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Mediation Before Divorce in NY State?
In New York State, an elected or appointed Judge of the Supreme Court must sign the forms submitted for divorce for a divorce to be final. These forms include the Stipulation of Settlement or legal contract between the divorcing Spouses, and the Divorce Packet. The Divorce Packet is composed of various legal forms and sometimes affidavits necessary for a New York divorce.
Three Ways to Get Divorced in New York
There are three ways for that paperwork to end up on a Supreme Court Judge’s desk to be signed – Mediation, Through a Lawyer or Lawyers and the Do-It-Yourself Method. Thus, you do not have to go to Mediation before a Divorce. Let’s explore the three ways to get a divorce:
Mediation Leading to Divorce
In Divorce Mediation, both Spouses come to the Mediator to decide all relevant issues in the divorce. These include custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and all financial issues. Financial issues include the house, all accounts, debt, other property, the cars and pensions.
At the Long Island Center for Divorce Mediation on Long Island, once all issues are decided during mediation, Part 2 of the divorce involves our mediator lawyer, Fred Klarer, Esq. writing up the Stipulation of Settlement, a contract or legal agreement between the Spouses. Once the Stipulation of Settlement is edited by the Spouses, Fred then writes up the Divorce Packet, the legal paperwork that needs to be submitted to the courts in order to get a divorce in NY State.
The couple comes in to sign the two sets of papers, the Stipulation of Settlement and the Divorce Packet. Then Fred submits these to the Courts. The paperwork moves through the Court system, and finally arrives at a Judge’s desk in the Matrimonial Part of the Supreme Court.
Once the Judge signs off on the Stipulation of Settlement and the Divorce Packet, a message of divorce is sent to the Long Island Center for Divorce Mediation. We then notify the clients, order copies of the Judgments of Divorce and send to the clients. All together, the time to divorce is around six months in Suffolk County, Long Island, NY and a bit less in Nassau County, Long Island, NY.
2. Going to Lawyers for an Uncontested or Contested Divorce
In this situation, one Spouse goes to a Divorce Lawyer, such as our partner in the Long Island Center for Divorce Mediation, Fred Klarer, Esq., to start the divorce proceedings.
If this Spouse says that his or her Spouse does not want to come in to the office, but will sign papers after he reads them, this is an Uncontested Divorce. This situation happens rarely but it does happen. Once the papers, which include the Stipulation of Settlement and the Divorce Packet are signed by both parties, the Divorce Lawyer then submits the paperwork to the Supreme Court for a Judge to eventually sign off. (See below for another possibility of an Uncontested Divorce.)
Uncontested or Contested Divorce Process
If the Spouse who comes in looking for a divorce does not have that agreement with his or her Spouse, the Lawyer files a Summons with the County Clerk. This Summons is then served on the other Spouse. The second Spouse now has 25 days to get a lawyer and answer the Summons. After that time period, one of the lawyers can file a Request for Judicial Intervention with the Courts which starts the Contested Divorce process in NY.
On the other hand, if both lawyers sit down with their clients and find a way to work out a deal, then the lawyers can submit all the paperwork – Stipulation of Settlement and Divorce Packet, both signed by the clients – at the same time as a Request for Judicial Interviention with the Supreme Court in NY. This is now called an Uncontested Divorce, even though two lawyers got involved.
In the Contested Divorce situation, as mentioned above, one Spouse goes to a divorce lawyer and starts the divorce proceedings. What happens it that the lawyer files a Summons with the County Clerk. Then that Summons gets served on the other Spouse. This Spouse must respond to the Summons with 25 days. Once the second Spouse gets a lawyer and responds, the lawyers try to work it out. If no situation can easily be reached, either side can enter a Request for Judicial Intervention with the Courts. Now a court date is set and the sides must meet in Court for a hearing within 45 days – with their net worth statements completed. The hearings and attempts to settle the case continue until a settlement is reached or a trial date is set. Once the case is settled, either through the two lawyers, or with the decisions of the Judge at trial, the final paperwork can then be prepared.
That paperwork includes the Stipulation of Settlement and the Divorce Packet. In this type of Divorce, often the lawyers and clients go back and forth a number of times, working out the details of the Stipulation of Settlement. Finally, the paperwork is submitted to the Courts and a Judge signs off, usually within three to six months. Then the couple is legally divorced.
3. Do-It-Yourself Divorce
A third way to divorce, beyond going to Mediation or going to two separate lawyers, is to download the paperwork to fill out from the County Clerk website. This method works for only the simplest divorce, as each issue in divorce is filled with nuances that involve the law, each Spouse’s needs and desires, and past history of what works and what doesn’t in divorcing. Once the paperwork is filled out, the paperwork is submitted to the Supreme Court and the Couple waits for a Supreme Court Judge to sign off.
If the paperwork is not filled out according to the standards and requirements of the Courts and the law, the paperwork is returned to the Couple for revisions. Often this happens again and again, as divorce proceedings are very complex and call for expert knowledge.