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New York Family Law and Divorce FAQs

How do you begin the divorce process?

What happens if my spouse won’t agree to cooperate in the divorce?

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

Do I need to go to Court?

How Much Does a Typical Divorce Cost?

How Am I Billed?

How is property divided after a divorce?

Can I receive spousal support?

Do I have to live with my spouse during the divorce process?

What is mediation?

What does a mediator do?

Q.: How do you begin the divorce process?

A.: Before you take any action to start a divorce, we recommend that you do some research and understand the legal, financial and emotions aspects of a divorce. recommends completing a divorce evaluation .

A family law attorney can help you get the process started with an initial letter to your spouse requesting a divorce.

Q.: What happens if my spouse won’t agree to cooperate in the divorce?

A.: This is known as a contested divorce. Since New York has no fault divorce, a spouse cannot disagree to the divorce, but can disagree to the terms of the divorce, such as spousal support, child custody, child support. These terms can usually be negotiated through your family law attorneys and mediators. The goal of a negotiated settlement is to come to an agreement as to all issues related to the divorce without resorting to the court.

Q. How Long Will My Divorce Take?

A. This depends on the parties and their willingness to cooperate. An amicable divorce in which the parties agree to the terms can take a few months. However, if there is back and forth on terms the divorce case will take longer – up to a year.

Q. Do I need to go to Court?

A. No! In many cases, couples will settle without going to trial. There can be cases where a court hearing is necessary. This would happen if the parties cannot agree to the terms, such as spousal support or custody terms. In this case, a judge will often need to make that call.

Q. How Much Does a Typical Divorce Cost?

A. There is no standard cost for a divorce, as each situation is unique. After a consultation with one of our attorneys we will be able to quote you a retainer for your action that matches your specific case and needs. We can also try to mitigate your costs by offering unbundled or limited scope services. Mediation is a lower cost alternative to a divorce proceeding which is also becoming a more popular option among divorcing couples.

Q. How Am I Billed?

A. A retainer is required up front. You will receive an itemized billing statement once per month detailing the work done on your case for that period.

Q. How is property divided after a divorce?

A. In New York, all property obtained and income earned during a marriage is subject to equitable distribution. During equitable distribution, what is considered separate property and what is marital property is determined. Separate property (property acquired before marriage) usually remains separate and marital property (property acquired during marriage) is distributed equitably between both spouses. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal. Learn more.

Q. Can I receive spousal support?

A. Spousal support, also referred to as alimony or maintenance, may be awarded to either spouse in a divorce, based on such factors as: the standard of living, present and future earning potential of each spouse, and the ability of each spouse to support him or herself independently in the future. Maintenance may be awarded on a permanent or temporary basis and can be awarded to either the wife or the husband.

Q. Do I have to live with my spouse during the divorce process?

A. Each spouse has a right to remain in the house during the divorce process. There are three options that you can consider if you wish to live separately:

1. voluntary leave—in which one spouse chooses to leave the house

2. requesting exclusive occupancy from the court—demonstrating that the spouse’s presence has caused domestic strife or that exclusive occupancy is necessary to protect safety of persons or property.

3. requesting an order of protection from the court—requesting that the spouse leave the home in order stop abuse, harassment, stalking or other types of violence to you or your children.

Q. What is mediation?

A. Divorce mediation is a less expensive alternative than court litigation for resolving disputes that arise as two people go through the divorce process. A neutral third party, the mediator, helps the couple to work through the issues of their divorce in an effort to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. Learn more about mediation.

Q. What does a mediator do?

A. A divorce mediator acts as a neutral third party with special training to assist couples in reaching a satisfactory resolution in their divorce. A mediator facilitates communication between the parties to make sure each is given an equal opportunity to be heard and understood. A mediator provides safety, control, and order during the dissolution process. An attorney-mediator also has the added ability to draft up the final divorce judgment to be filed with the court once an agreement has been reached.