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4 Ways Your Spouse Can Respond to Divorce Papers in NY

by | Aug 15, 2023 | Divorce Lawyer Divorce Attorney, NY, Divorce Long Island, NY

When you file for a divorce in the State of New York, your spouse has a few different ways they can respond after you serve them with divorce papers. How they respond directly sets the stage for what’s to come and how the next several months – or in some cases years – will play out. Here are four potential ways your spouse can respond and what you should know and how to prepare:

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#1. Spouse Signs & Returns the Paperwork

If your spouse signs and returns your divorce papers, this means they are in agreement with everything listed in the petition and the divorce is uncontested. The agreement then gets sent to a judge for approval and the divorce decree is issued shortly after. This is usually the shortest and least expensive way to get a divorce in New York.

#2. Spouse Suggests Changes

Your spouse may also respond with an alternative agreement for you to review or their attorney may do so on their behalf. This process may go back and forth for some time while you hammer out the details about who gets what with regards to property division, child custody and visitation, and all the other details that need to be resolved to complete your divorce.

One method that is often employed when you and your spouse are on amicable terms, but have disagreements about the details is through divorce mediation. In mediation, you and your spouse work with a neutral, third-party mediator who facilitates communication and helps you arrive at mutually beneficial resolutions.

While it’s possible to negotiate with your spouse on your own without the help of a mediator or family lawyer, it is often not recommended. Emotions are often volatile during this time and it may be difficult for you to talk to your spouse about important issues like alimony or child custody without getting angry or sad. In addition, the details you work out now will affect your life for years and years down the road. One small mistake or omission here can have dramatically negative impact on your life for years to come. It can pay to have an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests review any agreement before you sign away rights you may not even know you had.

Once you both agree on everything, the petition then goes in front of a judge like in the above scenario. The judge will finalize the divorce and both you and your spouse will be legally bound to its terms.

#3. Spouse Does Nothing

If your spouse doesn’t respond to the divorce petition or file any paperwork in relation to your case, it will be considered an uncontested divorce by default. In most situations, these cases are resolved in favor of the petitioner.

Even when there are children involved, if your spouse fails to respond to the notice of your divorce within 20 days of being properly served, you will likely be awarded physical custody and standard child support.

If you intend to pursue a divorce by default, you will need to prove to the judge presiding over your case that you made every reasonable effort to have your spouse served and that more than likely, they have seen the petition and have no intent to respond.

#4. Spouse Files A Notice of Appearance

The fourth thing your spouse can choose to do in response to being served divorce papers is file a Notice of Appearance. This means they contest one or more issues with the divorce and are requesting a hearing in front of a judge.

When this happens, the court will set the date of your first hearing and both you and your spouse will appear with your respective attorneys. At this stage, your lawyers may still be able to negotiate terms on behalf of you and your spouse to try one last time to avoid litigation.

If this isn’t successful, your case will go to court and each of your legal representatives will make a case on your behalf. Then, a judge makes a final decision that you both must abide by. If you or your spouse fail to adhere to court orders, you may face penalties like fines or possibly even jail time depending on the severity of the circumstances.

When To Contact an Experienced New York Divorce Attorney

If you are considering serving your spouse with divorce papers, it’s important to be aware of your rights and responsibilities before you take that step toward ending your marriage. At Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C., we can help you navigate the process of filing a divorce petition and let you know what to expect at each stage.

Contact our office today to learn more about filing for divorce on Long Island, NY by dialing 631-923-1910 or by completing our quick online form and we’ll get right back to you to schedule an appointment to evaluate your case answer your important questions.

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About the Author

Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., Founding Partner, Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C.

  • Over 20 years practicing matrimonial law
  • Over 1,000 cases successfully resolved
  • Founder and Partner of Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C.
  • Experienced and compassionate Long Island Divorce Attorney, Family Law Attorney, and Divorce Mediator
  • Licensed to practice law in the State of New York
  • New York State Bar Association member
  • Nassau County Bar Association member
  • Suffolk County Bar Association member
  • “Super Lawyer” Metro Rising Star
  • Nominated Best of Long Island Divorce Attorney four consecutive years
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee Contributor
  • Collaborative Law Association of New York – Former Director
  • Martindale Hubbell Distinguished Designation
  • America’s Most Honored Professionals – Top 5%
  • Lead Counsel Rated – Divorce Law
  • American Institute of Family Law Attorneys 10 Best
  • International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
  • Graduate of Hofstra University School of Law
  • Double Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy, Politics & Law and History from SUNY Binghamton University
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Melissa Rappa
Melissa Rappa
18:09 08 Feb 24
At one of the hardest and most stressful times of my life, it was so comforting to have a team at Hornberger and Verbitsky who ALWAYS responded in record speed to my questions, phone calls, emails or texts and who I felt really cared about helping me through this difficult time. It was a long few years and I am grateful to all of you. Thank you so much Rob, AnneMarie, Christine, Patty, Joan and Lawrence. Your guidance, professionalism and expertise is appreciated beyond measure.
Paul Carmichael
Paul Carmichael
16:21 11 Dec 23
I would give 6 stars if I could. I can't say enough good things about Robert and his firm. We were in a situation for over 2 years and I could have never made it through without Robert's experience and knowledge. He guided me through tough times when needed and his expertise could "read" the situation and make the next best move for me. He was tough when he needed to be tough (thankfully) and at the same time guided me through the process to make me feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I would not want to go through this process without Robert and his team having my back. he helped move the case along and not waste any time or money. One last time, I 100% endorse Robert and his expertise.

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