New York Court Help

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Divorce and Separation

Q. What is a "spouse?"

A. A "spouse" is the person you are married to.

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Q. My spouse and I don't want to go to court, but we need help to work out some issues. Are there out-of-court options?

A. Yes. You may want to try divorce mediation or collaborative family law. These options are not for you if your case involves child abuse, domestic violence or where you cannot locate your spouse.

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Q. My spouse and I have a Separation Agreement on file in the County Clerk's Office. I went to Family Court to get the child support that the Agreement gives me and the court said I couldn't get it there. What do I do?

A. The Family Court can't do anything with a Separation Agreement. You can file a new petition for child support in your county's Family Court or begin a divorce case in your county's Supreme Court. Depending on the amount of money, you can sue to get everything in the Separation Agreement in one of the civil courts.

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Q. Where do I start a divorce?

A. In the Supreme Court of the county where you or your spouse live.

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Q. Do I need a lawyer?

A. Only you can decide that. Think how difficult the divorce will be. If you think that your spouse will not fight the divorce and that there are no other complicated or contested issues like how you will divide your property, child custody, child support, or an order of protection, you can file for an "uncontested" divorce. An uncontested divorce can become a contested divorce if your spouse does not agree with something in the papers that you filed.

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Q. Will the court appoint a lawyer for me free of charge if I want one?

A. Court-appointed lawyers are usually not available for divorces.

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Q. How can I start my "uncontested" divorce without a lawyer?

A. If you don't have children and your marriage has been broken for at least 6 months, you can use the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Program for Uncontested Divorce. This program will help you all the papers you need to file for an uncontested divorce.

If you have children or can't use the DIY program for another reason, you can use the the Uncontested Divorce Packet. There is no charge for the packet. The forms and instructions can be downloaded or picked up from the Clerk's Office.

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Q. I was served with divorce papers more than a year ago and haven't heard anything since. Am I divorced?

A. Check with the County Clerk's Office where you live and where your spouse lives now or used to live.

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Q. How do I get a judge assigned to my case?

A. In Supreme Court you can get a judge assigned after a form called a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI) is filed in court. You can get a RJI form from the Court Clerk's Office or County Clerk's Office. The form must then be filed with the County Clerk.

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Q. Can I go back to my maiden name after the divorce?

A. Yes, but you have to ask for it in your court papers.

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Q. Can I change my children's last name in the divorce?

A. No.

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Q. How can I look at my divorce case file?

A. You can ask to do this at the County Clerk's Office. Remember to bring photo identification.


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