How to Get a Divorce in New York State

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

How to Get a Divorce in New York State

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

The first step in getting a divorce in New York is filing divorce papers in the county clerk's office. If you and your spouse agree on all the issues, you can get an uncontested, no-fault divorce relatively quickly. But if you disagree on things like property, custody, or support, your divorce is contested. It will usually take longer, and you'll probably need a lawyer's help.

illustration of couple getting divorce


Grounds for Divorce in New York State

To file for divorce, you must have grounds, or a reason, for divorcing. Different states recognize different grounds for divorce. Here are the grounds in New York:

  • Abandonment for a year or more
  • Adultery
  • Being in prison for three or more years in a row
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Living separately under a separation agreement
  • Living separately under a separation judgment or decree

An irretrievable breakdown in the relationship for at least six months is also known as a New York no-fault divorce.

In addition to having grounds for divorce, you or your spouse must have lived in New York continuously for at least a year before you file divorce papers.

How to File for Divorce in New York

You can file for an uncontested divorce in New York if you and your spouse agree to the divorce and also agree on how to handle property, debts, support, and child custody. You can download a New York state divorce forms packet online for uncontested divorces. You can also use New York's DIY divorce form tool if your marriage has been over for at least six months, you don't have any children under 21, and you agree on all other issues.

Divorce papers must be signed, notarized, and filed with the county clerk's office. You'll need to buy an index number, which is a case number that will appear on all papers you file with the court. You can expect to pay at least $335 in court and filing fees for an uncontested divorce. If you can't afford this, a fee waiver may be available.

How to Serve Divorce Papers in New York

Once you've filed divorce papers, you need to let your spouse (the “defendant") know. In New York, divorce papers must be delivered, or “served," to the defendant in person. You have 120 days from the date the divorce case was filed to serve the papers.

If you are sure the defendant isn't contesting any part of the divorce and is willing to sign and return an “Affidavit of Defendant," you can give the papers to the defendant yourself. If it's possible the defendant will contest some aspect of the divorce or will refuse to sign the affidavit, someone else must serve the papers.

Several rules apply to who can serve divorce papers in New York:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • If papers are served in New York, server must be a New York resident
  • If papers are served out of state, server can be a resident of New York or authorized to serve papers under the other state's laws

The cost to serve divorce papers in New York will depend on whether you hire someone to do the job. While a friend may serve papers for free, a paid process server knows the rules and will make sure everything is done correctly.

How Long Will It Take?

New York doesn't have a waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. The length of your divorce case depends on many factors, including whether it's contested, whether children are involved, and even the court's schedule.

An uncontested divorce in New York state typically takes around three months. If you and your spouse disagree on a few issues, mediation may help you come to a quick agreement. A contested divorce takes longer and you'll probably need a lawyer. Most divorce cases settle eventually. If yours doesn't, your case will go to trial and a judge will decide what happens.

Divorce is an emotional as well as a legal process. While you're working on your case, be sure to give yourself time to process the breakup and prepare for the next chapter of your life.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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