Partial view of judge pointing at papers and client signing divorce decree

{4 minutes to read}  I am often asked by my divorce mediation clients why it costs so much to get an uncontested divorce. My answer is that the system for obtaining a divorce in New York is very, and some might say needlessly, complicated.

For example, there still must be a Plaintiff (the person bringing the divorce) and Defendant (the person the divorce is filed against), even if they are not contesting the divorce.

The Plaintiff needs to prepare a Summons which, in the old days, was the document that literally summoned the Defendant into court. They also need a Complaint attached to the summons, which outlines why they are summoning the Defendant into court.

Before they can serve the Summons and Complaint on the Defendant, the Plaintiff must purchase an Index Number (currently $210.00), which is a folder in the county clerk’s office that becomes the official repository for all the divorce documents, and send the Summons and Complaint to the clerk to be filed.

Once the county clerk returns the filed Summons and Complaint to the Plaintiff, they must then add the Index Number to the Summons and Complaint and serve them on the Defendant, along with a Notice of Automatic Stay that prohibits either party from selling any property, withdrawing funds from any bank accounts, incurring any debt or changing the beneficiaries on any life insurance policies. Serving the Defendant usually involves hiring a process server who will hand-deliver these documents to the Defendant and sign an affidavit stating that they have done so.  

Once the Defendant has been served, the Plaintiff must then sign an Affidavit of Regularity stating much of what they already stated in the Complaint, along with the fact that the Defendant had been served and is not contesting the divorce.

Then the Plaintiff must sign an Affidavit of Plaintiff stating everything all over again, along with a Part 130 Certification stating that everything that they had previously stated was true and that the divorce proceeding is not frivolous.

The Plaintiff then has to prepare the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law which summarizes what they have stated in the documents above, along with a proposed Judgment of Divorce for the judge to sign if the divorce is granted.

The Plaintiff must then prepare a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI) asking that the matter be assigned to a judge, along with a Note of Issue asking the court clerk to place the matter on the court’s calendar. And, if there are children under 18, the Plaintiff must prepare additional documents that address child support and custody.

Once all of these documents have been prepared, the Plaintiff must mail them to the county clerk, with the Index Number added to all the documents, and wait for the matter to be assigned to a judge.

Once assigned, the judge has 60 days to review all of these documents and decide whether or not to grant the divorce. If it is granted, the court will (usually) mail the signed divorce papers back to the Plaintiff, who must enter (file) them under the Index Number with the county clerk and then serve a copy of the filed Judgment of Divorce on the Defendant.

For those who would like to try this on their own, the New York State Unified Court System has a website that contains Instructions and sample Forms for all the required documents. This site can be found at www.NYCourts.Gov. Once there, go to Divorce Forms & Instructions. 

If this seems too complicated, call an attorney who can prepare and file all of these documents for you. Just be prepared to pay a fairly substantial fee for this service.

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