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For most people, a divorce is a painful process. When you get married, you plan to spend the rest of your life with your partner. The reality is that some marriages don’t work out, and couples decide to split up and go their separate ways.
The divorce process is different in each state, and if you’re going through a divorce, you’re probably wondering how long the process is going to take.
Unfortunately, there is no way to pinpoint the exact time that a divorce will be finalized, but there is a basic timeline that can shed some light on the duration of the process.
The divorce process actually consists of several steps because it’s not a single action. To complete the divorce, you must pass through all of the different points in the timeline.
Filing for the Petition
The very first step in the process consists of filing for the divorce petition. The plaintiff must begin the process by filing for the divorce petition, which is also known as a complaint.
Since it’s a legal matter, the petition must be filed with the court. The complaint lets the plaintiff describe what they believe is grounds for the divorce.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if the divorce is fault or no-fault based. Before the divorce is filed, we can explain the issue of fault and how it works.
Service of Process
This is the next step in the process, and it involves serving your spouse with the proper complaint and summons. A summons is a formal notice, and it lets the defendant know that a divorce action has been filed. For this to occur, a process server is personally required to deliver the summons to the defendant.
Response from the Spouse
The next part of the timeline involves a response from the spouse. If the summons has been filed with a complaint, then the defendant has up to 20 days to provide an answer to the complaint.
If the summons is served without a complaint, the defendant has 20 days to answer with a Notice of Appearance. Once the Notice of Appearance has been filed, the plaintiff is required to serve the defendant with the complaint within 20 days.
The response from the defendant can include counterclaims, and the plaintiff will have 20 days to respond to the counterclaims.
Discovery and Investigation
The next part of the timeline involves discovery and investigation. This part of the process involves gathering vital documents and information that involve issues that are being disputed.
A large portion of this process involves gathering financial documents. Most of the documents are for the financials of both parties involved.
The next part of the divorce process consists of negotiations. It’s quite common for settlement discussions to begin during this stage of the process.
This is also the part of the process that can take the longest. Due to the nature of most divorces, it’s quite common for the parties involved to disagree with each other. If negotiations aren’t successful, the entire divorce process might be significantly delayed.
However, on the flipside, successful negotiations have the power to significantly reduce the duration of the entire process, which is beneficial for both parties. It’s very common for mediation to be used to help both parties reach a satisfactory settlement.
The Pretrial Conference
This is viewed as the final choice for both parties to avoid going to trial. Since it’s a conference, it’s attended by both parties.
Each party has an attorney will get a glimpse into what is very likely to occur during a trial. In most cases, the pretrial conference serves as an eye opener for both parties, and it can be a powerful tool to facilitate a settlement.
If the pretrial conference isn’t successful in helping both parties reach a settlement, the next step in the timeline is the trial. The case will go to trial, and the judge will be able to hear the information from both parties. The judge will examine the legal arguments and evidence from both parties and decide on the issues that are being contested.
Misunderstanding the Timeline
A lot of people don’t understand the timeline and how it applies to their case. It’s quite common for people to believe they can start the New York divorce process and get legally divorced within a single month. Although it’s possible, it’s very unlikely that a divorce will be finished after only 30 days. Before beginning the process, it’s crucial for clients to understand the process and have realistic expectations.
The Pre-Filing Divorce Action
Before a divorce action has ever been filed with the New York State Supreme Court, it’s not uncommon for clients to work with an attorney for days, weeks or months.
Most of this time is spent trying to obtain a favorable settlement. The complexity of the issues involved determines how fast a pre-filing settlement can be achieved. In many cases, one party is ready to compromise and reach a satisfactory settlement, and the other party refuses to compromise and reach some sort of agreement.
When we meet with a client for the first time, we can discuss all of the issues involved and try to reach a pre-filing settlement. The goal is almost always to reach a pre-filing settlement and avoid going to trial. We can work with our clients and send settlement proposals or lets to the other divorce lawyer and spouse.
It depends on the cooperation level of both parties, but it might be possible to reach a settlement within three to four months. Once a settlement has been reached, the final documents for the divorce are prepared and delivered to the court. The goal is to get a signature from the court.
This process can require another two to three months, and the speed of the process depends on what area of New York the client lives in. Our expertise tells us whether or not we should continue with negotiations or move to the next step in the process.
It’s not uncommon for a spouse to cause the process to be delayed, and due to the actions of the spouse or their divorce attorney, the case might even come to a complete halt. If the parties cannot reach an agreement or promise, it’s best to avoid wasting time and proceed with the next course of action, which consists of moving into the Court.
The Post-Filing Divorce Action
In New York, a summons and complaint can be filed, but if neither party files for a Request for Judicial Intervention, nothing will happen. The RJI is an important document because it’s used to get the case in front of a judge.
The speed that an RJI can be filed depends on whether or not the spouse answers the lawsuit. For example, it might be delayed if there is some sort of emergency, and the spouse is unable to answer. Once a summons and complaint have been filed, we must wait 30 days to file an RJI.
After the RJI has been filed with the Court, the case gets scheduled for a preliminary conference. The preliminary conference can involve a judge. If you live in Westchester Country, the conference might take place before a Court Attorney Referee.
Although it depends on the Court, it can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to obtain a Preliminary Conference date. However, an emergency situation might extend this timeline.
During the Preliminary Conference, the issues associated with the divorce will be identified, and the complexity of the case will determine the length of the Discovery process.
For non-complex cases, discovery must be finished within a period of four months. Cases with moderate complexity are given a discovery period of seven months. For a very complex case, the discovery period will be set at 11 months.
The discovery timeframe is used by the Court as a way to resolve discovery within a set amount of time. The discovery process involves all of the subpoenas, depositions and document exchanges involved with the divorce. During the Preliminary Conference, the judge will give the plaintiff’s attorney a date to file a Note of Issue, which signifies the completion of the discovery process.
The Court will do everything possible to keep a case moving, but there might be some delays. Some common delays include obtaining documents, difficulty scheduling depositions and motion practice.
While the discovery process is taking place, the Court will regularly hold compliance conferences, so the status of the discovery can be examined. Compliance conferences are also held to resolve any potential issues that might arise.
Once the Discovery process is done, the Court will set the matter down for the Trial and Pre-Trial conference. The amount of time that this can take depends on what county the divorce action has been filed in. In some cases, this part of the process might take several months. The trial is the part of the process that consumes the largest amount of time in the timeline.
Once again, the amount of time required depends on the county where the divorce action has been filed. It’s not uncommon for trial dates to take up to three months, but depending on the county, it might even take up to nine months.
If no settlements are reached in the previous parts of the timeline, the final part of the process is the trial. A trial can take a few days, or it can take a few weeks.
The amount of time required for the trial depends on the issues associated with the case, and it also depends on the number of witnesses. A number of judges prefer the trial to span several consecutive days, but in some cases, a trial is started and delated for several days, weeks or months.
How Long Does It Really Take
It should be easy to see that the divorce process in New York can take quite some time because there are many different variables involved.
Some divorce cases are completed in one year, and others might take more or less time. It’s important to make sure that the case is handled properly, and we want to make sure that it’s handled correctly.