When two people joined together within the bonds of matrimony find their marital path dissecting, a divorce or termination of the martial union may be the ultimate decision. Similar to marriage itself, divorce carries with it limitless components with which to contend, emotional as well as financial, as it too is a legally-binding choice carrying with it legal duties and responsibilities. Sometimes, daily obligations and responsibilities place a heavy burden on us occasionally leading couples to consider divorce when they otherwise would not. We often recommend when individuals reach out to our law firm, to first carefully write out the advantages and disadvantages of remaining married, and weigh the importance of each factor prior to making a final decision. Should your final decision be to end your marriage, there are a series of things to consider and prepare for as you navigate marital dissolution.
Legal or No-fault Grounds are Required for Divorce in New York State As a New York State resident, one of the first things you need to know is that New York is a 'no-fault' divorce law state. That means to get a 'no-fault' divorce in New York you don't have to show that your spouse was 'at fault' or did something wrong. You just need to prove that the marriage has 'broken down irretrievably' for at least 6 months before a divorce action is filed by stating a reason for divorce approved by the state.
Legal or fault-based grounds for a divorce in New Your State include adultery, cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment for a period of one or more years, constructive abandonment (lack of sexual relations) for a period of one or more years, confinement of one of the spouses in prison for a period of three or more consecutive years, or both spouses residing separate and apart pursuant to a decree or judgment of separation or pursuant to a written separation agreement.
Do I Need a Lawyer and how experienced a lawyer do I need?
Many people wonder, ‘should I hire a lawyer?’ In New York State, you are not technically required to hire a lawyer, and may represent yourself if you wish. However, most individuals opt to hire an attorney as divorce lawyers are specialists in the area of domestic relations, and can assist in making divorce proceedings as digestible as possible.
At its core divorce typically involves complex issues of custody, spousal support, child support, equitable distribution and enhanced earnings. Expertise in all these matters can be invaluable amid emotional discord, and attorneys also often provide a useful buffer between you and your spouse should dealings become tense or challenging.
Moving forward with Divorce
Should you choose to go forward, the next step would be to have your attorney file a Summons and Complaint in your County Clerk’s office on your behalf. This will state your grounds for divorce as well as include what you are asking for from your spouse in terms of marital assets, child custody and support, and spousal support. Your spouse will have 20 days to respond.
If your spouse agrees to the terms of the divorce, it is considered uncontested, but will still need to be finalized in court by a judge.
If your spouse does not agree with your Summons and Complaint, he or she may file counterclaims against you, which you will have 20 days to respond to. This is referred to as a contested divorce and will likely go to a trial where a judge will determine if the divorce can be granted and how best to split the marital assets and debts.
It is important to note that the Court can compel the parties to remain married in the event one of the spouses contests the divorce and the other is unable to demonstrate the existence of grounds for a divorce, or in the event the Court on its own initiative believes that one of the spouses has failed to prove that grounds for divorce are present.
If there are children involved, and you and your spouse cannot agree on a custody arrangement, this will also be decided by a judge.
Unless your circumstances dictate otherwise, in NY State most judges believe that it is in the best interest of the child to maintain relatively equal contact with both parents.
In some cases a Law Guardian will be assigned to represent the best interests of the child. He or she will talk with the child, and with each parent, and make a recommendation to the court based on his or her findings.
The Summons and Complaint alerts your spouse to your plans, and allows both parties, with their attorneys, to engage a conversation about responsibilities, who will manage what, and how it will be handled. If your family contains children, it may also be important to share with them, together if possible, your plans to separate as divorce can be a stressful experience affecting the finances, living arrangements and schedules of all family members.
Under New York State Law, once a divorce action has been initiated, your spouse must personally be served with the filed divorce papers. Therefore, a process server must physically provide the documents to your spouse—not left at their residence, with their employer, mailed or given to anyone on behalf of your spouse.
At this point, many more questions will surface as far as how to manage divorce proceedings especially if legally separating a family, business, finances, and property.
Finding the Right Lawyer
Once you’ve decided you want to hire a lawyer, the next step is to find one. Integral to this process is finding not only the most knowledgeable lawyer, but a firm that maintains credibility, a positive reputation, is professional, and compassionate. Legal matters involving families are individual, unique and require a thoughtful approach. Clients will want to seek out an attorney that understands their special situation, and can navigate it with expertise. At Marnell Law Group, P.C., you will find not just one, but a team of attorneys with decades of combined experience with divorce litigation, trials and settlements. We understand that the process of resolving family issues is emotionally and financially taxing, and through our own our Client Centered, Client Focused Care®approach, we educate our clients about the multiple steps in divorce proceedings, how we manage each step, and how you will be supported through each phase. Our most important goal is to ensure that your rights are protected and that you gain benefit from all that you are entitled to the greatest extent possible.
Moving Beyond Divorce
Similar to most legal matters, there is a volume of paperwork required, often containing highly personal information about your family life, finances, business dealings and the like. Some couples find this process the most tedious as you are required to publicly reveal your private affairs, how much money you make and how it is spent. In addition to an in depth review of your personal affairs, there will likely be opportunities to meet with your spouse and his/her attorney to determine how to successfully split the marital assets/properties and manage custody of the children, should you have any.
Our goal at the Marnell Law Group, P.C, is to assist in making this process as seamless as possible so that you can move beyond the stigma associated with divorce and begin anew.
Should you wish to meet with us to determine if we can assist you, please contact us at: 516-542-9000 to arrange an initial consultation with one of our attorneys.
THE DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS OF MARNELL LAW GROUP, P.C. CONCENTRATE THEIR PRACTICE IN COMPLEX DIVORCE, CUSTODY AND ALL AREAS OF FAMILY LAW THROUGHOUT SUFFOLK COUNTY, NASSAU COUNTY, LONG ISLAND, MELVILLE, SMITHTOWN, EAST MEADOW, FARMINGDALE, HUNTINGTON, DIX HILLS, MASSAPEQUA, SYOSSET AND HAUPPAUGE.