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Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

It was recently announced that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and his wife, Silda, would divorce after 26 years of marriage. This revelation in and of itself wasn't all that shocking, as the pair had endured numerous, high-profile marital strains. The greater surprise, it seemed, was that the pair also indicated that the split would be uncontested.

In contemplating filing for divorce in Brooklyn, people often assume that if the marriage was long-term or if there are minor children involved or if there are a large number of assets or funds (all of which is true in the Spitzer case) that it is impossible for the divorce to be uncontested.

This is not true, though it will require an experienced divorce lawyer in these cases to ensure your interests are protected. There are benefits to each type of filing - contested versus uncontested - and the kind of divorce you seek will depend largely on your own individual situation.

An uncontested divorce is on in which both spouses agree to all issues concerning the dissolution of marriage. That is, not only do both spouses want the divorce itself, but they agree on the grounds for divorce, child custody arrangements, visitation rights, spousal maintenance, child support and equitable division of the marital property and debts.

If these issues can be resolved before the divorce is ever even filed, then neither of you have to appear in court and the divorce will be considered uncontested from the very inception.

A contested divorce, meanwhile, is when spouses disagree on the aforementioned issues, or some combination of them. For example, your spouse may not contest the divorce itself or child custody or even child support payment amounts. However, he may have an issue with the way you propose dividing the property. In this case, a contested filing would be more appropriate.

Contested filings are inevitably going to be more expensive. They will require more time from your attorney, and tend to be taxing on those involved, both financially and emotionally. In some cases, if there is vehement disagreement, procedures may drag on months or possibly even years.

The time span of an uncontested divorce isn't guaranteed either, but it is likely to be significantly shorter than a contested divorce. Much of it will depend on the level of cooperation we get from both spouses. The faster both spouses sign and submit the paperwork, the faster it can be processed. Local clerks of courts may vary in how quickly they file what you have submitted (depending on backlog, staffing levels, etc.), but if all runs smoothly, an uncontested divorce could  be completed with a final judgment within three months.

So long as the divorce remains uncontested, neither party will need to appear in court, as all matters can be handled by mail, phone, email or fax.

The process is also decidedly less expensive. At the Brooklyn Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC, we offer uncontested divorce filings starting at $399.

It is possible in some cases that a divorce that begins as uncontested could turn contested. There is always the chance that after signing the initial paperwork, one spouse could decide that he or she does not agree with the grounds for divorce, the type of relief sought, the terms of the child support or custody arrangements or property division.

The best way to avoid this possibility is by reaching an agreement with your spouse about all of these matters prior to filing. You may wish to meet with a divorce attorney prior to opening the discussion with your spouse to determine the best way to approach it.

If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.


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