Timeframe for an Uncontested Divorce in New York: How Long Does It Take?

How long does an uncontested divorce take in NY? Your close friend might say that her case was finalized as soon as in 6 weeks. But a colleague at work was complaining about a long legal process that had taken 6 months of his life. So who’s right?

signing divorce decree

When it comes to defining an uncontested divorce NY time frame, there can’t be one single answer. Partially, it depends on the specific New York divorce law compared to most other states. Partially, on the availability of the judges. But in most cases, on how willing both parties are to cooperate and end their marriage as soon as possible.

Some cases may go smoothly, while others will give you bumps and bruises at every step. If luck would have it, your marriage may be over no later than in 6-7 weeks. However, the average divorce takes around 90 days to finalize.

Before you can understand why there’s such a chasm in time frames, you need to understand a specific NY uncontested divorce process.

How to Get an Uncontested Divorce in NY?

An uncontested divorce is usually the fastest way to get a divorce in any state. Compared to a contested divorce, it doesn’t require lengthy litigations in court because parties have already agreed upon all terms of the divorce. Also, it normally has a simplified filing procedure that allows parties to register it fast and easily.

In NY, however, the uncontested process isn’t very much different from the contested divorce. Here’s how the process looks:

  1. Filing. Any divorce case starts with filing the Petition of Divorce along with other required documents. To qualify for an uncontested divorce in NY, both spouses should meet residency requirements, be over 18 years of age, admit that their marriage fell apart at least 6 months ago, and have no children under 21 in the wedlock. Not all counties allow online filing. Some require in-person filing, which may add up to the total uncontested divorce NY time frame.
  2. Service of papers. Whether you’re having a contested or an uncontested divorce, the other party, called Defendant, must be served with the divorce papers. How long does it take to serve divorce papers? Technically, a week should be enough to meet all legal requirements and arrange the service. However, the petitioner, i.e. the Plaintiff, has 120 days from the moment of filing to have the other spouse served.
  3. The Answer. Once Defendant receives the documents, he/she will have another 40 days to file the answer, which may be of 3 types.
    1. To cut the long story short, the responding spouse may either agree with the terms and continue with the uncontested divorce.
    1. He/she may not respond at all, which will technically have the same outcome. The court will satisfy the terms of the petition.
    1. Or, he/she might file the Answer, which will make the divorce contested.
  4. Calendaring. Officially, there’s no waiting period in New York state. However, there might be. It will depend on how fast Defendant will file the answer. There are also three outcomes:
    1. If he/she agreed to all the terms, Plaintiff may immediately proceed with the rest of the uncontested papers.
    1. If he/she failed to answer, this will add up another 40 days of waiting before you can proceed with the uncontested divorce procedure.
    1. If the responding party filed an answer, your divorce, unfortunately, will become contested, and you will have to go through a different procedure.
  5. Judgment. It will be signed by a judge as soon as he/she approves the divorce. Depending on the county, the final papers will be either delivered by mail, or you will have to pick them up in the court. Similarly, you will have to arrange the service of papers to the other spouse.

What Can Delay an Uncontested Divorce?

If there is a way to have a divorce finalized in 6 weeks, why do some uncontested cases take significantly longer?

The banalest reason is that often couples are not as ready for an uncontested divorce as they say. A spouse may change their mind at the last minute. All of a sudden, divorce becomes contested and parties have to solve their conflicts in the courtroom. The reasons may be different: a spouse couldn’t give up a family asset or the other one didn’t want to refuse support. One tiny conflict can grow into a bloody battle and add months, if not years, to the divorce process.

Availability of the courts and judges may also become an obstacle on your way to a fast uncontested divorce. If there are too many cases pending, you may have to wait a few days or weeks before a judge will be ready to consider your case.

Your place of divorce can also become a stumbling block. If your county allows online filing, the process may go faster than if you’ll have to file papers in person. However, you shouldn’t forget that computers may also fail. One should only recall the WannaCry virus attack in 2017. Something like this may extend the divorce process for a very long time.

Finally, spouses themselves may slow down the process. The uncontested divorce forms may be completed in the wrong way or submitted late. Plaintiff may take it slow to serve Defendant with the divorce Papers. The responding party also may think too long before filing the answer. A fast uncontested divorce may turn into a lengthy bureaucratic hassle before you know it.

Bottom Line

How long will an uncontested divorce take you in New York state? No one can tell you with confidence. However, if you’re punctual and dynamic, attentive with the paperwork, and you get lucky to file with a vacant court, your divorce may be finalized as early as 40-50 days.

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