What is divorce?
Divorce is a legal action that ends or "dissolves" a marriage. Here are the basic steps for getting a divorce:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state (click on Am I eligible to file for divorce in New York? to learn about the residency requirements).
- Second, you must have a “ground” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage (click on What are the grounds for divorce? for more info).
- Third, you file divorce papers and have copies served upon your spouse.
- Fourth, your spouse can respond to the divorce papers you filed by consenting to the divorce, by "contesting" the divorce, or s/he may not respond. If there are complex issues related custody, division of marital property/assets/debt, spousal support, etc., the divorce will often be "contested" and there will be series of court hearings where the issues will be decided either by negotiations between the parties or by the judge. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then s/he could sign the papers and send them back to you (known as an “uncontested divorce”). If your spouse does not answer the divorce papers within a certain amount of time (and you can prove that s/he was properly served with the papers), you can get a divorce anyway based on your spouse defaulting. Often times, especially with uncontested divorces, custody and child support may have already been handled in family court and can become incorporated into the divorce decree (order).