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What documents are needed to complete a New York divorce uncontested or contested?

May 14, 2018

Court cases can be settled in a variety of ways. Sometimes they’re settled before the case is even filed, sometimes litigation takes place behind closed doors, or sometimes a judge makes the settlement decisions in full court. Regardless of the way the settlement comes about, a number of legal documents must be handled regarding the divorce proceeding. These documents must be completed and filed with the court in order for the divorce to be official. The same documents are required in all areas of the state of New York regardless of the method of mediation or litigation.

Divorce cases are handled similarly to lawsuits, which means that the first document is a summons. This summons will be served by the party initiating the divorce to the other party. In this case, the party initiating the divorce acts in the role of the plaintiff, and the other party acts in the role of the defendant. New York state allows people to begin divorce proceedings by filing a summon document with notice alone, rather than including the full complaint in their proceeding. The filing party will also have to pay a filing fee of $210, which is used to buy an index number. Summons are filed simultaneously with the main complaints, but if a Summons with Notice is used, the plaintiff then has 20 days to file the official complaint.

No matter whether the summons comes with complaint or notice, it will inform the spouse of the time period that they should appear for the case. This is done through the service of a Notice of Appearance. If a Summons with Notice is filed, it must include the basic grounds for divorce as well as a description of whatever ancillary relief might be requested, which includes spousal maintenance and child support payments.

Attached to the summons will be the Notice Concerning Health Care Coverage and Notice of Automatic Orders. The Automatic Orders document is a way to ensure that the usual lifestyle of both parties is maintained prior to the written settlement or another court order. The parties will not be able to draw on their retirement accounts, insurance accounts must continue to be maintained, and spouses may not draw from otherwise inaccessible trust funds. Meanwhile, the Health Care Coverage document is a statement letting the spouses know that when the divorce proceeding is finalized, the spouses might not be eligible to remain on their spouse’s insurance plan. This is a way of ensuring that any supported spouse has time to make other insurance arrangements. For a fee, a supported spouse can receive COBRA benefits until they have full insurance again.

After all of this, the Verified Complaint documentation needs to be completed, filed, and served to the defendant party in the litigation. The complaint will contain information about residency of both parties, any children the parties have together, insurance policies, grounds for divorce, whether the marriage ceremony was civilly or religiously performed, and once again any relief that the supported spouse is seeking. When this complaint is verified, this is considered proof that the plaintiff has both read and verified the truth of the complaint. When religious ceremonies were involved in the marriage, a Sworn Statement of Removal of Barriers to Remarriage document is required to be added to the complaint package. These documents are signed by both parties and verify that said parties will both take the appropriate steps to be sure that they are eligible to be remarried according to the rules of their religion.

Included in the complaint package will also be either an Affidavit or Affirmation of Regularity. When the party represents themselves, an affidavit is filed; when the party is being represented through an attorney, an affirmation is filed. This document states that service of the package was accomplished. This document will also include information regarding whether the defendant has appeared in court and consents to the placement of the case on the uncontested calendar, or if the defendant is defaulting instead. Also included is an Affidavit of the Plaintiff, which will contain mostly the same amount of information outlined in the complaint but also contains information regarding how the particular case is resolved. Parties will need to disclose whether either side of the litigation has ever been involved in a child abuse case, is a registered sex offender, or has been part of a legal order of protection. The defendant will be required to file an affidavit confirming that they have received and understand the complaint.

Two more documents are the Judgment of Divorce and Findings of Fact / Conclusions of Law documents. These are both signed by the overseeing judge rather than the parties, but the documentation is prepared by the parties or their attorneys. This documentation records that the parties are entitled to a divorce and have sufficiently proven grounds for divorce. When there are children of the marriage who are still minors, parenting time and custody arrangements will be included in this paperwork. Whether child support payments exist and the amount of those child support payments is required. Any spousal maintenance terms will be included here along with retirement asset distribution and property settlement details.

Finally, the parties must submit the Certificate of Dissolution of the Marriage documentation. There are other forms that are often part of a divorce proceeding, but they aren’t necessarily required.

To recap, the following documentation will be legally required for a divorce proceeding:

  • Summons with Notice or Summons with Complaint to start the proceedings
  • Notice Concerning Health Care Coverage
  • Notice of Automatic Orders
  • Verified Complaint including a Sworn Statement of Removal of Barriers to Remarriage (if applicable)
  • Affidavit or Affirmation of Regularity, including an Affidavit of the Plaintiff and Affidavit of the Defendant
  • Judgment of Divorce
  • Findings of Fact / Conclusions of Law
  • Certificate of Dissolution of the Marriage

We are a group of New York lawyers who specialize in divorce litigation. For more information, feel free to contact us.

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