Divorce/Matrimonial Laws FAQ

Q: How long will it take?

A: It is hard to predict how long a divorce will take because every situation is different. Often times, it is to everyone's advantage for both parties to come to an agreement because litigation is expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining.

Under the best of circumstances, when both parties are able to resolve all of their marital issues, a divorce can take as little as two to four months. Once the terms of the divorce have been memorialized in a written agreement, the divorce decree (judgment of divorce) must be drafted, submitted and filed with the court.

Q: How much will it cost?

A: The cost of the divorce will ultimately be determined by the extent to which the husband and wife can agree to resolve their issues amicably. There are other factors as well, such as the complexity of the case and whether there are any issues concerning income and assets. If there are any businesses, licenses or degrees involved, there are special considerations that must be factored in, such as having a neutral accountant analyze the value of the business, license or degree.

Q: What is marital vs. separate property?

A: Typically, marital assets are assets acquired during the marriage. Inheritances and gifts are considered exceptions and in most cases are considered separate property. Property may also be considered separate if there is a premarital agreement in place.

New York has some unique laws governing certain types of assets. For example, licenses and degrees may be considered a marital asset. This includes medical degrees, master's degrees and teaching licenses, which are valued during property division. Businesses are also considered marital assets.

Q: Is my spouse entitled to my inheritance from my relative?

A: Generally, an inheritance is not considered to be part of the marital estate. However, if the inheritance has been commingled with marital assets in a joint account or portions of the inheritance have been spent on family assets, then some of those funds may be considered part of the marital estate.

Q: Are there any legal requirements I must meet in order to get a divorce?

A: Yes. First, you or your spouse must be a resident of New York for a certain period of time. The usual residency requirement is that you or your spouse must have lived in the state for two years before filing for divorce. There are exceptions that allow for a shorter residency period, so speak to our attorneys about your situation.

Second, you must have a "ground" or reason for getting divorced. The most common ground is "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage, commonly called no-fault divorce. Other grounds include abandonment, adultery and cruelty.

Q: What if I want a divorce but I do not know where my spouse is?

A: New York law normally requires that the divorce petition be personally served on the spouse. However, if your spouse cannot be located, we can help you get permission from the court to use an alternate method of service.

Q: What happens to my property after divorce?

A: Generally, property that you owned before marriage or obtained through inheritance or gift during marriage is called "separate property." You keep this property after divorce. Property acquired during your marriage is called "marital property," and will be divided. This can include anything from your home to your retirement plan. Courts divide assets (and debts) equitably, which does not necessarily mean 50-50.

Q: Can I get alimony?

A: The answer depends on your specific circumstances. Alimony (also called spousal support or spousal maintenance) is not part of every divorce in New York. Judges must consider a number of factors, such as need, the ability of the other spouse to pay, the length of marriage, other sources of income and many other factors. You may be entitled to temporary maintenance while the divorce is still pending.

Q: Can I still get spousal support if I did not work during the marriage?

A: You may be entitled to temporary maintenance during the divorce. If you are not receiving support while the divorce is pending, your attorney may submit an application to the court to have your spouse pay you money directly while the divorce is pending.

Q: My spouse left me, who pays my legal fees?

A: The court may direct the primary wage earner to pay the counsel fees.