Residency Requirements and Grounds for Divorce
You or your spouse must be a New York resident for six months to file for divorce, also called "dissolution." You don't need a specific reason or grounds to divorce. You only need to state in the divorce papers that irreconcilable differences caused a marriage breakdown. A Watertown court can end a marriage if the couple submits a joint stipulation or written agreement. If you have a minor child, or you don't agree to divorcing, the court can order marriage counseling for up to three months before going ahead with the case.
Your divorce case starts when you file a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" with the Family Department of the local Circuit Court. Your spouse is served with the paperwork and has time to respond. The divorce can be finalized without a trial if you agree on property, child custody and support issues.
Once the petition is filed, either spouse can ask the court to order temporary assistance. This includes temporary child custody and support, and paying community debts.
Dividing the Property
New York law provides that "marital assets," or the property and debts acquired during marriage, are divided equitably upon divorce. Fair division may not mean an equal division; it varies by case. Judges look at factors listed in New York law. Examples include contributions to homemaking and marriage length. A Watertown court may consider whether one spouse has a special reason to keep an asset, such as business property or the family home. "Non-marital assets" include assets you had before marriage if you kept it separate, and income from separate property investments.
Be prepared with information on your property, including when you purchased it, an estimate of value, and details such as account numbers, serial numbers and so forth. You'll be ready to meet with a Watertown divorce lawyer and it can save you a lot of time and money.
A Watertown court can order alimony or maintenance when it is "well-founded." A court will generally consider such factors as marriage duration, assets available to each spouse and the standard of living during the marriage.
A Watertown court can order temporary alimony while the divorce is pending. Most maintenance is ordered for a specific length of time. Once ordered, you'll need to show a " change in circumstances" to modify support.
Child Custody and Visitation
In Huntsville, changes to state law introduced some different concepts and terms to describe child custody and visitation. The parent-child relationship is governed by a parenting plan. Instead of referring to "custody," parents have "timesharing schedules." Parents can agree on arrangements, with court approval. If parents can't agree on a plan, or the court rejects it, the court will decide, guided by the best interest of the child.
The Watertown court may give one parent final say over specific aspects of a child's welfare, such as primary residence, education, or health care. In deciding on the primary residence for a child, the court considers a number of factors, not limited to those listed in state law. These include which parent is more likely to support the child's relationship with the other parent, parental fitness, permanence of the custodial home and school and community life.
Parents are bound by these plans once filed with the court clerk. If you are denied court-ordered access to a child, you can ask the court for help. The judge may decide to modify your child's plans or order relief to encourage compliance, such as directing a parent to follow the plan or pay costs resulting from failure to do so.
Watertown Child Support
In NY, child support is based on parents' combined income and the number of children they support. If necessary, a court can set aside a portion of joint or separate assets of the parties in a separate trust or fund for the support and education for the parties' children.
- A NY child support order can be modified if there has been a change in circumstances. Examples include:
- A big increase or decrease in either parent's income
- A significant change in the timesharing schedule
- A substantial change in the child's financial needs, such as medical or educational expenses
Questions for Your Watertown Divorce Lawyer
- What are alternatives to a court case for divorce in our area? Are mediation or collaborative divorce an option?
- What are the issues if my spouse won't cooperate or get his own lawyer? Can the court force a spouse to get legal help?
- How long will my case take before the divorce is final?