When you and your spouse first decide to get divorced, surely the first thought is, “I cannot wait for this to be over.” However, you would be surprised how long the process actually takes from saying, “I don’t,” to the finalized divorce. Below will focus on uncontested divorces in New York and California and the time frame for each step.
1. Residency Requirements:
First, in order to file for a divorce yourself and your spouse must meet certain residency requirements, no matter what type of divorce you opt for, online or traditional. For instance, in New York either (a) you or your spouse must have been living in the state continuously for at least two years before the divorce case is started; (b) you or your spouse have been living in the state continuously for at least one year before the divorce case is started and (i) you got married in New York State, or (ii) you lived in the state as a married couple, or (iii) the grounds for your divorce happened in the state. In California, either (a) you or your spouse must have lived in the state for the last 6 months, and the county where you plan to file the divorce for the last 3 months, or (b) if you and your spouse have lived in California for at least 6 months but in different counties for at least 3 months, you can file in either county. So depending on how long you’ve lived in either state, to obtain a divorce decree you may have to wait until you meet the residency requirements.
2. Filing of Petition, Summons and Proof of Service
After meeting the residency requirements, it’s time to file! In New York, a summons and complaint or summons with notice, must be filed with the county clerk. In California, you must submit the petition, summons, declaration for court assignment and the UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) Declaration (if there are children of this marriage).
Both states require that after you file these papers, you then must serve them on the other party, aka your spouse. In New York, the plaintiff, or the person filing, must serve the initial documents within 120 days of filing these papers with the County Clerk’s Office. In California you must file the completed proof of service with the clerk’s office within 60 days of filing your original paperwork. Depending on how long the service takes this can add time to the process.
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After the filing spouse has filed the initial documents, your spouse will also join the process and file response paperwork. In New York, the responding spouse, or the Defendant, must appear or answer within 20 days of being served (30 days if service is made outside the state). In California, the Respondent must respond to the petition within 30 days of receiving it.
Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all of the terms of your divorce, you can include them in a stipulated settlement agreement, which will be attached to the Court-required judgment forms.
In California, you can submit all of your paperwork as soon as you are ready, but there is a mandatory 6-month waiting period before the court will enter your divorce and end your marital status. The 6-month waiting period begins the date your spouse is served with the initial petition documents.
There is no waiting period in New York – you submit all of your documents with the court and then wait for the judge’s approval.
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