An uncontested divorce is sometimes known as the “friendly divorce.” The divorce process culminates in a certificate of dissolution that marks the end of a marriage. After that, one may remarry or stay single. An uncontested divorce can be considered friendly because the two divorcing parties must be in agreement with the terms of their divorce. They do not appear in front of a judge to settle differences unless their case becomes contested. If a spouse does not want to sign an uncontested divorce initially, then that person may be served papers. If he or she does not respond to the divorce within thirty days, then papers can be submitted to the court as if this person had agreed to the divorce (by default) because the spouse received the papers but did not contest them.
In an uncontested divorce, papers are drawn up under the guidelines of the New York Domestic Relations Law (DRL), among other laws. Many of our clients who choose an uncontested divorce do not have children or property, such as a house, co-op, condo, or a pension. However, if they do, then these must be included in the divorce. For example, if a married couple has a child from the marriage and both parents agree that the New York State child support guidelines provide sufficient funds to raise their child and agree on child custody matters, then the divorce can be submitted as an uncontested divorce. If the parties do not agree on factors such as these, then either party may contest the divorce (provide their answers to some or all of the terms of the divorce). One benefit of an uncontested divorce is its cost. It is less expensive to complete than a contested divorce as there is no need for the parties to appear in a courtroom one or more times to resolve issues in front of a judge.
Who is eligible for an uncontested divorce?
New York State requires specific residency requirements of divorce-seekers. DRL § 230 states that if the parties were married in New York State and one party has been living there since the marriage for at least a year or one of the parties has been a New York State resident for at least two years, then the New York State Supreme Court has jurisdiction of the divorce, and can thus execute the divorce action.
An action to annul a marriage, or to declare the nullity of a void marriage, or for divorce or separation may be maintained only when:
1. The parties were married in the state and either party is a resident thereof when the action is commenced and has been a resident for a continuous period of one year immediately preceding, or
2. The parties have resided in this state as husband and wife and either party is a resident thereof when the action is commenced and has been a resident for a continuous period of one year immediately preceding, or
3. The cause occurred in the state and either party has been a resident thereof for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the commencement of the action, or
4. The cause occurred in the state and both parties are residents thereof at the time of the commencement of the action, or
5. Either party has been a resident of the state for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the commencement of the action.
— DRL § 230
Can I get an uncontested divorce?
Yes, in October 2010, New York State became the last state in the nation to permit “no-fault” divorces (DRL § 170.7). No-fault grounds (or reason) for divorce state that if one spouse asserts that his or her marriage has irretrievably broken down, and this breakdown has lasted for at least six months, then the couple is eligible for divorce. Before allowing this ground of divorce, a divorcing party had to choose another ground, such as adultery or abandonment.
The “action for divorce” part of DRL § 170 explains the grounds for no-fault divorce:
(7) The relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months, provided that one party has so stated under oath. No judgment of divorce shall be granted under this subdivision unless and until the economic issues of equitable distribution of marital property, the payment or waiver of spousal support, the payment of child support, the payment of counsel and experts’ fees and expenses as well as the custody and visitation with the infant children of the marriage have been resolved by the parties, or determined by the court and incorporated into the judgment of divorce.
If you are considering getting divorced and want to learn if an uncontested divorce is right for you, then set up a free in-person consultation with Jayson Lutzky. Mr. Lutzky is a lawyer with over 36 years of experience practicing law in New York State. He has a conveniently located office in the Bronx. Call 718-329-9500 to learn more about divorce and set up a no-obligation appointment.