You're at the end of the road with your spouse and know divorce is the only option. But the idea of going through a long, messy contested divorce process feels overwhelming. The good news is that in New York, if you and your spouse agree to the divorce and terms like property division and child custody, child and spousal support, you may be able to get an uncontested divorce. This can save you time, money, and emotional stress. We'll walk you through everything you need to know to get an uncontested divorce in New York, whether your spouse participates in the process or you need to seek a default judgment or divorce by publication. We'll cover the paperwork you need to file, the timeline, costs, and more. Read on for the complete guide to making your New York divorce as smooth as possible.

Understanding Uncontested Divorce in New York

Uncontested divorce in New York, also known as no-fault divorce, means that you and your spouse agree to end the marriage. To qualify, you need to meet the state's residency requirements and cite irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship (Domestic Relations Law Section 170(7)) as the reason for divorce.  If you think your divorce case qualifies fill out our online qualification form.

Filing the Case

To get started, one spouse files a Summons with Notice or a Summons and Verified Complaint with the county clerk. This establishes the grounds for divorce and requests dissolution of the marriage. The party that files the case is the Plaintiff.  You'll have to provide information like the date you got married, the grounds for divorce, and a proposed division of assets.  We recommend you have this informatio when you come in to retain us.  Sometimes its helpful to have the marriage certificate handy, and a tax return because you will need the social security numbers of the parties, and of the children, if there are any.

Serving the Papers

Once the petition is filed, it must be legally served to the other spouse. This is usually done through a process server, but can also be served by mail or publication if the other spouse cannot be located.  Many times, to have the process go faster, the defendant signs an affidavit and waiver agreeing to accept the papers and to placing the matter on the uncontested divorce calendar with the Court.  The defendant's waiver also contains an acknowledgement of receipt of various notices contained in the summons, including the notice regarding the spousal maintenance, certain automatic orders about transferring assets, and an acknowledgment that any health insurance available from the filing spouse's employer will no longer be available once the divorce is finalized.

Negotiating a Settlement

Just because you are filing an uncontested divorce, doesn't mean you can't have assets or issues that need to be resolved in the divorce.  If you can come to an agreement on the division of assets, child custody and support, alimony, and other issues, you can file a Settlement Agreement with the court. The judge will typically approve a fair and equitable agreement. If you cannot agree, the court will decide on the distribution of assets and responsibilities, but only if the divorce is converted to a contested divorce.  An uncontested divorce is supposed to be just that...uncontested.  This means there is nothing to fight over between you.  Having an agreement in place is vital to saving the cost and expense of extensive litigation.  The more you have worked out before coming in to retain your attorney, the more you'll save in legal fees.  Just be aware, sacrificing certain standard divorce rights - like the correct amount of child support, simply because you want to save some money filing the divorce, may cost you more in the long run.  For more information on the pitfalls of shortchanging your settlement, watch the video above.

Finalizing the Divorce

Provided there are no contests, objections or appeals, an uncontested divorce in New York typically takes 3 to 9 months to finalize, depending on the County the case is filed. (How long the case will take depends on the Court backlog, the number of issues in the case - custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and the County).  We offer the opportunity in certain types of cases for an expedited process, but there are certain cases that won't qualify.  Ask us before you file if your case qualifies for expedited service.  The judge will review all submitted paperwork and, if approved, grant an absolute judgement of divorce. Congratulations, you are officially divorced!

While the process seems straightforward, divorce can be emotionally and financially complicated. Consulting with a divorce attorney regarding your legal rights and options is always a good idea. But with open communication, compromise and patience, you can navigate an uncontested divorce.

Qualifying for an Uncontested Divorce

To qualify for an uncontested divorce in New York, you and your spouse must meet certain conditions. You must have a written separation agreement. This establishes how assets will be divided, spousal support, child custody and support, and other financial matters. Both parties must voluntarily sign this agreement.

You must not have any disputes over major issues.

An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse agree on key points like division of assets and debts, spousal maintenance, child custody and visitation, and child support. If you disagree on any of these, you'll have to pursue a contested divorce.

You must meet the residency requirement.

At least one spouse must have lived in New York for a continuous period of one year before filing for divorce. Some counties may have additional residency requirements.

You must have grounds for divorce.

In New York, the only grounds for an uncontested divorce are irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for a period of at least six months. This means you and your spouse have been separated and the marriage has irrevocably broken down with no chance of reconciliation.

You must disclose your financial information.

Even with an uncontested divorce, you'll still have to provide details on your income, expenses, assets, and debts so the court can determine a fair settlement, especially regarding spousal support and child support. Failure to fully disclose can lead to issues later on.

With all the necessary conditions met and the proper paperwork filed, an uncontested divorce in New York can typically be granted in 3 to 6 months. As long as you and your spouse are in agreement, it can be a relatively quick and straightforward process to dissolve your marriage and move on.

Filing for Default Divorce When Your Spouse Is Missing

If your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown and you have not been in contact for an extended period of time, you may be eligible to obtain a default divorce in New York. To start the process, you will need to file a petition for divorce in Supreme Court in the county where you last lived together.

In the petition, you must state that you have made diligent efforts to locate your spouse, such as contacting friends and family, checking public records, and hiring a private investigator if necessary. The court will review the efforts you have made before granting a default judgement. If the court is satisfied, it will issue an order of publication in a local newspaper, stating that your spouse must appear in court within 30 days.

After 30 days with no response, the court will schedule a an inquest. You will appear before a judge and provide details about your marriage, efforts to locate your spouse, and reasons for wanting a divorce. The judge will determine if sufficient cause for divorce exists. If so, a final judgement will be issued, dissolving your marriage and addressing issues like child custody, support, and division of assets.

While a default divorce can be convenient when a spouse is missing or uncooperative, it does come with drawbacks. The judgement will be made without your spouse’s input, so the division of assets may be uneven or child custody arrangements unsatisfactory. The judgement can also be vacated within one year if your spouse later resurfaces and contests the terms. For these reasons, a default divorce should only be pursued as a last resort. If at all possible, seeking an uncontested divorce where both parties agree to the terms is a preferable option.


So there you have it - the full rundown on getting an uncontested divorce in New York. While it may seem daunting, our Brooklyn uncontested divorce attorney can get you through it. Make sure you meet the residency requirements, get your paperwork in order, and file with the county clerk. If you can't locate your spouse, you may need to serve them by publication. Once the waiting period is up, you'll attend an uncontested divorce hearing and hopefully walk away fully divorced. Breathe a sigh of relief knowing you just simplified a complicated legal process. Now go enjoy your new life chapter with a clean slate!

To learn if your divorce case qualifies for an uncontested divorce, try our online qualification form.

To learn how an uncontested divorce is different from a contested divorce, as well as other issues regarding the uncontested divorce process, visit our videos page.

Interested in Expediting Your Uncontested Divorce in New York?

While an uncontested divorce is a relatively low-cost and fast way to get a divorce in New York, in many counties, the divorce can take 8, 10, or even 12 months to be finalized once all the papers are filed.  This is because of the sheer volume of cases and insufficient staff to process them.  There is, however, an alternative.  Ask us about how we can expedite your divorce into a few short months, or even weeks.  With proper planning, and under the right circumstances, your uncontested divorce in New York can be expedited for an additional fee.  Don't forget to ask us about this option.