Ensure that you meet the residency requirement to file for divorce in New York state. Either you or your spouse must have lived in New York for one year immediately before filing for divorce. You also need to have a reason for divorcing – called grounds. In New York, grounds include a separation, breakdown of the relationship, adultery, cruelty, abandonment and one spouse being sent to prison for three years or more. Be prepared to prove your grounds to a judge or jury.
Contact the County Clerk's office in your county and ask for an uncontested divorce packet. This will contain all the forms and information you need to begin your divorce. If your divorce will be contested, you can use the forms in the uncontested packet, but you may want to contact a lawyer or legal aid office at this point. Minor children and property division are complex issues and an experienced attorney can be helpful.
Fill out the forms in the packet. There are 14 forms in the packet, along with detailed instructions for filling out each one. Prepare three copies of the Summons with Notice form. The Summons is a legal document that begins the divorce procedure. It states the reason you are requesting a divorce and includes any requests for child support, maintenance, custody or property settlement.
Purchase an Index Number at your local County Clerk's office. As of 2011, the fee for this was $210. The index number will be used to identify your case in the New York Supreme Court. If you cannot afford the fee, you can file a Poor Person Application in the clerk's office requesting a waiver of the index fee. When you purchase the index number, file the Summons and the Verified Complaint form from your packet with the County Clerk.
Arrange for someone over the age of 18, who is not involved in the divorce, to deliver a copy of the Summons, the Verified Complaint, Notice of Automatic Orders and the Notice Concerning Continuation of Health Care Coverage forms to your spouse. This must be done within 120 days of your purchase of the index number. This person should also deliver a copy of the Affidavit of Defendant, which your spouse will need to sign and return to you. If you have any children under 21, you will also need to serve a copy of the Child Support Standards Chart to your spouse.
Serve your spouse with a copy of the Sworn Statement of Removal of Barriers to Remarriage form, if you were married in a religious ceremony. If you were married in a civil ceremony, you do not need to do this. If your spouse does not return the Affidavit of Defendant to the court or returns the form and states that he does not agree to the divorce, then your divorce becomes a contested divorce. You should consult an attorney at this point.
Place your case on the court calendar. If your divorce in uncontested, that is, if your spouse has agreed to the terms of the divorce by signing the Affidavit of Defendant form, you may request your case to be placed on the calendar immediately. If your divorce in contested, you will need to wait 120 days before requesting placement on the calendar.
Complete the Request for Judicial Intervention form and the Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage form and, if needed, the Divorce and Child Support Summary Form. File these forms, along with a copy of the Summons, Note of Issue and the Verified Complaint, with the County Clerk's Office. You will also need to pay a filing fee unless you have been granted a waiver. The papers will then be submitted to a judge. If the papers are all in order, the judge will issue a Judgment of Divorce. If your divorce is contested, you will be given a date for a court hearing in front of a judge. The judge will then decide the terms of your divorce settlement.