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How to get a divorce in New York
There are various ways to get a divorce, but not all of them need to be difficult.
By the time you or your loved one has come to the difficult decision to divorce, the last thing you want to think about is navigating a potentially complicated and expensive process. If you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the divorce, for example, you may be able to complete the process online.
Here’s what you need to know to get started in New York: the requirements, the costs and paths you can take to complete your divorce.
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Can I get a divorce in New York?
To get a divorce in New York, you or your spouse must meet at least one of these residency requirements:
- You or your spouse has lived in New York for at least two years prior to filing for divorce.
- You or your spouse has lived in New York for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. Additionally, you were married in New York or you and your spouse have lived in New York as a married couple.
- You or your spouse has been living in New York for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. Additionally, the legal reason for your divorce (known as the grounds for divorce) must have originated in New York.
- Both you and your spouse are residents of New York on the day of your divorce filing. Additionally, the grounds of divorce must have originated in New York.
If you meet these requirements, you or your spouse can initiate the divorce process by filing a divorce petition.
In New York, you do not need to prove any wrongdoing on your spouse’s part to get a divorce (in other words, you can pursue a no-fault divorce). You can also initiate a fault divorce for such reasons as abandonment or adultery.
Can I get a divorce in New York without going to court?
Whether you need to go to court depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. Before you and your spouse can be divorced, you both need to reach an agreement on the divorce terms.
If you do not agree on the terms, your divorce is contested. In this case, the issues you and your spouse disagree on may need to be settled by a court.
Even if you and your spouse disagree on some issues, you do not necessarily need to go to court. Here are a few alternative paths:
- Mediation. Someone impartial helps you and your spouse come to an agreement.
- Collaborative divorce. You and your spouse negotiate an agreement through lawyers trained in collaborative law.
You can find more information about mediation and collaborative divorce at the New York Courts website.
If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce (meaning you have an uncontested divorce), you do not have to appear in court. It is possible to complete your divorce by drafting an agreement and filling out the appropriate forms, then sending them to the court.
There are various ways to complete an uncontested divorce, including:
- Doing it yourself. Handling the divorce process yourself can be complicated, but it is possible. Learn more about the process at the New York Courts website.
- Using an online divorce service. Online services like Wevorce and MyDivorcePapers offer self-guided divorce preparation. They can cost more than preparing your divorce entirely on your own, but they streamline the process by giving you structure and guidance.
- Hiring lawyers. Family law lawyers can prepare your divorce and provide personalized guidance throughout the process. As we’ll discuss in the next section, this will likely be your most expensive option.
How much will it cost?
Initiating a divorce will cost at least $335 in court and filing fees. You may incur further costs for mailing fees, photocopies and notary services.
Additional costs for your divorce will vary depending on which route you take to resolve it. Here are approximate costs for various paths.
Doing it yourself
Preparing your divorce yourself will cost little to nothing besides additional court fees you may need to pay. However, the process takes more time, because you will need to conduct your own research and ensure you have filled out the divorce forms correctly.
According to a study by Martindale Nolo Research, the average cost for a divorce in New York is $17,100 when hiring divorce attorneys.
If your divorce is relatively simple, the cost will be around a few thousand dollars at a minimum. For complicated divorces (for example, those involving child custody), the cost could be as high as $37,000.
Typically, lawyers will bill you hourly — $325 per hour on average. If you choose to hire divorce lawyers, consider negotiating a flat fee for your divorce.
Using online divorce services
Online divorce services typically cost around a few hundred dollars. Costs vary depending on the benefits offered. For example, some services only help you prepare the right forms; others provide tutorials, professional review of your documents and spousal-support plans.
To give you an idea of the range of costs, here are a few online divorce websites and what they charge:
- MyDivorcePapers: $159
- Wevorce: $749
- CompleteCase: $299
How long will it take?
If you pursue a no-fault divorce, you need to sign a settlement agreement and wait at least a year before you can file for divorce. However, if you pursue a fault divorce and your spouse does not contest the grounds for fault, you’re not required to wait a year. There is no mandatory waiting period to get a divorce in New York.
If you and your spouse don’t agree on the terms of the divorce, the process could take over a year. Issues that could lengthen the divorce process include:
- Division of property
- Custody of children
- Child support
- Visitation rights
According to a study by Martindale Nolo Research, the average divorce takes 9.5 months to complete with divorce attorneys. Whether you have children with your spouse affects this timing: about nine months if no children and about 18 months if children are involved.
If you and your spouse agree on most issues, the details of your divorce could be settled relatively quickly. For example, an online service for uncontested divorces can help a couple come to a resolution in as little as a month.
How do I prepare for filing online?
Online divorce services are for couples who can work together on divorce terms and who agree on most issues. To use one, you need to:
- Know where your spouse is.
- Agree with your spouse on the division of assets and property, as well as child-related matters.
Once you purchase a plan with your online divorce service, you will be given the relevant divorce forms for your county.
How to get a divorce online
Online divorce services like Wevorce and MyDivorcePapers make it easy to quickly get the divorce process rolling.
While the signup process may vary by service, in general you’ll:
- Go to the online divorce service website.
- Enter your name and contact information.
- Specify where you’re filing and whether you have children.
- Indicate your spouse’s information and whether you know their whereabouts.
- Enter a payment method and confirm to start the process.
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Getting a divorce online — now what?
If you’ve signed up for an online divorce service, you will be presented with the divorce forms you need to complete. You will also be given instructions on how to file the documents with your local court.
Rest assured that your online divorce service will guide you from the beginning to the end of the process, when you can move on to healing.
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