An uncontested divorce is always the preferable method of dissolving a marriage, since it is faster, cheaper and generally stress-free. But divorcing spouses might start out in accord only to disagree later on important issues. When that happens, the divorce is converted into a contested one.
Most New York divorces are based on no-fault grounds, meaning there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage for at least six months. But this alone does not make for an uncontested divorce. The spouses also must agree on all key terms, including the following:
In an uncontested divorce, when the defendant spouse is served with a summons and complaint, he or she files an affidavit that accepts all of the plaintiff’s allegations and requests. The case can then be placed on the court’s fast-track calendar for completion.
However, the case can go off track if the defendant asserts an objection by filing a notice of appearance. This may happen because the requested property division or other financial terms were not as the defendant expected. Or the defendant may wish to negotiate a different child custody and visitation arrangement.
When the case goes on the contested calendar, the parties must go to court several times and potentially have a trial. A contested divorce takes a lot longer and is significantly more expensive than an uncontested divorce.
It’s also possible for a contested divorce to result in an appeal if one or both spouses are dissatisfied with the outcome at trial. This can drag out the litigation even longer and may mean the case comes back to the trial court for further hearings. An appeal also increases the total costs for the divorce.
The best way to keep an uncontested divorce on course is to hire a skilled divorce attorney at the outset. An attorney understands the common pitfalls in divorce cases and how to avoid them. A lawyer who is an experienced negotiator can help work out a mutually beneficial agreement. If you and your spouse cannot agree, your lawyer can represent your interests at trial.
As a Buffalo divorce lawyer for 28 years, I have devoted myself to solving the problems that affect families throughout the Buffalo metropolitan area and Western New York. As a family law attorney, I make it my goal to create a partnership of trust with my clients. People put their trust in me to handle cases that can potentially have a long-lasting impact on not only their lives, but the lives of their family as well.
Alexandra M. Rockwood is a Senior Associate Attorney with the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis & Associates and has been with the firm since early 2020. She primarily practices in the areas of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, child custody, and child support. Alexandra is a practicing matrimonial and family law attorney as…