Steps to Initiate Divorce Proceedings

By Michael DiFalco

All divorces are logistically, financially, and emotionally difficult. Often, divorce proceedings involve challenging emotions. Even amicable separations are not easy for those involved.

No matter the circumstances in which you find yourself, it is critical to understand the steps to initiate divorce proceedings in New York. Make sure to speak with an experienced family law attorney to begin the process of a divorce.

Filing for Divorce in the State of New York

There are many complex statutes and procedural requirements to consider when filing for divorce. Having an attorney represent your best interests is crucial. The actual process of filing, for an experienced attorney, is quite simple. 

Determining the Grounds of Your Divorce

One of the first considerations for those filing for divorce is the issue of grounds. In New York, there are seven reasons (or “grounds) for which married individuals can file for divorce. These legal grounds are:

  • The relationship has been over “irretrievably broken down” for at least six consecutive months
  • Abandonment for at least one year
  • Cruel or inhumane treatment or adultery
  • Separation of at least one year pursuant to a separation agreement

It is important to understand the reason that grounds your divorce filing. In New York, you can file for a fault or no-fault divorce. Speak with a legal professional to explore the ramifications of the grounds of your divorce proceeding.

Completing Required Documents for Uncontested Divorces

If one of the two following conditions is met, your divorce will be classified as uncontested: 

  • Both spouses agree on the terms of the divorce
  • One spouse fails to respond to the initial complaint

In the case of an uncontested divorce, both parties must agree on issues like child custody, child support, and other financial concerns. The following information is necessary to complete the required documents for an uncontested divorce:

  • Name and address
  • Date of marriage, location of marriage
  • Whether the marriage was civil or religious
  • Copies of any other relevant legal agreements
  • List of jointly owned property
  • List of separately owned property
  • List of marital debts

A knowledgeable attorney will help you use this information to complete the necessary paperwork. This includes the Uncontested Divorce Program documents provided by the NY courts. 

Serve Your Spouse

To successfully file for divorce, you must also make sure that your spouse is aware of the legal case. Your spouse must receive physical copies of all the relevant divorce papers along with a notice of electronic filing. 

Ensuring that the person receives these documents is called “serving” them. The filing party is required to serve their spouse by no more than 120 days following the initial filing.

The filing party is not legally permitted to serve their spouse directly. In other words, they must assign a third party to provide their spouse with the divorce paperwork. The person serving must be at least 18 years old and a legal resident of the state of New York.

Spouse’s Response

When the served spouse agrees to the divorce proceedings, they must complete their portions of the paperwork. In most instances, these documents must be filled out within 20 days of receipt.

Those who fail to respond within the required time period have defaulted. Following a default, the judgment of divorce can be secured. You will need to complete additional forms to get your divorce on the NY courts’ calendar. Speak with an attorney for assistance with completing this portion of the process.

Contested Divorces

If your spouse disagrees with any of the terms outlined on the papers you served them, your divorce will be contested. This will necessitate further judgments by a family court judge.

When you are planning to begin the divorce process, reach out to a skilled family law professional in Garden City, New York. The knowledgeable team at Aiello & DiFalco can help protect your best interests throughout your divorce. 

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.