• Ruben Stepanian

How Much Does a Divorce in New York Cost?

There are two types of divorces in New York State: contested and uncontested.

A divorce is contested when you and your spouse do not agree on some, most or any part of the divorce. You might be arguing about property division, child custody, child support, alimony, or other issues. If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, you must go to court and ask a judge to make the needed decisions.

When you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, then you qualify for an uncontested divorce. If your divorce is uncontested, you do not have to appear in court.

The cost of a divorce in New York depends on if your case is contested or uncontested. A contested divorce is more expensive than an uncontested divorce. A contested divorce proceeding may take a year or a few years to resolve depending on the complexity of the issues involved. Though an attorney cannot precisely assess all the fees that you will incur before you start the case, they can approximate a cost range.

Uncontested divorces are typically completed between 4 and 12 months. Our attorneys offer a flat rate for an uncontested divorce. This is because there are minimal negotiations, if any, and therefore, the paperwork that is necessary to obtain a divorce will be easier to put together. This will reduce the cost of your divorce in New York.

No-Fault and Fault Divorces in New York

You must notify the Court if you wish to start a divorce proceeding. In the formal request to the court, you must provide the ‘grounds’ for your divorce.

In New York State, you have the option of applying for a ‘no-fault’ divorce. In applying for such a divorce, you declare that your marriage has been irretrievably broken for at least six months before your filing. Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage occurs when: (1) your marriage is not functioning; or (2) you and your spouse are essentially leading separate lives; or (3) you and your spouse no longer wish to be married, and it is unlikely that you will get back together.

The ‘no-fault’ uncontested divorce is the least costly way to get divorced.

‘Fault’ based ‘grounds’ for divorce in New York include:

  1. Cruel and Inhumane Treatment: The Court will assess whether one spouse abused the other either physically or mentally during the marriage.

  2. Abandonment: One spouse must have abandoned the other for at least a year or more and signaled that they do not intend to return.

  3. Imprisonment: One spouse must have been in prison for three or more years in a row after the marriage began.

  4. Adultery: The spouse must prove that the other committed adultery during the marriage.

  5. Divorce After a Legal Separation Agreement: You may seek a divorce one year after you and your spouse have signed a valid separation agreement and have lived apart for one year.

  6. Divorce After a Judgement of Separation: You may seek a divorce if the Supreme Court has issued a judgement of separation and after you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for one year. (Domestic Relations Law section 170)

‘Fault’ divorces will raise the cost of your divorce in New York because either you or your spouse seek to put blame on one another.

If your spouse has already filed a ‘fault’ divorce against you, do not worry. If you hire a competent attorney, then your attorney will file a counterclaim seeking a ‘no-fault’ divorce. Your attorney will also attempt to negotiate with your soon-to-be ex to agree to a ‘no-fault’ divorce. Since many judges favor ‘no-fault’ divorces over ‘fault’ divorces, when you seek a ‘no-fault’ divorce you will be on a better footing with the Court than your spouse.

For the above reasons, if you are the one filing the initial documents, you should seriously consider a ‘no-fault’ divorce. Especially since, ‘fault’ divorces are much more likely to end up in a court hearing or trial, and your attorney will have to spend countless hours to gather strong evidence that will prove (or disprove) the alleged wrongdoing. As divorce attorneys charge for contested divorces on an hourly basis, the cost of your divorce will be remarkably high.

Assuming you and your spouse seek a no-fault divorce, but you disagree as to the terms of the divorce, you may have added expenses such as: accountants, real estate appraisers, pension and retirement fund appraisers, custody evaluators, financial analysts, or private investigators.

Court Fees

Here is a list of court fees which may be required as your case proceeds in New York:

If you decide to proceed with your case without an attorney, the court fees for an uncontested divorce total $370.

If you cannot afford the $370, the Court allows you to file a poor person application to waive the fees.

Attorney Fees

Attorneys require a retainer deposit prior to working on your case. When your attorney appears in the action after you sign the retainer, they cannot withdraw without court permission, even if you owe them money. A retainer is therefore security for the attorney that guarantees that they will be paid at least the retainer amount.

Your attorney fees will vary based on the issues you have to resolve in your divorce.

Factors that determine approximate attorney fees for your divorce:

  • Whether your spouse agrees to the divorce;

  • Whether you and your spouse agree on how to split property;

  • Whether you and your spouse agree to matters relating to your children i.e., child custody, visitation, and child support; and

  • Whether you can communicate together effectively, rationally, and maturely.

Flat Fee or Flat Rate Lawyer

At Stepanian Law Firm, we offer a flat rate for uncontested divorces.

Our uncontested divorce lawyers in New York offer a step-by-step walk through of the uncontested divorce process as well.

Who Pays the Divorce Fees in NY?

Generally, the spouse who has a higher income will be responsible to pay the less-monied spouse’s attorney’s fees. New York legislatures created this rule so that the richer spouse would not be able to outspend and outmaneuver the less-monied spouse.

If you and your spouse’s earnings are similar, then each party is held responsible for their own legal fees. However, in some situations, the Court will force one spouse to pay for counsel fees incurred by the other spouse, if a spouse behaves in bad faith (ex. hiding assets or income), or if they unnecessarily prolong litigation.

So, how much does a divorce in New York cost? It depends on your situation. But it is best to opt for an uncontested ‘no-fault’ divorce and settle the matter with your spouse and attorney.

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