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Posted on August 14, 2023

How Long Does a Divorce Take in New York?

Going through a divorce can be one of the most emotional and stressful experiences of your life. Especially when there are children involved, a divorce can have a deep psychological and personal impact on all parties. The last thing anyone going through a divorce would want is a prolonged process full of conflict. Aside from the psychological effects, a long divorce case can also cause bills to accumulate, with legal and court fees being of primary concern.

Not all divorces have to be contentious or dragged out, there are options that a couple seeking to divorce can explore to have a more amicable, and easy divorce process in New York. Having the assistance of an experienced Manhattan divorce lawyer should help make the legal processes surrounding a divorce more efficient. A skilled attorney who is experienced in mediation can also help in the de-escalation of conflict and improve negotiation.

What Are the Factors That Contribute to the Length of a Divorce?

Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation refers to the process of consulting a professional to discuss each spouse’s needs regarding the divorce. A mediator’s role is to facilitate the discussion between the spouses and to help them cooperate in discussing the terms of the divorce. Mediation is not meant to replace the divorce process and the couple still has the choice of whether to proceed with the divorce. Mediation may also not be effective for couples for which communication has deteriorated beyond repair. 

No-Fault Divorces

New York divorces fall under many different grounds. Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for which a couple can file for a divorce. A couple can get a no-fault divorce if their marriage has broken down irretrievably for at least six months. In this kind of divorce, a separation agreement is not required. The allegation that the marriage has broken down is enough. However, the divorce will not be finalized until the couple has come to an agreement regarding the following major issues in their marriage:

  • Distribution of marital property
  • Child support, custody, and visitation of any minor children
  • Spousal support, also known as Maintenance 
  • Legal fees and expenses
New York City divorce attorney

Legal Separation

If you and your spouse have been legally separated for a year through a binding separation agreement, you may be able to directly convert the agreement into a divorce. To obtain a judgment of divorce through separation, you will need to prove to the court that you and your spouse have followed the terms of the separation agreement for more than a year. 

However, it is crucial that you carefully construct the separation agreement to reflect your best interests. The court will not consider the separation agreement enforceable if it deems that there has been coercion, fraud, or unfairness in the agreement. Seeking the help of an experienced New York City separation agreement attorney may help you draft a document that will be honored by the court because of its fairness. 

Uncontested Divorce

If the couple is willing and able to compromise and agree on the terms of their divorce, the couple’s attorneys can move ahead in drafting the divorce documents and filing them in court. The only additional time needed in this type of divorce is the turnaround time of the court and whether they have a lot of backlogs. Uncontested divorces can take roughly three to six months to be finalized.

Contested Divorce

While not inevitable, sometimes a couple comes to the divorce table unable to work with each other. When a couple disagrees on a factor of the divorce, the divorce becomes contested. It can take longer for the divorcing couple to settle on the factors of their divorce. Both spouses will need to hire their own legal counsel specialized in contested divorces to represent their best interests. 

If a settlement is not reached, the case would have to be turned over to the court. The court will decide on the factors of the divorce on behalf of the spouses. A contested divorce may take 9 months on average, or more if a lot of the variables in the divorce are contested.

At-Fault or Fault-Based Divorces

A fault-based or at-fault marriage can be filed for cases where a spouse alleges and is able to prove that the other spouse did something to cause the dissolution of the marriage. At-fault grounds in New York include the following:

  • Cruel and inhuman treatment –  Using these grounds for a divorce involves proving to the court that physical, verbal, emotional – and at times, financial – abuses happened during the last five years of your marriage. 
  • Abandonment – This ground requires that your spouse must have abandoned you for at least a year. One kind of abandonment is physical abandonment, which involves being locked out or moving out of the marital home.
  • Imprisonment for three consecutive years – If your spouse is sentenced to prison after your marriage and has been in prison for three years consecutively, you may use this ground to file for a divorce. A petition for divorce can be applied while your spouse is still in jail or up to five years after they are released.
  • Adultery – Filing a divorce under grounds of adultery involves having to provide third-party evidence to the court. This may be especially difficult to prove without the help of an experienced New York City divorce attorney.

At-fault divorces and no-fault divorces can take roughly the same amount of time to conclude, depending on how capable the couple is of cooperation with one another. However, it is important to note that the longer a divorce is litigated, the longer it will take to conclude. Regardless of whether you are filing a no-fault or an at-fault divorce, the help of a skilled New York City divorce attorney will be beneficial in making sure the process goes as efficiently as possible. 

Negotiations and court proceedings can take a long time without an experienced Manhattan divorce attorney by your side. An attorney will also be aware of the changes in the laws and statute of limitations that you must follow to pursue particular at-fault grounds for divorce. 

At the Law Office of Richard Roman Shum, we provide qualified legal counsel and aggressive representation when needed to protect our client’s rights. Our experienced Manhattan divorce attorneys may be able to help you. Call us today at (646) 259-3416 or fill out our online form to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Factors Description
Divorce Mediation Discussion between spouses with the help of a professional mediator to agree on the terms of the divorce
No-Fault Divorces Divorce filed without the need for a separation agreement, but requires an agreement on distribution of property, child support and custody, spousal support, and legal fees and expenses
Legal Separation Divorce filed after being legally separated for a year through a binding separation agreement that reflects the best interests of both parties
Uncontested Divorce Divorce that proceeds quickly if the couple agrees on the terms
Contested Divorce Divorce where a couple disagrees on a factor of the divorce, requiring both spouses to hire legal counsel, and can take longer
At-Fault or Fault-Based Divorces Divorce filed for cases where a spouse alleges and is able to prove that the other spouse did something to cause the dissolution of the marriage, such as cruelty or adultery
Children Time taken to agree on child custody, support, and visitation agreement
Assets and Liabilities Time taken to assess and distribute marital property and debt
Complex Assets and Liabilities Time taken to distribute assets such as shares in a company, a marital-owned business, stocks, and foreign investments, or significant debt
Alimony or Spousal Maintenance Time taken to determine the amount of financial support for the financially dependent spouse

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in NY

When couples in New York decide to part ways, one of the primary concerns involves the costs associated with a divorce. The cost of divorce in NY can vary greatly based on various elements:

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce: An uncontested divorce in NY, where both parties mutually agree on all terms, is the most cost-effective route. The average cost is around $500, which covers filing fees and court costs. However, this cost can increase if parties need legal consultation or assistance with paperwork. The process of an uncontested divorce is also typically quicker, further reducing costs as it requires less involvement from legal professionals.

On the contrary, a contested divorce, where disagreements on terms persist, can substantially escalate costs due to court appearances, mediation, and potentially a trial. The cost could range from $3,000 to $30,000, or even higher, depending on the nature and number of contested issues, and the complexity of the case.

Child Involvement: When children are involved in a divorce, additional costs related to child custody and support arrangements may arise. These costs could include the expense of a child custody evaluator, who assesses the family situation and makes recommendations to the court, or fees for a Guardian ad Litem, a court-appointed individual tasked with determining the best interests of the child. The more contentious the custody dispute, the more time a lawyer needs to spend negotiating or litigating these issues, which drives up costs.

Attorney’s Fees: Legal representation forms a significant part of the overall cost of a divorce. The hourly rates for divorce attorneys vary based on the attorney’s experience level, reputation, geographical location, and the complexity of the case. While it may be tempting to save money by avoiding legal counsel, doing so can lead to unfavorable outcomes, especially in complicated situations.

Mediation or Collaborative Divorce: Mediation or collaborative divorces offer alternative, often less expensive, paths to traditional divorce. Both parties work together with a neutral third party (mediator) or their respective attorneys to resolve disputes. This method can save money by reducing court costs and legal fees, and by simplifying and speeding up the divorce process.

Court Fees: Court fees are an inescapable part of the divorce process. In New York State, these fees are typically around $350, although they can vary by county. There may also be additional costs for court services or for hiring a process server to deliver divorce papers. In some cases, parties may qualify for a fee waiver, which can help reduce costs.

Other Potential Costs: There are other potential costs in a divorce, such as real estate appraisals, psychological evaluations (if custody is contested), and costs associated with changing a name. Parties may also need to consider the cost of setting up separate households, tax implications of divorce, and potential changes in health insurance coverage.

If you need help with divorce, creating a separation agreement, or resolving complex asset and liability issues, consulting an experienced New York City divorce attorney can ensure a smooth and efficient process. The Law Office of Richard Roman Shum provides competent legal counsel and representation to protect clients’ rights, and their experienced attorneys are ready to assist in making the process as efficient as possible.

Other Factors

The length of time your divorce may take can hinge on your and your spouse’s agreement or inability to agree on the matter of these variables. Discussing these factors is of utmost importance as these can affect your life even after the divorce has been settled. 


If you and your spouse have children together, it is doubly important to make sure that they live their lives as uninterrupted and stable as possible. You and your spouse would also need to discuss matters involving child custody and support. A visitation agreement would also be necessary so that your child/ren could spend time with their other parent. Keep in mind that, even though you and your spouse are experiencing the end of your relationship, your child/ren may be experiencing the hurt even more. It is important to be as civil to your partner as possible, especially always in front of the children.

Assets and Liabilities

The distribution of marital property can be one of the most time-consuming processes in a divorce. Generally speaking, couples with more shared assets may have to take longer to decide who gets which property. It is important to keep in mind that it is not only assets that need to be distributed. Your marital debt would also need to be assessed to ensure that you and your spouse are paying your fair shares.

If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with your spouse, that can shorten the process considerably. Your nuptial agreements may accelerate the distribution of your assets and liabilities.

Complex Assets and Liabilities

Compared to real estate and assets like vehicles, some assets might be more complex to distribute. Such assets can include shares in a company, a marital-owned business, stocks, and foreign investments. 

If a couple has acquired a significant debt, it would also be subject to distribution unless the court decides against it. An example can be when a spouse has incurred debt for a third party that caused the dissolution of the marriage.

Alimony or Spousal Maintenance

In cases where one spouse is financially dependent on the other, a discussion of furnishing spousal support may be entered. This is especially true in cases where one spouse has given up their career to build a family and allow the other spouse to work. 

The court will decide on the amount of alimony the financially dependent spouse is entitled to through a careful evaluation of their employment history. The court can also calculate the amount using the potential salary the dependent spouse may have earned when they quit their career and how difficult it would be for them to restart it.

Consulting an Experienced New York City Divorce Attorney

There’s no need for your divorce to be arduous and prolonged. At the Law Offices of Richard Roman Shum, we are committed to helping couples move on from this difficult chapter of their relationship. Our skilled New York City divorce attorneys are here to assist you in making the process as efficient as possible. We are open to exploiting terms of negotiation but are prepared to provide aggressive litigation for your best interests. 

Contact us today at (646) 259-3416 to schedule an appointment with our skilled Manhattan divorce attorneys.

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