There is a common misconception that all divorce cases involve contention and litigation. The dominant perception of divorce is that couples go into divorce when all attempts to repair the relationship have failed. In the media, this is either shown as outright hostility between the spouses or a perpetual cold shoulder. However, in New York, statistics show that almost 80% of divorce actions filed in the state in 2019 are uncontested. This percentage of uncontested and contested divorce cases in New York has not changed for the past 10 years. This shows that divorce cases in New York are largely resolved with minimal intervention from the court.
One of the significant advantages of getting an uncontested divorce is the fact that, on average, they take less time to finalize than contested divorces. A contested divorce can take anywhere from 9 months to years before a judgment of divorce can be signed. Depending on the circumstances and the grounds of the divorce, extensive litigation may be necessary. In an uncontested divorce case, this timeframe is significantly decreased.
When spouses can cooperate and agree on the terms of their divorce, the process can proceed more smoothly. In most uncontested divorce actions, the extent of the involvement of the court can solely be to ask a judge to approve the spouses’ settlement agreement and to sign the Judgment of Divorce. This can take, at the minimum, three months to finalize.
What Are the Factors That Can Affect How Long an Uncontested Divorce Takes?
As mentioned, the circumstances of the divorce can have a significant impact on how long an uncontested divorce can take. Prior mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution methods would also help to finalize the divorce faster and a couple can enter mediation either before or after the divorce is filed. The time being discussed in this context is from when the divorce action was initiated until the judge signs the Judgment of Divorce.
New York Courts have a lot of backlog in caseloads and very few judges to go through each case. Upon filing your divorce, the court will review each of the documents you submit to make sure that everything is in order before the case can proceed. Mistakes and corrections are also costly as you will need to refile your documents. Getting the help of an experienced New York divorce attorney to help prepare and file your documents can be instrumental in making the process more efficient.
January is considered the most popular time to file for a divorce, earning it the nickname “divorce month”. This is primarily due to economic and sentimental reasons. Some people file for their divorce in January to prepare for the next tax year while some do it as an attempt for a fresh start in the new year. Filing your divorce in January will let you avoid conflicts during the holidays, especially if there are children involved.
In any case, the timing of when you file is an important factor to consider as filing your divorce in a “popular” month can have an adverse effect. Especially on the caseload, the courts have to deal with before getting to yours.
After being served a copy of the divorce papers, the Defendant – or the husband or wife of the spouse filing for the divorce – will have 20 days to respond to the case if they live in New York State. They will receive another 10 days’ allowance if they live outside New York. In an ideal uncontested divorce scenario, the Defendant would respond as soon as they are served. However, the Defendant can also do nothing and expend the whole of the 20, or 30, days. This is called a default divorce due to the Defendant’s failure to file an Answer to the divorce action.
Creating a Settlement Agreement is a major part of an uncontested divorce. The Settlement Agreement lays out the terms of your divorce. Once the divorce is finalized, your agreement will become legally binding.
While it may be filed after the divorce has been initiated, the Settlement Agreement can be the balance between the divorce remaining uncontested or having it turn into a contentious one. Here are the factors that you and your spouse need to consider when creating your Settlement Agreement:
- Asset and Debt Distribution – New York is an equitable distribution state which means that, if the court would be determining the distribution, the default would be a 50/50 split. When working on a Settlement Agreement, you and your spouse should consider what works best for both parties. Considering the earning capacity and the financial resources of each spouse and which asset would go to whom would be beneficial in resolving the matter with minimal conflict. The complexity of your assets may also factor in the time it takes to come to an agreement. Understanding your legal obligations to your spouse is crucial to make sure your property is valued and divided equitably.
- Child Custody and Child Support – Any divorce case which involves minor children is automatically more complex than those without. If you and your spouse are friendly with each other, you may be able to determine a visitation schedule and parenting agreement that allows you both to maintain a fruitful relationship with your child/ren. This should include discussions about payment for the child/ren’s healthcare, insurance, education, etc. You may also include in the agreement if and how much you or your spouse will provide child support to one another. The most important thing you must keep in mind is the best interest of the child/ren and how they can have the least disturbance in their current situation even as you and your spouse go your separate ways.
- Spousal Support – If one spouse is financially dependent or earns substantially less than the other, it may be prudent to discuss furnishing spousal support or alimony. The court may require both of you to share financial disclosures to make sure that you are transparent about your financial situation.
Even if you and your spouse can agree on the major aspects of your divorce and your Settlement Agreement, it will still be beneficial to have an experienced New York family law attorney who can help mediate the settlement. You can also hire a skilled New York divorce attorney to make sure that your rights are protected while negotiating the terms of your divorce.
Getting the Help of an Experienced Uncontested Divorce Attorney
At The Law Office of Ryan Besinque, we can help you negotiate the trickier parts of the terms of your divorce without sacrificing cooperative communication. Ryan Besinque, a top-rated New York uncontested divorce attorney, may be able to help walk you and your spouse through the process of coming to an amicable settlement. With his extensive experience, Ryan has used collaborative approaches to assist many families in New York in divorce and family law cases.
No one wants a long and dragged-out divorce. Our experienced New York uncontested divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Ryan Besinque may be able to help you make the process more efficient and reduce the emotional and financial impact it may have on you and your family. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at (929) 251-4477 or fill out our online form.