Author: S. Thomas Lee, Esq.   Last Updated: 08/13/2023

What is an uncontested divorce?

There are 2 kinds of uncontested divorce:
(1) Both parties agree to sign all the divorce papers.
(2) The defendant in the divorce action does not answer the divorce papers (defendant defaulted).

How Much Does An Uncontested Divorce Cost in New York?

There are two fees involved. One is the Court fees. And the other one is attorney’s fees.

(1) Court Fees

The following is the itemized court fees:
$210 to file the initial papers in the Court.
$125 to request a Judge to look over all the signed papers and grant the divorce.
$18 - $20 to obtain two certified copies of the Divorce Judgment.
The total court fee, therefore, is about $355. Additionally, Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I file all divorce documents with the court electronically and pay the court online. Because of that, the court charges online payment fees of about $11, which is added to the court fees.

Some attorneys may tell you that the court fee is $335. But if an attorney says that, that means he is not going to obtain two certified copies of the Divorce Judgment for your when the case is finished.

(2) Attorney’s fees

Different lawyers charges different fees based on different criterias. If we talk only generally, then it can be said that the attorney’s fee may range from $450 to a few thousands dollars depending on which lawyer you ask. That information isn’t very helpful for you. Therefore, I will briefly discuss how much I charge.

For the simplest uncontested divorce case where there are no children, no alimony and no property to divide, my attorney's fee start at $450. If there are children involved, and the children are living in New York state with at least one of the parents, then my attorney’s fee start at $750.

I have handled over 1,000 divorce cases, and I use a well-organized system to handle each case. I also personally read all the papers in each case to ensure that there are no mistakes. This is unlike many other lawyers and companies which assigned works to assistants who are not lawyers to handle the paper works.

In cases where the other party does not sign the divorce papers, and he does not appear in the divorce action, my fees are a little higher because there are more work involved. Generally, depending on the case, I add about $1,100 to $3,800 to my fees, depending on where the other party lives and whether there are children involved.

How long does it take to get an uncontested divorce in New York?

It depends on which county your divorce case is filed in. Ever since the Covid-19 Pandemic, courts in New York City are taking a long time to process cases. In New York City, after all the papers are signed and submitted to the court, it may take about 10 months for the divorce to be granted. It may take longer or shorter depending on the backlog of cases in the court. If the attorney files your case in a county (outside of New York City) that processes cases quicker, it may take about 1.5 months.

Can my divorce case be expedited by the court?

Your attorney can help you make a special request to the court through a motion to expedite your divorce case if you have special reasons why you need to get divorce very soon. These special reasons may include:
(A) the need to marry another person soon for immigration purposes;
(B) wedding arangements to another persion have already been made and invitations are sent;
(C) the need to marry another person soon for urgent legally-mandated spousal benefits;

The court fees for making the motion is only $45. And you will need to pay extra attorney’s fee to your lawyer for making that special motion. Even though such motions can be made, you need to be aware that such motions are rarely granted.

Can I bring the divorce papers to my spouse and have him sign them at home?

The divorce papers must be signed in front of a notary public and be properly notarized. Your spouse can sign the papers in front of any notary public. Almost all attorneys in New York State are also notary public.

What if my spouse is not in the US?

In most cases where the other side is living outside of the US, the case will proceed based on the other side not appearing in court, and I obtain a default Judgment of Divorce for my client. No action by the other side is needed. Another way to do it is for the other side to take the divorce papers to an American Consulate and sign the papers in front of an American Consul, and then mail the papers back to me.

What if my spouse cannot be found and I have no knowledge where he may be?

In such cases publication in a newspaper or giving the divorce notice to your by electronic means such as email, WeChat or Facebook message will be required to give notice to the other side that a divorce action has commenced against him. The costs of the newspaper publication alone will be about $1,500 unless special circumstances exist, and the newspaper company agrees to give you a discount.

Do I need to live in New York to get a divorce here?

Generally speaking, one or both parties must reside in New York state for a certain period of time before a New York court will allow the divorce case to proceed.

This residency requirement can be satisfied by either one of these methods:

(1) either party has resided in New York state for 2 years or more immediately before the commencement of divorce action.

(2) either party has resided in New York state for 1 years or more immediately before the commencement of divorce action, AND either:

      (a) the parties were married in New York state,
      (b) the parties have resided as married couple in New York state, or
      (c) the cause of action occurred in New York state.

(3) both parties are residents of New York state at the commencement of divorce action, AND the cause of action occurred in New York.

However, it is important to note that a person may be a resident of more than one place. If a person spends a lot of time in a foreign country, but he keeps a permanent home in New York and comes back to New York from time to time, he can still be considered a resident of New York.

Do I need a reason for the divorce?

Couples may divorce using the ground of “irretrievable breakdown for 6 months or more.” This is the most often used ground for divorce. Neither party needs to be at fault.

I was married in a foreign country, can I still get a divorce in New York?

Yes, you can get divorced in New York as long as you satisfy the residency requirment mentioned above.

Do I need to present my marriage certificate to get a divorce?

No. But you do need to provide your attorney with the date of marriage and the place of marriage.

My child is 18 years old, he doesn’t have to be mentioned in the divorce, right?

If a child is over the age of 18, then custody is no longer an issue. But if the child is still under the age of 21, then child support will still have to be paid unless the court makes a determination that the child is emancipated.

What if my children are not living in New York?

If the child is not living in New York, then a New York court will not have jurisdiction to grant custody unless special circumstances exists regarding the child’s residence immediately before the divorce action is commenced. Parents who are under the personal jurisdiction of a New York court will still be ordered by a New York court to pay child support even though the court cannot determine custody issues.

Disclaimer: this article should not be construed as legal advice. Each legal case should be analyzed based on its own facts and circumstances.

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