An uncontested divorce is not that hard to file by yourself, depending on the situation
If you are lucky enough, you and your spouse agree on getting divorced and neither of you wants your pound of flesh and you can file an uncontested divorce by yourself, in fact, since you are both so mature about the whole thing. This particular animal – the uncontested divorce — is not as uncommon as you may think. It is more common among spouses with no assets, for sure. But there are some affluent and wealthy people who pull it off as well, while there are some who attempt it and it just explodes, like the Blixseths. They were multi-millionaires and a few years back, they had a particularly nasty divorce that was originally UNCONTESTED. Is the uncontested divorce recommended? Well, put it this way: it’s always better to have an attorney if you can afford it. Some people are just better off, from the get go, with having third parties involved in the process, no matter how amicable it is.
But for the rest of us, if there are no assets on top of it all, then why spend money on lawyers if you don’t have to. In New York, there is a website that you can go to to get all the divorce forms. It’s at this link and you can find other divorce resources here which will lead you to a bunch of places where you can get divorce advice if you need it. Expect to find a flood of forms you will have to submit to the court. A divorce lawyer who has been in the business a while can finish all these forms in an hour or less if there are no assets. A lay person who has no legal experience, that is a whole other story. It will take longer. But it can be done. So some of the forms are as follows:
1. Summons with notice (or without). This is the critical document. Without the summons, you don’t have a divorce case. It is usually a one pager. This document tells your spouse you are suing for divorce and the marriage is caput. It puts them on notice that the ship has run off course and you’ve gone to get judicial relief. You need to submit this with the court to get the case on the docket and get an index number and get a timestamp.
- Verified complaint (this document will tell the court exactly what your beef is; what you want (a divorce); why you want the divorce; where your marital residence was; your social security number and that of your spouse and all other pertinent information about you and your spouse.
- Affidavit of Service this is a critical document. If you don’t have an affidavit of service, you just straightup don’t have a divorce case. There are no exceptions to this rule. You must submit an affidavit of service that is properly notarized to the court otherwise you can’t proceed with the divorce. If you can’t find your spouse, tough shizzo. You are going to have to perhaps petition (ask, beg) the court to allow you to serve him or her by publication and then newspaper will provide you with the affidavit of service in that case.
- Child support workseets these are tedious forms that must be submitted if you have children under the age of 21. It will detail the income of both parents and provide an overview of who can or will pay what after the divorce to support the kids.
5. Affidavit of Plaintiff.
- Sworn statement of removal of barriers to remarriage. Every plaintiff has to provide this statement to the court with the rest of the packet. If this is an uncontested situation, the other side will also have to sign off on this form. Both parties must stipulate that they will not block a remarriage such as withholding the GET if you are Jewish and things of that nature. Whether or not the parties are Jewish is not dispositive, however. Everyone must sign off on this form. In cases where the parties are Jewish, this can be a huge sticking point or a negotiating carrot. It is the husband who has to give the GET if memory serves, and some Jewish husbands have been known to refuse to comply with state law on this. Judges have been known to award more equitable distribution to wives whose husbands act with this kind of petty vindictiveness.
- Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law This is a routine form as well and it details all the facts detailed in the complaint and the judge would then sign off on the “findings”. What that means esssentially is that the judge has read your complaint and based on its contents, finds that the divorce should be granted as a matter of law.
- Judgment of divorce. This form is one of the most important and it is imperative that you fill it out and get the right information in it. Sometimes lawyers use a template and type over the names, without reinventing the wheels. This is fine as there is no reason why a lawyer should have to reinvent the wheel each time he or she files an uncontested divorce. The problem of course is that it is easy to make mistakes this way, and accidentally miss names, dates, social security numbers and things like that. However, if you are filing your own divorce, you won’t have this problem unless you use a form from someone other than the courts. In which case, just be extra careful about making sure all the i’s a dotted and the t’s are crossed correctly.
These are the most basic of the forms you will find in an uncontested divorce packet. This is the New York packet. Every state has its own packet and some of the forms may have different headings. But essentially, when you get right down to it, the divorce laws are pretty similar in all 50 states. And now that New York has joined the rest of the country with regard to its no fault law, it is easier than ever to file for divorce without an attorney.
Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.
Thanks for reading and good luck.