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Contested Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce in New York

Unhappy young couple visiting divorce lawyer in office

Not all divorces are created equal. In New York, there are different procedures for “contested” and “uncontested” divorces. For a greater understanding of the difference between these two types of divorce proceedings, read on. If you are considering divorce in New York, call a dedicated New York divorce lawyer at the Kohn Law Firm in The Bronx.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is a special legal process in New York for couples who seek to divorce and who have agreed on all issues pertinent to the divorce. If the parties disagree on any legal issue connected to the divorce, they will need to file for a standard, contested divorce, and resolve all issues at a later date.

If the parties satisfy the residency requirements (someone must have lived in New York for at least one or two years, depending on the marriage), and they agree on all relevant divorce issues–distribution of marital assets, child custody, alimony, child support–then the parties can file for an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces involve more limited court proceedings and a more simplified legal process overall. Parties may never have to appear in court at all for an uncontested divorce.

Should I Pursue a Contested or an Uncontested Divorce?

Uncontested divorces are typically cheaper, faster, and easier than contested divorces. Many law firms will handle uncontested divorces on a flat rate, particularly if there are limited or no issues to resolve via negotiation between the parties in advance of filing. The parties simply need to file the appropriate packet of documents, wait for the court to process the papers, and then pick up the final Judgment of Divorce when it is ready.

In a contested divorce, the parties will need to go through a number of legal processes to obtain the final order. They will need to go through discovery (requesting and exchanging evidence), argue motions in court, participate in settlement negotiations and/or mediation, bring in expert witnesses where necessary, and attend several court hearings. They may need to file motions for a variety of legal remedies such as temporary custody, visitation, or alimony. These motions are common because a contested divorce can take a long time to resolve, and the parties need legal protection and financial support in the meantime.

An uncontested divorce is only available, however, if the parties actually agree on everything. It requires either having a very brief marriage with few assets to divide or a significant amount of trust and agreeability between divorcing spouses. In most divorces, there are at least some sticking points–child custody, distribution of certain assets like the family home, retirement assets, etc.–preventing the parties from coming to a full, easy agreement right off the bat. If an uncontested divorce is possible, it’s an excellent choice for many couples. If there are any points of disagreement, however, an uncontested divorce is simply not on the table.

Do I Need a Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce?

Given how simple an uncontested divorce appears to be, it’s reasonable to wonder whether you need a lawyer at all for your uncontested divorce. The short answer is: Yes. An uncontested divorce means that you have fully resolved all issues relating to your divorce in advance of filing for divorce. It does not mean that there were never any issues to begin with. If you have no children, plan to divide no marital assets, and have not been married for very long, then you might be able to file the paperwork without much thought. Otherwise, it’s still extremely advantageous to have a lawyer.

If your uncontested divorce will rely on a settlement agreement addressing alimony, child support, child custody, and property distribution, it’s wise to have an attorney on your side when drafting the agreement. Look at the Bill and Melinda Gates divorce, for example. They filed for divorce based on irreconcilable differences and sought an order pursuant to their separation contract, effectively filing for an uncontested divorce in Washington. Even though they resolved all of their issues outside of court and before filing, you can be sure that they each hired the best attorneys to spend months hammering out the details of the separation. While not every family is the Gateses, it illustrates how the resolution of a divorce outside of court does not mean resolution without legal assistance.

Moreover, uncontested divorce still requires filling out all of the appropriate paperwork and ensuring that each and every legal issue is appropriately resolved. Make sure your rights and your interests are protected, and make sure you follow all appropriate legal and administrative hurdles, with help from a seasoned New York uncontested divorce attorney.

Seasoned Advice and Representation for Your Uncontested Divorce in The Bronx
If you are considering divorce in New York, or if you are dealing with New York family law issues including child custody, property division, or support, reach out to the passionate and effective New York divorce lawyers at the Bronx offices of the Kohn Law Firm for a free consultation, at 718-409-1200.

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