This article is part of our series about “Divorce in New York”. You can find the links to the other articles at the bottom of the page.
Length Based on the Type of Divorce
When you and your spouse decide to split, you might feel a lot of stress come on. You know that you’re strong enough to handle it, but you also know that you do not want to be stuck in the divorce process forever.
That’s why it’s so common for a divorcing couple to ask the question, “How long does it take to get a divorce in New York?” before their divorce case even begins.
Some people might even be more concerned about the timing than they are about the actual step-by-step of how to file for divorce in New York.
This is actually a great time to think about timing because you have a decision to make before filing that can have a big impact on the duration of your divorce proceedings: will it be a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce?
If you’re unfamiliar with the difference, we’ll explain.
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse disagree on issues like fault, child support, child custody, spousal support (a.k.a. spousal maintenance or alimony), and/or the division of marital assets and debts.
When you can’t work these issues out amongst yourselves, you and your spouse must each hire a divorce attorney and have a family court judge make the decisions on your behalf.
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are able to reach a divorce settlement through means other than intervention from the court. You might even be able to avoid hiring a divorce lawyer altogether.
An uncontested divorce is, unsurprisingly, much faster than a contested divorce. You’ll want to keep this in mind and strive to work together with your spouse if you want an expedited divorce case.
Read on for an in-depth look at the other ingredients that go into a quick divorce process. Since time is money and your attorney inevitably bills by the hour, most of these factors will also go towards another big question: how much does a divorce cost in New York?
Factor 1: No-Fault vs. Fault Divorce
When you begin a New York divorce action, the filing spouse (also called the plaintiff) has the opportunity to allege fault on the part of the defendant and then prove it in court.
While a fault divorce may satisfy a spouse who’s been wronged or even get them the better end of the financial deal at the end, a New York no-fault divorce typically takes dramatically less time.
Factor 2: Were You and Your Spouse Already Legally Separated?
If you’re reading this, you may have already googled “legal separation vs divorce New York” and learned all about their respective advantages and disadvantages.
If so, you might also know that couples who choose to get legally separated have to come up with a separation agreement to resolve all of the aforementioned issues typically associated with divorce.
That’s why, if you’re filing for divorce following legal separation, you’re looking at a much more truncated divorce process. After all, all you really need at this point is that divorce decree from your local Supreme Court.
Factor 3: The Method of Dispute Resolution That You and Your Spouse Choose
When most of us think of a divorce case, we imagine it taking place in court. However, most couples opt for some method other than litigation.
One reason for this is that litigation tends to take much longer than any other method, but the benefits of alternative methods don’t end there.
For one thing, while you are guaranteed confidentiality within the attorney-client relationship, anything that you say or do in court has the potential to become a public record.
If you can work out your differences outside of court, then basically all that will become public record is your divorce certificate itself.
So what are your alternatives?
If you want some sort of professional to walk you through the negotiation process, look into divorce mediation or collaborative divorce.
If you feel confident in your ability to resolve your disputes one-on-one with your spouse, then skip the divorce mediator, because you are a great candidate for DIY divorce.
A DIY divorce can be divided into two main categories as well: truly DIY divorce and DIY divorce aided by an online platform like It’s Over Easy.
In a true DIY divorce, you and your spouse are solely responsible for working out any disagreements and filling out and filing all of the New York divorce papers with the county clerk.
The good news is that your expenses will begin and end with a relatively small filing fee, but the downside is that all of those divorce forms can be a real pain!
If that process sounds a little overwhelming but you still want to save money and stay out of court, look into online divorce instead.
Divorce platforms usually charge a low flat fee to fill out each and every divorce document on your behalf. Some services (like It’s Over Easy) will even manage your case all the way to the final divorce judgment.
Getting divorced on the web can be trickier in some places than in others, but for those interested in an online divorce in New York, the law doesn’t require a single court appearance. Now that’s easy!
Factor 4: Marital Property Disputes
In New York, spousal and child support comes with guideline formulas for judges to follow when making their determinations. Dividing up assets, however, can be a lot less cut-and-dried.
That’s because New York law abides by a model of property division called equitable distribution. In this model, the court has a lot of discretion — they are simply instructed to do their best to come up with a fair plan based on a list of factors inscribed in state law.
Because this process is so uncertain, marital property disputes can be a lot more heated and take a lot longer than they might in other states. If you and your spouse can find a way to mostly agree, you’re in for a much faster divorce.
Factor 5: Child Custody Disputes
As we mentioned above, child support disputes in New York come down to a specific formula that judges can use to make a fair and consistent court order. Child custody, on the other hand, can be a lot messier.
Aside from custody being an extremely emotionally charged topic for most parents, the law is actually a lot more granular than folks who have never been through a divorce might realize.
There are two distinct kinds of custody to work out: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody is about who has the child in their care, and legal custody is about who makes decisions for the child about things like education, medical care, and religion.
Both will need to be resolved before your divorce can be finalized, which in some unfortunate cases can take quite a bit of time.
Something to keep in mind before you get lost in an endless custody battle: New York courts make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child, and their default assumption is that it’s in the child’s best interest to have significant time with both parents.
Thus, unless your spouse has a history of abusing your kid, you are very unlikely to end up being the sole custodial parent. That means that you’re probably better off staying flexible and working with your spouse to come up with a mutually agreeable plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a waiting period for divorce in New York?
Technically speaking there is no New York divorce law waiting period. However, certain legal grounds for divorce under New York law contain language about how long you and your spouse have been experiencing marital difficulties prior to filing.
How long do you have to be separated before you can file for divorce in New York?
You don’t! However, as we said, some divorce grounds include language about how long you and your spouse have been experiencing marital difficulties before you file.
How long does it take for a judge to sign divorce papers in New York?
This all comes down to how full the court’s docket is at the time of your divorce. Most couples can expect to wait at least six months.
To continue learning about divorce in New York, see the following articles in the series: