Divorce Attorney in Westchester, NY
Knowing the Divorce Process is Important
If you have made the decision to get divorced or if you are served with a Summons in a divorce case, it is important that you consult with a divorce attorney at Riebling & Payton, PLLC. We will review your options, the legal process and tailor your case to your specific needs and interests. Your attorneys will be there to support you every step of the way, whether your divorce is settled prior to trial or whether your case goes to trial.
6 Steps to Know in a Westchester Divorce Case
- Filing for Divorce
- Serving Your Spouse with the Summons
- The Notice of Appearance
- The Statement of Net Worth and Discovery
- Settlement Negotiations
- Litigation and Trial
1. Filing for Divorce
In Westchester County, NY, a divorce action is commenced with the filing of a Summons with Notice, or a Summons and Verified Complaint. A Summons with Notice or Summons and Verified Complaint provides your spouse notice that you have commenced a legal action for divorce and advises them that they must comply with other legal requirements. A Summons with Notice or Summons and Verified Complaint will also specify what you are seeking in the divorce. This is called “relief.” Relief does not have to be specific. It is not necessary to calculate an amount of child support, maintenance, or specific items of property you are seeking. It is sufficient to state that you are seeking child support, maintenance, equitable distribution, etc.
When you file for divorce in Westchester County, NY, Orders are issued by the Court (called “Automatic Orders) which state that you may not transfer, encumber, assign, remove, withdraw or in any way dispose of any property without the written permission of your spouse or pursuant to Court Order. There are exceptions for: the usual course of business, for customary and usual household expenses or for reasonable attorney’s fees in connection with the matrimonial action. However those exceptions do not apply to any tax deferred funds, stocks or other assets held in any individual retirement accounts, 401K accounts, profit sharing plans, Keogh accounts, or any other pension or retirement account. There is also a prohibition against incurring unreasonable debts, except in the usual course of business or for customary or usual household expenses, or for reasonable attorney’s fees in connection with the divorce action. With regard to insurance, A party may not remove the other party or your children from any existing medical, hospital and dental insurance coverage or change the beneficiaries or terms of any existing insurance policies.
Failing to comply with the automatic orders may result in a contempt finding by the Court and heavy penalties.
2. Serving Your Spouse with the Summons
Your spouse must be served with a copy of the Summons with Notice or Summons and Verified Complaint within 120 days of filing, unless extended by Court Order. Service must be personal and in hand, unless the Court issues an Order allowing you to serve your spouse by other methods.
3. The Notice of Appearance
After service is completed, your spouse will have 20 days to “appear” in the action. This means that your spouse will have to file and serve a Notice of Appearance or an Answer to your Verified Complaint so that your spouse will not be considered to be in default. Failing to appear in the action and defaulting still allows the Court to move forward and grant you a divorce.
4. The Statement of Net Worth and Discovery
The Statement of Net Worth is a document required to be completed and filed in matrimonial cases. It has sections for your expenses, income, assets, and liabilities. It is intended to outline your overall financial situation and all your financial information. The Statement of Net Worth must be sworn to, under oath, so it is extremely important that the Statement of Net Worth is as accurate as possible.
In addition, the parties may serve legal requests for information. These are called Demands for Discovery and Inspection. A Demand for Discovery and Inspection lists documents that are being demanded and which must be produced. Financial disclosure is mandatory in matrimonial actions and compliance is a necessity.
5. Settlement Negotiations
Throughout the divorce process, attempts are made to reach a settlement by negotiating specific terms addressing all of the issues in the matrimonial action. Though encouraged, neither party is obligated to accept a settlement proposal and may only result if both parties consent to the terms of the settlement. Items often included and considered in a divorce settlement include but are not limited to the assets, liabilities, claims for maintenance or child support, and custody and visitation of children.
6. Litigation and Trial
If a settlement cannot be reached in your matrimonial case, a Request for Judicial Intervention will be filed with the Court. The Request for Judicial Intervention lets the Court know that the parties need the Court’s assistance in resolving some issues.
In Westchester County, the matrimonial case will be scheduled for a Preliminary Conference to meet with an Attorney-Referee. At the Preliminary Conference an Order to be signed by the Judge which will direct the parties to undertake certain actions before the next Court conference. Some of these actions include exchanging Statements of Net Worth, completing the exchange of discovery, and completing depositions. At the conclusion of the discovery process, the Attorney-Referee will determine whether or not your case is ready for trial. At such time, the Attorney-Referee will issue a Trial Ready Order and set trial dates for your case.
During the trial, the parties will present evidence and testimony. The Judge will consider the testimony and the evidence presented and render a decision. All final decisions from a matrimonial trial judge are subject to appeal.
When filing for and seeking a divorce, either by settlement or trial, you can be assured that the experienced and professional divorce attorneys at Riebling & Payton, PLLC will be there to assist you and guide you through the process, while at the same time fighting for your rights and interests. Contact us today to discuss your divorce case in more detail. Call (914) 712-6878.
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