The timeline of the
divorce process is often misunderstood. Many people feel that they can enter the
process and be divorced in a month. Realistically speaking that is very uncommon.
divorce attorney in New York State with offices in White Plains, Westchester County, I
always feel that it is important to accurately explain the
divorce process to every client and make sure every client knows what to expect including
a timeframe for certain milestones in the divorce process. In this blog
I wanted to explain the process from a time perspective with significant
Pre-Filing a Divorce Action
Before a divorce action is filed with the New York State Supreme Court
a client can work with an attorney for days or months attempting to negotiate
a settlement. How quickly a pre-filing settlement can be reached depends
on the complexity of the issues involved between the parties and how willing
the parties are to reach an out of court settlement.
When I meet with a client for the first time I unusually identify all the
issues for the divorce and, if the client wants to, I will try to reach
a pre-filing divorce settlement. This includes letters and settlement
proposals to the other spouse or the other attorney.
Depending on the progress including cooperation and a likelihood of settlement
this could take approximately 3 to 4 months to reach a final settlement.
After a settlement is reached the final divorce documents are prepared
and sent to the court for signature. Depending on the County this process
could take an additional 2 to 3 months.
Importantly, during any pre-filing divorce negotiations the best divorce
attorneys know when to stop negotiating and move into court. If there
are delays by a spouse, attorney or if the case is simply "going
in circles" without an agreement or the promise of an agreement the
best course of action is not to waste time and to move into Court to resolve
the divorce case.
Post-Filing Divorce Action
Once a summons and complaint is served and filed nothing will happen on
a divorce case in court unless either party files a Request for Judicial
Intervention (RJI). This is the document that gets the case before a Judge.
How quickly a party can file an RJI depends if the spouse has answered
the lawsuit or if there is some emergency. Generally after a summons and
complaint is served and filed there is a 30 day period before an RJI can be filed.
Once an RJI is filed with the Court the matter will be scheduled for a
Preliminary Conference either before a Judge or a Court Attorney Referee
(Westchester County). The time to get a Preliminary Conference date depends
on the County but generally is 30-45 days unless there is an emergency issue.
At the Preliminary Conference all the issues in the divorce case are identified
and depending how complex the case is the Court will assign it a discovery
schedule as follows:
Non-Complex Case – Discovery finished within 4 months
Moderately Complex Case – Discovery finished within 7 months
Complex Case – Discovery finished within 11 months
This timeframe is the Court's goal to resolve all discovery within
a set period of time. The discovery includes all document exchanged, depositions,
At the Preliminary Conference the Judge will also set a date for the Plaintiff's
Attorney to file a Note of Issue, certifying that all discovery is finished.
The Court's make every effort to keep cases moving but of course there
are sometimes delays including motion practice, difficulty scheduling
depositions or obtaining documents. During the discovery process the Court
will regularly have compliance conferences to check the status of discovery
and resolve any potential issues.
After the Discovery process is finished and the Note of Issue is filed
the Court will set the matter down for a Pre-Trial Conference and a Trial.
Depending on the County the divorce action is pending in this could take
a few months. Trials are the most time consuming event for a court. Depending
on the county trial dates can take three months (common in Westchester
County) or nine months (common in the Bronx).
The Divorce Trial
Depending on the issues and the amount of witnesses a divorce trial can
take a few days or weeks. Most Judges will want the trial to occur over
consecutive days but it is not uncommon to start a trial and schedule
additional trial days months later.
After all this, how long will my divorce case take?
As you can see there are lots of variables in determining a timeframe to
get divorced. The more complex cases with adversarial parties or attorneys
will take the longest. It is not uncommon for a divorce case to take over
a year from the very beginning to the end. There are no short cuts and
the top divorce attorneys will tell you that it is better to take additional
time to make sure the case is handled properly then to rush the process forward.
Considering a Divorce?
If you are considering a divorce it is important to understand all the
issues in a divorce action in New York State. At our law offices we always
take the time to explain the process, answer your questions, make sure
you have a full understanding of you case so we can protect your interests.
To contact one of our divorce lawyers at
Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP call (914) 946-4808 for a
Free Consultation. Our main office is in Westchester County, White Plains but we handle
all divorces in the surrounding counties of Orange, Putnam, Dutchess,
Rockland and the Bronx.