Divorce in New York: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated March 26, 2024by Unbiased team

Learn more about the processes and costs of divorce proceedings in the state of New York.

Summary

  • New York recognizes both “fault-based” and “no-fault” grounds for divorces. 

  • Uncontested divorces are usually the simpler, quicker and cheaper option. 

  • The filing fee for a divorce in New York can exceed $300 in some cases. 

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in New York?

New York recognizes "no-fault" and "fault-based" grounds for divorce. 

A "no-fault" divorce is one in which neither spouse is blamed for the marriage's breakdown, which is typically cited as an "irretrievable breakdown." 

Fault-based divorces, on the other hand, require one party to prove the other's misconduct, such as adultery, abandonment, or cruel treatment.

In New York, divorce can broadly be categorized into two types: uncontested and contested.

  • Uncontested Divorce

This occurs when both parties agree on all major issues, including asset division, child custody, and alimony. It is the simplest, most amicable, and usually the quickest and least expensive divorce option.

  • Contested Divorce

This type arises when spouses disagree on one or more key issues. The process is more complex, time-consuming, and typically more costly, as it may require court interventions to resolve disputes.

How much does a divorce cost in New York?

The cost of divorce in New York varies widely based on the type of divorce, the complexity of issues, and the length of the legal process. 

Here are some key costs to consider:

  • Court Fees are mandatory and can exceed $300 in many cases. It’s also important to be aware that there are additional fees for motions or appeals.

  • Attorney Fees: Depending on the case's complexity and duration, legal fees can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands for contested cases.

  • Additional Costs: Costs for mediators and other specialists may also apply, especially in contested divorces.

How do you file for divorce in New York?

Filing for divorce in New York involves a series of steps that adhere to the state's legal requirements, ensuring the process is conducted fairly and efficiently. 

Here are some of the steps you need to follow:

  1. Meet residency requirements: At least one spouse must meet New York's residency requirements, meaning either you or your spouse have been living in New York State continuously for at least two years before the divorce case is started.

  2. Choose your grounds for divorce: This can be either "no-fault" (irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least six months) or "fault-based" (including adultery, cruelty, abandonment, or imprisonment).

  3. Prepare your documents: Complete the necessary forms, starting with the Summons with Notice or Summons and Complaint and other required documents related to property, children, and financial support.

  4. File your documents: Submit the completed forms to the county clerk's office where either spouse resides. You’ll need to pay a filing fee, which varies by county.

  5. Serve your spouse: Legally notify your spouse of the divorce action by serving them with the divorce papers, adhering to New York’s specific requirements for service.

  6. Response from spouse: Your spouse has a set period to respond, which can lead to negotiations or court proceedings to resolve disputes.

  7. Finalizing the divorce: Once all issues are resolved, whether through negotiation, mediation, or court judgment, the court will issue a final divorce decree.

How do you split assets in a divorce in New York?

In New York, the division of assets in a divorce follows the principle of equitable distribution. 

Equitable distribution in New York aims to ensure a fair division of assets, reflecting the circumstances and contributions of both spouses during the marriage.

When splitting your assets, you must adhere to the following steps:

  1. Determine marital property: The first step is identifying which assets are considered marital property (acquired during the marriage) and which are separate property (acquired before the marriage, through inheritance, or as a gift).

  2. Value the assets: Next, accurately value all marital assets. This may require appraisals for items like real estate, businesses, and valuable personal property.

  3. Determine equitable distribution: The court then divides the marital property among the spouses in a manner that is deemed fair, taking into account factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse's income and property when they married and at divorce, the age and health of each spouse, and the need of a custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence.

  4. Consideration of non-monetary contributions: The court also considers non-monetary contributions to the marriage, such as a spouse's role in homemaking and child-rearing.

When splitting assets, spouses are encouraged to reach an agreement on asset division through negotiation or mediation. If an agreement is reached, it must be approved by the court.

However, if spouses cannot agree on how to divide assets, the court will make the final decision based on equitable distribution principles.

How does alimony work in New York?

Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance in New York, helps a divorced spouse maintain their standard of living. 

It's awarded based on need, ability to pay, and other factors; however, it is never guaranteed. The court considers the need for spousal support and the other spouse's ability to pay, among other factors.

If alimony is awarded, New York recognizes two main types: 

  • Temporary (paid during the divorce process) 

  • Post-divorce (paid after the divorce has been finalized).

New York uses a specific formula to calculate temporary alimony, taking into account the incomes of both spouses and certain cap limits. For post-divorce maintenance, the court also considers factors like the length of the marriage, the health and age of both spouses and the presence of children from the marriage.

The duration of post-divorce alimony can vary widely. It may be set for a fixed period or, less commonly, for an indefinite period, depending on factors such as the length of the marriage and the recipient's ability to become self-supporting.

Alimony orders can be modified if circumstances significantly change, such as a substantial change in either spouse's income or health.

For divorces finalized after December 31, 2018, alimony payments are no longer deductible for the payer nor taxable to the recipient under federal tax laws.

What happens to children during a divorce in New York?

In New York, the primary concern during a divorce involving children is safeguarding their well-being and ensuring their best interests are met. 

New York courts prefer arrangements that allow children to maintain strong relationships with both parents, though the best interests of the child are the paramount concern.

When determining what is in the best interest of the child or children, the court will look at the following factors: 

  • Custody arrangements: Decisions about child custody encompass both physical custody (where the child lives) and legal custody (who makes important decisions about the child’s welfare). 

  • Child support: New York uses a formula to calculate child support, considering factors like the parents' incomes, the number of children, and the custody arrangement. This ensures that financial support is adequate and fair, meeting the child's needs.

  • Visitation Rights: Non-custodial parents are typically granted visitation rights to ensure that the parent-child relationship continues. The specifics of visitation schedules can vary widely, depending on the family’s circumstances and what the court deems in the child’s best interest.

While the court can make these decisions, parents are encouraged to work together to create a parenting plan that details how they will share parenting responsibilities. 

If parents cannot agree, the court will establish a plan that serves the child’s best interests, considering various factors, including the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s needs, and each parent’s ability to provide care.

In all decisions affecting children, New York courts prioritize the child’s physical and emotional well-being, aiming to minimize the impact of divorce and promote a stable, supportive environment for their growth and development.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor who meets your needs and goals. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.