The New York State Unified Court System offers free instruction booklets and forms for people starting a divorce (http://www.nycourts.gov).
But, before you decide to use these instructions and forms, it is strongly suggested that you seriously take into consideration using a lawyer for your divorce, even if you believe that your divorce will be “uncontested” (i.e., your spouse and you agree on divorce). There may be property to divide between you and your spouse, or you may need an Order of Protection and/or child support and other financial support, among other things.
If you are unsure how to find a lawyer, these resources can help you:
Call the New York State Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service or go to lawhelp.org if you cannot afford a lawyer; visit the court system’s courthelp website or contact your local bar association for a referral.
If both parties agree to divorce, then on the site of The New York State Unified Court System (http://www.nycourts.gov) you can find the forms for the uncontested divorce.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce occurs when:
(a) there are no disagreements between you and your spouse over any financial or divorce-related issues (i.e., child custody and support, division of marital property or spousal support); and
(b) your spouse either agrees to the divorce, or fails to appear in the divorce action.
You may sue for divorce thinking that the proceeding will be uncontested, but discover later that your spouse has decided to contest the case. If this occurs, you may wish to consult an attorney, or you may proceed on your own without an attorney. In either situation, this packet should not be used. Many of the forms in the packet apply only to cases where your spouse either (1) consents to a divorce; or (2) where your spouse does not appear to oppose the divorce.
The Divorce Packet for uncontested divorce that can be found on the site of The New York State Unified Court System may not be for you if:
1. Individuals who seek a divorce are often represented by an attorney. This packet is designed so that you may be able to represent yourself and complete your divorce without an attorney.
2. This packet is intended for use only by a person who believes that his or her divorce will be uncontested.
If you decide to use this packet and to represent yourself:
You will not have the benefit of an attorney’s expertise and advice concerning issues related to divorce proceedings, including, for example, division of marital property, liability for joint debts, child custody and support, spousal maintenance, insurance benefits, and orders of protection or enforcement of the provisions of the divorce judgment that deal with these issues.
You may risk losing certain rights stemming from the marital relationship that are not readily apparent to a person who is not an attorney.
Make sure you read carefully all the forms and optionally consult with someone who used the forms themselves.