Divorce In New York: How To Get Started
A divorce action in New York actually begins at the time that the Summons with Notice or the Summons and Complaint are filed in the Supreme Court by the spouse who is the plaintiff in the case. After that is done, the Summons with Notice, or the Summons and Complaint for divorce are served personally on the defendant spouse who has 20 days to appear in the action. Once the action begins, both spouses must provide financial information and records regarding marital assets, income, expenses, and debts. This is done in financial documents and affidavits disclosing the information for each spouse separately. After all financial discovery is complete, unless it is waived, the matter can be placed on the court calendar for trial or to try and negotiate an amicable settlement.
Described above are the initial legal stages of the New York divorce process. Unless you are representing yourself in court, these actions will primarily be in the hands of your divorce lawyer. However, there is much that you will need to do to prepare yourself for going forward with a divorce.
- Preparation – Organize your divorce papers; start and maintain an expense journal; keep all receipts, including expenses related to your children; be sure to establish good personal credit; open up a bank account in your own name; make sure that all of your inheritance monies are kept apart from the marital estate; make sure that you have at least joint title to your car; if you are currently employed, don’t quit your job; save any and all receipts for large purchases made while you are still married and living with your spouse; find a secure place for your important documents, jewelry, and important personal belongings.
- Emotional balance – Surround yourself with the emotional support of friends, family, as well as professional help; postpone life-altering decisions; take the time to talk to your children; look after your own health and physical fitness. It is important that you do not move out of the marital residence unless your safety and the safety of your children are at risk. Do not move out of the marital residence without your children and without speaking with your divorce lawyer. Do not tolerate any abuse from your spouse. Protect your safety and that of your children.
- Consult an attorney – Before you decide on a legal strategy or take any legal actions, schedule as consultation with at least one, but possibly more than one, New York divorce attorney; collect and bring all your financial records and documents to that consultation; don’t sign any papers, documents, or contracts until you have consulted a divorce lawyer.
- Communications and motivations – Keep the lines of communication open between you and your spouse. Try not to engage in verbal arguments with your spouse, which serve only to drain you of vital energy without accomplishing any results in your separation or divorce. If there are children involved, keep your focus on what is in their best interest. Choose your battles wisely - focus on the important issues of contention and let go of the unimportant ones. If you can negotiate directly with your spouse, focus on the specific issue that needs to be resolved without swelling on old feelings from the past. Treat your spouse as if he or she is a business person with whom you are negotiating a business deal. Do not give in and do not give up. Maintain focus on your ultimate goal of moving forward with your new life.