9 questions to ask yourself before you decide on a Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce in New York
Divorce is typically messy and emotional. With kids, complicated finances and long marriages, trying to navigate divorce on your own can be incredibly overwhelming. There are some couples who have much less complex circumstances and are able to agree on financial issues without the help of the court system. In some cases, hiring any outside council is prohibitively expensive making DIY divorce the only option.
In New York you can either have an Uncontested Divorce or a Contested Divorce. There are several online options available today that walk you through the steps. In New York State, you can use the state DIY Uncontested Divorce Program if you are over 18 years of age, there are no children under 21 years old, you’ve been married for at least 6 months and can agree on how to divide all your property and debts. The government website uses an online system that helps you navigate the process and complete the forms. Once completed, they can be filed with the county clerk.
If you decide to file for divorce and seek the help of the court (a contested Divorce), you will file a Divorce Action with the county clerk and the process will begin. Complete instructions are available here.
I often work with clients through the pre-divorce planning process. In our Clarity Sessions, we review what options are available and what they might look like in that particular situation. Should you file an uncontested or contested divorce? Is DIY reasonable for you and your spouse?
Whether or not you decide to file an uncontested divorce or you intend to litigate a contested divorce (go to court and have a judge decide), you should familiarize yourself with your rights and what the guidelines are under the law in New York. New York State offers pro bono legal advice for those in need. Most importantly, you should understand the concept of Equitable Distribution (that governs how to divide assets in New York), which means that you don’t necessarily get 50% of assets and debts.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide to DIY Your Divorce:
- Is your spouse reasonable? Are you getting divorced because you mutually agree that you no longer wish to be married or did one of you suddenly decide it was time?
- Can you keep your emotions out of your negotiations?
- Do you understand your finances? Do you know what you own and what you owe? Do you have a realistic post-divorce budget?
- Can you agree on how to divide your assets and debts equitably? Do you feel like you’re able to advocate for yourself and that you are getting what is rightfully yours?
- Are you entitled to on-going financial support? Have you agreed on how that will be paid and when?
- Do you understand how the divorce process works? What paperwork you need to complete and how to complete it?
- Are you aware of your legal rights? Are you comfortable that your agreement respects those rights?
- Have you thought about everything so that once you receive your finalized Divorce Judgement, will you will feel satisfied?
- Have you investigated all your options? There are several low-cost ways to get divorced such as mediation.
I recommend you have the forms reviewed by an attorney before you file them. Once your divorce is filed and your divorce judgment granted, you will no longer be able to change anything.
Divorce make look simple and quick, however, the emotions surrounding divorce often muddy the waters. What may have appeared to be quick and easy becomes long and costly if you are not adequately prepared.
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