The only court that has jurisdiction over divorce cases in the New York is the Supreme Court of the State of New York. If one is seeking to initiate a divorce case in the State of New York, he or she must first purchase an index number[1] at the county clerk’s office, and then proceed to file a summons with notice and a verified complaint, stating the reason for the divorce. The next step requires the spouse seeking the divorce to enlist a separate party to serve the defendant in the divorce action with the proper papers. This individual must be over the age of 18 and may not be a party in the divorce action. The state law of New York clearly states that the defendant in a divorce action must be served with the summons with notice/summons and verified complaint personally. Any variation from this must have prior approval from the court.

In order to start a divorce case in New York, there are a number of legal requirements that must be met before the initial legal process may commence. First, one must establish residency. An individual and his/her spouse may prove this requirement by satisfying any one or more of certain delineated specifications[2]. No divorce case can be successfully filed in New York State unless one is able to satisfy the residency requirements outlined in Domestic Relations Law Section 230, which is the law that regulates divorces in the State of New York. For one, individuals looking to obtain a divorce can meet the requirement of residency by proving that they have resided in New York State for a certain amount of uninterrupted time, usually at least two years prior to the beginning of the divorce action. The individuals involved with the divorce action can also satisfy the residency requirement by proving they have been living in New York State during the initiation of the divorce action, as well as for a continuous period of at least one year prior to the beginning of the divorce action. In addition to this, it must be proven that the individuals were married and lived as a couple in New York. Another way of satisfying the residency requirement is for the pair of individuals to prove that the grounds of their divorce occurred in New York State. With this, however, the pair must prove either that they were living in New York for at least one continuous year before the divorce action began, or that both were residents of New York on the day the divorce action began.  In addition to the proof of residency required to file for a divorce in New York State, both parties must also satisfy at least one of the grounds for divorce as stated in the Domestic Relations Law Section 170[3]. This means that in order to file for a divorce in the State of New York, one must first prove one of the following grounds: cruel and inhuman treatment; abandonment; confinement in prison for three or more consecutive years; adultery; living separate and apart pursuant to a separation judgment, decree, or agreement; irretrievable breakdown in a relationship over the course of at least six months[4].  In October of 2010, New York became the last state to officially enact a No-Fault divorce ground. The No-Fault ground for divorce essentially states that there are legal grounds for divorce if the relationship itself between two married individuals has deteriorated irretrievable over a time period of at least six months. When New York opened the door for No-Fault divorces, it also enacted a guideline that can be used in cases of divorce to determine a presumptive award for temporary maintenance[5].

Another important element of divorce law in New York State is the distinction between a divorce and an annulment. An annulment differs from a divorce in that it is sued to establish that a marriage is not legally valid. The grounds needed get an annulment differ from those needed to file for a divorce. In order to get an annulment, one must either bigamy or that either spouse was unable to have sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage[6].

A final significant aspect of divorce law in New York is alimony, which is the payment one makes to his or her spouse during the course of or after a divorce. Under New York law there are two types of alimonies offered: pendent lite (temporary maintenance) and post-divorce maintenance. The former is paid at a time when the actually divorce case is still pending and ends when a final order of maintenance is established by the presiding judge. The purpose of temporary maintenance is to ensure that the supported spouse in a divorce case is provided for with financial need, and takes into account the supported spouse’s needs and pre-divorce standard of living. Post-divorce maintenance is financial support provided to the supported spouse after the conclusion of a divorce action, and ends with either the death of either spouse involved in the settlement or the remarriage of the supported spouse[7].

[1] This number is provided to every action or proceeding under the jurisdiction of the New York State Supreme Court, and is used as a means of identifying a case in court.

[2] New York State Unified Court System. “Divorce Information & Frequently Asked
Questions.”, Office of Court Administration, 16 Jan. 2016,,%20what%20legal%20requirements%20 do%20I%20need%20to%20meet? Accessed 23 May 2017

Court Administration, 1 Mar. 2016,
Divorce-Packet-Instructions.pdf. Accessed 23 May 2017.

[4] New York State Unified Court System

[5] Cordell & Cordell P.C. “New York Divorce Questions.” Cordell Cordell, Cordell &
Cordell P.C., 2017,
new-york-divorce-questions/. Accessed 23 May 2017.

[6] New York State Unified Court System


[7] Yadegari, Jenn. “Alimony Guidelines in New York.” DivorceNet, Nolo, 2017,
alimony-guidelines-new-york. Accessed 23 May 2017.