.
The first step is establishing that you have a legally acceptable reason (grounds) to file for divorce. For instance, if you’re filing for divorce following a separation agreement, you must ensure that you have a written agreement that meets the legal requirements.
You and your partner must sign the agreement in front of a notary, file it in the proper court, and then live apart according to the terms of the agreement for at least a year before filing for the divorce. If you’re filing for a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to write a separation agreement.
Fill and Submit the Proper Paperwork
For uncontested divorces in New York, you need to file forms such as the Uniform Uncontested Divorce Packet. Many of these forms can be quite complex, and we suggest working with an attorney.
If you do choose to file the forms on your own, remember to ask the court to keep your address confidential, especially if you have been abused by your spouse. Be sure to also ask the clerk for some help with this, such as by not putting your address on these forms.
Keep in mind that you may need to pay certain fees when filing for a divorce. For instance, you have to buy an “index number” at your local county clerk’s office. If you cannot afford the fees at any stage of the process, you could ask the clerk for an application to proceed as a poor person. If you meet their criteria, you might not have to pay the fees.
Send the Forms to Your Spouse
You have to send copies of the completed paperwork to your ex-spouse, as well as an Affidavit of the Defendant. Once your ex-spouse signs this Affidavit, the case will move forward.
If your spouse fails to return the signed Affidavit of Defendant to you, then you may have to serve them, which means that someone other than you will have to hand over the papers to the spouse. The person who serves your spouse will also have to fill out an Affidavit of Service.
File With the County Clerk
The next step is to file the completed paperwork, including the Affidavit of Defendant and the Affidavit of Service at your local County Clerk’s office. This should ideally be the same county where you bought the index number. In some counties, you get the option to file online.
If you are having trouble communicating with your ex-partner or are yet to iron out some issues, you can participate in mediation to resolve these issues. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between both parties in the hopes of reaching an agreement. It’s quite common in uncontested divorce cases.
Once the spouses agree, the mediator will essentially draft an agreement that will be presented to the court, and the judge can sign it into a divorce order. In case either party disagrees with a contested issue, the mediator will send them back to the court for resolution.
Finalize the Divorce
The judge will then review your documents, and if they are approved, he/she will sign the Judgement of Divorce. Once the judge has signed the Judgment of Divorce, you will have to enter and file it with the County Clerk’s Office. This process will differ based on the county where you file, so be sure to ask the County Clerk in your county for specific instructions.
Finally, you need to serve a copy of the signed Judgment of Divorce to your ex-partner, as well as a completed Notice of Entry.
It’s worth noting that if you are served with divorce papers by your partner and you don’t agree with the terms that they are asking for in the divorce, you can contest the divorce by filing a Notice of Appearance in court within 20 days of the service. You can also hire a lawyer to do this for you. The Notice of Appearance essentially informs the court that you intend to participate in the divorce proceedings.
What Are the Differences Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce?
Perhaps the most significant difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce is the cost and time involved in the legal process. While it should probably cost the same to file either type of divorce, those going through the contested divorce will be more likely to spend more money and time on attorney fees and expert witnesses, compared to couples who agree on most of the issues.
Grounds for Divorce
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree the marriage is broken and wish to move on. As long as you have been separated from your spouse for 6 or more months, you have valid grounds for a no-fault divorce.
At-fault divorce usually means that one spouse files for divorce alleging that the other partner engaged in one or more of the grounds that would justify the legal dissolution of the marriage under New York Law.
Inhuman treatment: A spouse may file for divorce on the grounds of inhuman treatment. This includes emotional abuse, physical abuse, and other conduct that endangers the mental or physical well-being of the spouse.
Abandonment: A spouse may file for divorce if the other spouse has abandoned him/her for a period of one or more years.
Imprisonment: Imprisonment is grounds for divorce if one spouse has been imprisoned for a period of 3 or more consecutive years after the marriage.
Separation: Spouses can file for divorce on the grounds of a written separation agreement or a separation judgment if they have been staying separate and apart for at least a year. The spouses may have to prove that they have been fulfilling all the terms and conditions of their separation agreement.
Adultery: This is the most common ground for an at-fault divorce, and it involves the claim that a spouse has engaged in sexual contact with another person other than the wife or husband.
Time to Finalize
Time is a key difference between contested and uncontested divorces. Uncontested divorces typically finish relatively quickly. But, the term “quick” in divorce cases might mean a long time, based on the county and courthouse. An uncontested divorce will also not require discovery, a trial, or other time-consuming legal processes. This means that the legal fees will be much less.
Another major difference between the two types of divorces is the extent to which an outcome is appealable. In uncontested divorces, both parties consent to the arrangement, meaning that the divorce settlement terms are not appealable. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean the parties get stuck with the agreement forever.
In case circumstances change significantly, or once a given period has passed, you can be allowed to modify the agreement. But since both parties will be making the decisions themselves, they will be more likely to be okay with the outcome of the proceedings.
Who Makes the Decision
In contested divorces that fail to settle, the judge will be ultimately responsible for making the decisions for the couple. This means that the judge may prioritize some matters over others, and this will not necessarily align with your priorities as a couple.
For instance, it might be important for one spouse to keep the house, while the other prefers to keep the car. But the judge can order the house to be sold and the car to go to the other spouse. So, the more control the couple has over the divorce process, the more likely they will be likely to reach an agreement they can both live with.
Although there are major benefits to an uncontested divorce, it may sometimes be impossible to reach an agreement about important matters with your spouse. Spouses are not required to come to these agreements by themselves.
Working with an experienced White Plains, NY Uncontested Divorce Lawyer and perhaps pursuing mediation can help you work out an amicable settlement that resolves any disagreements you might have with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Do We Need an Attorney for an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce generally works well when couples can communicate with each other and negotiate in good faith. Nonetheless, it’s never a good idea to sit down at the kitchen table and draw up your divorce settlement, or to trust your partner’s attorney to draw up a fair agreement without an independent review by your lawyer.
Don’t forget that the divorce judgment will be permanent and enforceable by law. For this reason, you should ensure that all interests are well represented throughout the divorce process. Don’t assume that if the agreement proves unworkable or unfair, you could simply go back to court to seek a modification. It doesn’t work like that!
Courts hate making changes or letting people out of properly executed agreements unless you can demonstrate duress, fraud, or mistake of fact. Whatever you think you will be saving by drafting your settlement agreement without the involvement of a lawyer, you might have to pay later with a problematic or unfair divorce judgment.
If you choose to work with the team at Douglas Family Law Group, you can be certain that you will be getting superior advice on your proposed settlement, with a clear understanding of exactly what you are signing up for. We will also ensure that you complete the required paperwork correctly and submit all documentation on time, making sure the uncontested divorce process is as smooth as possible.
Talk to a White Plains, NY Divorce Lawyer About your Divorce
The decision to file for divorce is life-changing and often overwhelming. All aspects of your family and personal life will be affected. This makes it important to consider all the options and possible consequences before you proceed.
If you and your spouse are in alignment and are looking to get quick, inexpensive, and convenient results, an uncontested lawyer can help. We understand that New York divorce laws can seem intimidating, even when you are on the same page about key divorce issues.
Douglas Family Law Group is here to provide legal advice and guidance with the required paperwork and due procedures so that you can feel confident in the divorce process. Our White Plains, NY Uncontested Divorce Lawyers can help with marital agreements for couples seeking to plan for the future.
Call us at 914-615-9058 to schedule a consultation with a lawyer today.