How to Know if an Uncontested Divorce Is Right for You
The word “divorce” tends to invoke negative responses in most people. Ending a marriage has a reputation for being messy, complex, and a drain on time and energy. However, not every divorce requires a time-consuming court battle. In some cases, an uncontested divorce can be sought to reduce the time, financial resources, and emotional stress of ending a marriage.
Are You Eligible for an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce means that a divorcing couple fully agrees on the terms of their divorce. It can occur when both parties reach a settlement or if one party doesn’t respond to the filing or appear in court.
While reaching a mutual agreement may seem doable, especially in the early stages of divorce, an uncontested divorce is more challenging than many people realize. To qualify for an uncontested divorce, a couple must agree on every single aspect of their divorce terms—a feat that may be complicated by the existence of shared children, high-value assets, or other disputes.
Both partners must agree on all divorce-related terms if they wish to forgo a trial in which the judge will make the decisions for them. Issues that must be agreed upon include (but aren’t limited to):
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Child Visitation
- Spousal Support (Alimony)
- Property Division
- Distribution of Assets
Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce
There are numerous benefits of an uncontested divorce that a contested divorce typically can’t offer. Many couples see fit to pursue an uncontested divorce in hopes of saving money, time, and unnecessary emotional stress.
Consider the following benefits of an uncontested divorce:
- It’s less time-consuming. An uncontested divorce can save couples an abundance of time inside the courtroom, as issues can be resolved without the court present to intervene and delegate during the legal proceedings.
- It’s more cost-effective. As you can imagine, saving time can save you money on court and legal fees.
- It’s more private. An uncontested divorce allows a couple to reach a settlement away from the scrutiny and supervision of the court and judge.
- It can lead to lasting amicable relations. Logically, couples who can reach an agreement on their own without assistance from a judge are more likely to finalize their divorce papers on amicable terms (or at least part ways civilly).
- It can be easier for the kids. Divorce is rarely easy—not just for adults, but for children, too. If you and your ex have kids together, an uncontested divorce can offer a sense of privacy and dignity that may reduce stress within the family. While it’s difficult to see two parents end a marriage, it’s arguably more difficult the watch a bitter fallout unfold in court. An uncontested divorce is more likely to foster a civil and lasting relationship between coparents that is hopefully devoid of lingering bitterness or resentment.
Grounds for an Uncontested Divorce in New York
To qualify for an uncontested divorce, a couple must meet certain requirements. New York law upholds various legally acceptable reasons for a divorce, including:
- Irretrievable breakdown in the relationship for a minimum of 6 months
- Cruel and inhuman treatment
- Divorce after a legal separation agreement
- Divorce after a judgment of separation
Before you file for any type of divorce in New York, you must:
- Meet the state residency requirements. A couple meets the residency requirement if 1) one or both spouses have lived in New York for 2 consecutive years prior to filing for divorce; 2) one or both spouses have lived in New York for 1 consecutive year before filing AND were married in New York; 3) one or both spouses have lived in New York for 1 consecutive year AND the grounds for the divorce happened in New York; or 3) both spouses are residents of New York State on the day the divorce began AND the grounds for divorce happened in New York.
- Have a legally acceptable reason for the divorce (as denoted in the list above). New York state law requires couples to give a “ground” for the divorce.
How to Apply for an Uncontested Divorce
If you believe that you and your soon-to-be ex are capable of reaching a divorce settlement outside of the courtroom, you may be eligible for an uncontested divorce. If so, you’ll need to follow the following steps to navigate the legal process:
Establish Grounds for the Divorce
For the majority of couples seeking an uncontested divorce, a no-fault divorce is the most commonly pursued legal path. A no-fault divorce essentially means that both parties agree that the marriage has “broken down irretrievably” for a minimum period of 6 months.
Keep in mind that this does not mean that couples are required to be separated for 6 months or endure a 6-month waiting period. The only requirement is to acknowledge the irretrievable breakdown within the relationship.
While there are other acceptable “grounds” for divorce, others are rarely seen in the event of an uncontested divorce. This stems from the fact that other legally acceptable reasons (such as adultery or cruel and inhuman treatment) are significantly less likely to lead to a mutual agreement between spouses without a judge facilitating the divorce in court.
Hire an Experienced Divorce Attorney
In many cases, legal representation is vital in an uncontested divorce for a range of reasons, such as:
- It can help keep you on time and on track. The required paperwork for any divorce can be complex and draining. An experienced divorce attorney can make sure you meet appropriate deadlines and fill out the paperwork correctly and on time. When your to-do list begins to overflow, your lawyer can make sure that everything gets done.
- A skilled lawyer will be your go-resource for questions and concerns, especially concerning legal jargon. More often than not, divorce proceedings and legal jargon can be complex and overwhelming to the average person. Such confusion can lead to costly mistakes during divorce proceedings. A qualified divorce lawyer can guide your legal steps and address your questions in concerns to help you obtain a favorable outcome in court.
- A qualified attorney can review legal terms and conditions with a practiced eye. Mistakes are part of human nature. In some instances, one or both spouses can overlook or misinterpret key terms or conditions in their divorce agreement. If your settlement is missing any critical information, a trusted divorce attorney can point that out before you sign on the dotted line and seal your fate.
- It can save you money in the long run. While it may be tempting to opt for the free court forms and file without an attorney's assistance, some couples end up regretting this decision in the long run. Some people end up returning to the court after a DIY divorce due to problems that surfaced afterward. It's important to finalize your divorce accurately the first time to avoid redoing things in the future. A lawyer can help you avoid costly mistakes that may jeopardize your situation.
Helping Families Pursue Amicable Results for 30 Years
Our firm has been helping Long Island resolve legal disputes for over two decades. Rubenfeld Law Firm takes pride in providing high-quality legal services to our clients in their time of need. Our hardworking divorce attorney is an effective and efficient negotiator who will be in your corner from start to finish. In moments of doubt or despair, you can count on our trusted advisor to provide sound legal counsel and guide your next steps. Take action today to build a better and brighter tomorrow.
Navigating divorce proceedings on your own can be confusing and risky. Don’t leave your future up to chance. Call Rubenfeld Law Firm at (631) 777-7200 today to request a confidential consultation.