S. Thomas Lee
is a divorce attorney in NYC
Our Uncontested Divorce fee starts at $360→ Uncontested Divorce FAQ
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I specialize in divorce law and related matters such as legal separation, prenuptial agreements, custody, visitation, child support and family court cases.
Most divorces in New York are uncontested divorces where both the husband and the wife agree to sign all the divorce papers. If there are property to divide, the parties will have to agree on how to divide the property. If they cannot reach an agreement, the divorce become contested. The issue of alimony may also have to be agreed on. If there are children, the divorce will have to deal with who gets custody of the children and the amount of child support.
In terms of property division, the issues of debts and retirement benefits should also be considered.
Only a court of law can grant a divorce, even if the divorce is uncontested. In New York, the court fee for getting a divorce is $335. When the divorce is granted, an additional $16 to $20 is paid to the court to get 2 certified copies of the divorce judgment.
An uncontested divorce filed in Manhattan usually take about 3 months to complete.
Read more about uncontested divorce in New York here.
Sometimes, a party is unable to obtain the spouse's signature on the divorce documents. In such cases, a divorce may still be obtained without the spouse's signature. This is called a divorce where the defendant defaults. Whether a divorce can be obtained on such a bases depends on whether the spouse responds to the divorce notice.
In all divorce cases, legal notice must be given to the spouse. Once the spouse receives legal notice, he/she has a certain period time to respond. If the spouse fails to respond within the limit time, the plaintiff can then ask the court to grant a divorce without the spouse's consent.
In cases where the spouse is living outside of the US, it is possible to have the divorce notice mailed to the spouse, but a court order must first be obtained before service by mail is permitted.
If the whereabouts of the spouse is unknown, then plaintiff may ask the court for permission to give the divorce notice to the spouse by publication in a newspaper.
You can read more about divorce by default here.
On the other hand, if the spouse responds to the divorce notice in a proper legal manner, then the divorce case becomes a contested divorce.
A divorce involves many issues, such as property, debts, custody of children, child support and alimony. If any one or more of these issues cannot be agreed to by the parties, then the divorce becomes a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, both sides are usually represented by an attorney. Multiple court appearance may be required, and the case can take from a few months to more than a year to complete.
Read more about contested divorce here.
Whenever the custody of children is contested, the court will thoroughly inquire into matter to ensure that the best interest of the child is served. A legal guardian will be appointed by the court to represent the interest of the child in the divorce proceedings.
Read more about child custody here.
Whenever children are involved in a divorce, New York courts will ensure that interests of the child is protected. The non-custodial parent is required to pay child support under the New York State Child Support Guidelines.
Read more about child support here.
Since 2016, New York courts use a guideline approach to determine maintenance (the Maintenance Guidelines). Under the guidelines, maintenance is a certain percentage of the income of the higher-earning spouse. However, the judge still has the power of discretion to deviate from the Maintenance Guidelines if the judge determines that the amount under the guideline is unjust or inappropriate.
Read more about maintenance here.
When dividing property in a divorce, New York courts use a legal concept called “equitable distribution.” Equitable distribution means fair distribution. First, the court will decide what property are "separate," meaning the party who owns them under his or her name will get to keep them, and what property are "marital," which should be divided up between the parties.
Generally speaking, income earned during a marriage is “marital property” and will be divided up in a divorce. Property that a party owns before the marriage may be considered “separate,” but there are exceptions.
You can read more about divorce property division here.
Parties to a marriage may enter into agreements about their marriage before or during their marriage. The agreement may deal with issues such as property, alimony, custody and child support. For the agreement to be enforceable, it has to satisfy certain legal requirements, among which are that the agreement has to be written, signed and properly acknowledged, and it has to be reasonable and entered into without fraud and duress.
Read more about marital agreements here.
Divorce judgments can be modified if there are changes in circumstances of the parties. For example, the amounts of child support can be changed if the support payer loses his job involuntarily and is unable to obtain another similarly paying job dispite reasonable and persistent efforts.
If the divorce judgment was obtained through mistaken facts or error in the application of the law, the divorce judgment can be overturned.
You can read more about modifying divorce judgments in New York State here.
Parties to a custody proceeding in New York State should keep in mind that the standard that the court will apply is "best interest of the child."
The custodial parent is entitled to child support under the Child Support Standards Act, which contains a set of rules for determining child support.
In a divorce, marital properties are divided under the rules of "equitable distribution." In many cases, marital properties are divided 50/50, but not always.
In 2016, New York State enacted a new guideline on post-divorce spousal support, taking away much of the guess-works that make court-ordered spousal support unpredictable.