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How Do I Start the Divorce Process in New York?

If you have made the difficult decision to end your marriage the next step is to begin the legal process of divorce. Because even a seemingly simple divorce can turn complicated rapidly it is always best to consult with an experienced New York divorce attorney before attempting to pursue a divorce. There are, however, some basic steps that everyone needs to take when planning to divorce in New York.

In order to file for divorce in New York you, or your spouse, must meet the state's residency requirements. Specifically, one of the following must apply:

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    • You or your spouse must have been living in New York State for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the date you start your divorce action; OR
    • You or your spouse must have been living in New York State on the date you start your divorce action and for a continuous period of at least one year immediately before the date you start the divorce action, and at least one of the following must also be true:
  • Your marriage ceremony was performed in New York State; OR
  • You lived in New York State with your spouse as married persons; OR
  • You or your spouse must have been living in New York State for a continuous period of at least one year immediately before the date you start your divorce action and your grounds for divorce must have happened in New York State. OR
  • You and your spouse must be residents of New York State (no matter how long) on the date you start your divorce action, and your grounds for divorce must have happened in New York State.

Next, you must decide on the grounds for your divorce. Although New York added the option to file on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown the state also maintained the traditional grounds for divorce, including the following:

  • Irretrievable breakdown in relationship for a period at least six months - "no fault"
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Abandonment
  • Imprisonment
  • Adultery
  • Living separate and apart pursuant to a separation judgment or decree
  • Living separate and apart pursuant to a separation agreement

Once you have determined that you meet the residency requirements and decided what grounds you will allege for the divorce you are ready to prepare and file the initial documents which will include the Complaint and a Summons. These two documents will serve to initiate the divorce action and notify your spouse that you have started the divorce process.

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