New York Court Records
How to File For Divorce in New York
In New York, divorce cases are settled at the various local Supreme Courts for two reasons: to end marriage ties and split assets. The duration of a divorce case in New York depends on a variety of factors. An uncontested divorce, in which couples have resolved all divorce-related issues together, requires less time to reach a divorce judgment. These cases are settled within six weeks to three months, depending on a spouse's response and busy court schedule.
Contested divorce cases take longer time to settle since they require court intervention. This is because spouses are always at loggerheads on divorce issues such as child support, custody, alimony, and splitting of assets. According to section 202.19 of the Uniform Rules for Supreme Courts, all standard cases like contested divorces should be settled within 12 months from the time a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI) was filed. As such, it is expected that these cases will be resolved within six to twelve months from the filing day. Generally, contested divorces are faster provided the intending divorcee is well prepared with sufficient information.
According to the 2018 rankings published by the US Census Bureau, New York state recorded 5.7 divorces per thousand females above 15 years. The report showed that between 2008 and 2018, the rate of divorce in New York reduced by 20%.
Do I need a Reason for Divorce in New York?
In New York, legal grounds are required to validate a dissolution of a union. This means that a divorce case will only be resolved after the reasons stated under Section 170 of the Domestic Relations law are met. The seven legal reasons are:
Cruelty from spouse
Ground for divorce is established if the respondent's behavior threatens the mental or physical well-being of the spouse. Even then, this reason is not valid if such inhumane acts have not occurred in the last five years.
A divorce case is valid if a spouse has been in confinement for three or more years. The divorce ground is insufficient if the jail sentence started before marriage or if the defendant was released five years ago.
A spouse abandoned (physically absent) for more than a year can file for divorce. However, this does not include any form of social abandonment, such as refusing to communicate, eat at home, etc.
Having any form of sexual intercourse with someone other than the plaintiff is a valid ground for divorce. This becomes invalid if the plaintiff forgives the defendant after the act, encourages the defendant, or takes part in it. Adultery that occurred five years ago is also insufficient grounds for divorce.
Irretrievable breakdown (no-fault divorce)
Marriages that are broken beyond repair for more than six months are termed irretrievable breakdown. This is a valid legal reason provided it is an uncontested divorce.
Agreement of Separation
This is a signed agreement to live separately from the spouse for one year. It is a valid ground for divorce once the rules of the agreement are obeyed for the year.
Judgment of Separation
This is similar to the agreement of separation. But, it differs since the separation is a court order and not a decision between both spouses. It is also valid if the conditions are met for at least a year.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?
It is possible to settle a divorce case without the help of a lawyer in uncontested divorce cases. Couples can just sign court forms, agree on divorce-related issues together, and get a divorce judgment on their own. However, hiring an experienced divorce lawyer in New York is beneficial for the following reasons:
- Lawyers provide expert advice based on their knowledge of state laws. This knowledge is essential when there is any disagreement concerning assets, child support, custody, etc.
- Hiring a lawyer saves time, reduces stress, and erases errors that may otherwise go unnoticed by the petitioner and respondent. Generally, it is the lawyer's job to file the case in court, gather information surrounding the case, and get court forms for the spouse.
- An attorney makes sure the wishes of their clients are presented clearly. Spouses that settle divorce on their own often get an unsatisfactory divorce judgment. This occurs when their documents do not reflect their needs clearly.
- Hiring a lawyer helps spouses avoid delays caused by court forms and paperwork issues.
How do I Get Started in a Divorce in New York?
Two criteria must be satisfied before filing for divorce in New York. These are residency requirements and grounds for divorce. As discussed earlier, grounds for divorce are legal reasons required for separating a marital union. Residency requirements in New York refer to the necessary period a spouse must reside in the state before filing for divorce. According to section 230 of which code, divorce cases are valid if:
- Spouses reside in New York, and the legal reason for divorce started in the state.
- One of the spouses resides in New York for up to two years.
- One of the spouses resides in New York for up to one year under the conditions that they were married in the state, lived as married couples in the state, or the legal reason for divorce started in the state.
In New York, a divorce cases are initiated when a Summons and Complaint is filed at the county clerk's office. Afterward, a Request for Judicial Intervention form should be completed and submitted to the clerk. Important details required for filing a divorce case includes name and address of intended divorcee, marriage certificate, a copy of the agreement (in the case of uncontested divorce or separation agreement), a list of assets and debts, etc.
After filing for divorce, the intending divorcee will be notified and served the divorce papers. This must be done within 120 days from the filing date. The intending divorcee is required to respond within 40 days from the date the documents were received. The final step is getting the case on the court calendar, which involves completing all other forms and filing them at the clerk's office.
How to File for Divorce in New York Without a Lawyer
Filing without a lawyer is easy if it is an uncontested divorce. Spouses can use the e-filing system provided on the New York State Unified Court System's official website. To use the system, spouses should have made their necessary court paper at the clerk's office before creating an account to start a new case.
DIY divorces are less expensive but time-consuming. Spouses must do their research, fill the required forms without expert advice, and serve the papers to the respondents. On the other hand, filing a contested divorce case without expert help is not advisable.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Does New York Divorce Mediation Work?
Generally, contested divorces are challenging to handle. In these cases, spouses can take an alternative dispute model known as divorce mediation to resolve their issues. However, not all mediation is voluntary. Sometimes, the court may mandate the process of divorce mediation to speed up the settlement process. The purpose of mediation is simply to ensure that couples agree on divorce-related issues like asset splitting, child custody, support, and alimony.
Spouses wishing to begin divorce mediation should find a mediator in New York. The mediator will create some sessions to discuss all issues that need an agreement. While the mediator facilitates the discussion, the couple must take their final stance on each issue presented. An agreement is reached and documented when the decisions of both parties align. After every issue is resolved, the document is signed and becomes a separation agreement which can be used for an uncontested divorce.
How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in New York?
The duration of divorce mediation depends on factors such as complications involving asset splitting and child custody. Generally, spouses without children will quickly reach an agreement than those with children. Each session lasts one hour, thirty minutes. While three or four sessions are suitable for separation involving children, two or three sections are ideal for resolving cases without children.
Are Divorce Records Public in New York?
Divorce records are created at the county supreme court during the divorce case proceeding and after the divorce judgment is pronounced or a settlement is reached. Based on the Freedom of Information Law in New York, divorce records on deceased persons are accessible to the public. Otherwise, they are available to only the spouses and requesters with a court order. Divorce records in New York are divided into two sections:
- Divorce certificates, created and maintained by the NYS Department of Health (NYSDH), contain general information such as couple names, dates, and locations of the Supreme court where it was settled.
- Divorce decrees, created and maintained by the county clerk, contain details such as terms of the divorce. Being a court document, divorce decrees are signed by the judge.
Divorce records in New York have been in existence since 1963. However, requesters can still gain access to divorce decrees created before January 1, 1963.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How do I Get New York Divorce Records?
Eligible applicants can get divorce records at the county clerk's office or vital records unit of the NYSDH. To be eligible, requesters must either be one of the spouses (record holder) or obtain a court order. Methods of obtaining divorce records are:
Mail requests: This request costs $30. Eligible applicants should fill and submit adivorce request form to:
New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Certification Unit
PO. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602
Applicants are expected to attach a valid photo ID (state-issued, driver's license, passport, or military-issued). Payments, which can be in the form of a money order or personal/certified check, should be written to the 'NYS Department of Health.'
- In-person requests: This service costs $45. Interested persons should simply walk into any County Health Departments in the state with a valid photo ID. Cash, check, and money orders are accepted modes of payments for in-person requests.
- Third-party sites: Public records amalgamation sites such as CourtRecords.us also keep online databases on divorce records.