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How to contest a divorce

Authored By: LawHelpNY.org
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If your spouse wants to get a divorce but you do not, you have to “contest” the divorce. To contest a divorce means you say no to a divorce. You may not want to get divorced because you disagree with your spouse on certain divorce-related issues, for example, how property will be split up or who will get custody of your children.

 

What do I do to contest a divorce in New York State?

Chances are you have already received divorce papers from your spouse or spouse’s attorney. Now you must file your own papers in court. This is called responding.
 

Note: You have 20 days from the day you were given (served with) divorce papers to respond. If you do not respond to contest the divorce, the divorce can be granted without your agreement.

 

What forms do I file in court?

The forms you must file depend on the divorce papers you were given. Look at the top-right corner of the papers. It will say either “Summons with Notice” or “Summons and Verified Complaint.”

 

If you received a "Summons With Notice"

If you were served with the Summons With Notice, then you must file a "Notice of Appearance and Demand." 

  1. Fill out a free "Notice of Appearance and Demand" online. The form is provided by NYCourts.gov.
  2. Make 2 copies.
  3. Go to the courthouse to file your forms. Hand all 3 copies to the clerk. Ask him or her to stamp the 2 non-original copies and give them back to you. One copy is for you and one copy is for your spouse.
  4. Also, ask the court clerk for a blank “Affidavit of Service.” You will need this later.
  5. Ask a friend who is over 18 years old and a New York state resident to mail one stamped copy of the “Notice of Appearance and Demand” to your spouse’s lawyer.  
  6. Have your friend fill out the “Affidavit of Service" and sign it in front of a notary. 
  7. Make 2 copies of the Affidavit of Service.
  8. Go back to the courthouse to file the Affidavit. Ask the court clerk to stamp the copies. Keep the stamped copies for your records. 

Your spouse’s lawyer should send you a Verified Complaint within 20 days. Once you receive it, you must file an "Answer." You have 20 days to file an "Answer."  It is difficult to write an Answer. It is best to have a lawyer write an "Answer" for you.

 

If you received a "Summons and Verified Complaint"

If you were served with the Summons and Verified Complaint, then you need to file two forms. A "Notice of Appearance and Demand," and an "Answer."

Writing an "Answer" is tricky. You may be able to file a letter along with your Notice of Appearance that explains why you need more time to write your Answer.

It is best, however, to hire a lawyer to write your Answer.

 

Related resources

 

Disclaimer: The above is intended as legal information and is not legal advice. It is always best to talk to a lawyer if you are served with divorce papers.

Last Review and Update: May 03, 2017
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