NY Divorce: How Long Does It Take, Does Mediation Work & When Should You Wait To File?

How long does it take for a divorce to become final in New York, does mediation really work and should you wait to file if your spouse has just lost his or her job? These are questions that Elliot Schlissel, a New York Attorney whose practice area includes divorce, estate planning and many others, gets all the time. Here are his answers:

Question: How long does it take for a divorce to become final in New York?

Answer: If it is uncontested, meaning that both parties agree to the terms with regard to fault, distribution of property, support, maintenance, custody and visitation, it can be done in as little as two or three months. If the parties don’t agree and there is litigation, it can go on for a year – and in some cases as long as two or three years. However, the courts now put pressure on the parties and their attorneys to try to resolve these matters as quickly as possible.

Question: Does divorce meditation really work?

Answer: Divorce mediation is an area that is being used by a fair amount of people in New York. It's used in situations where the parties are not extremely hostile but do have some differences as to what they’re looking for on the issues of support, custody and maintenance and equitable distribution. We mediate disputes as an alternative to litigating the matters. It resolves the situation in many cases, although it's certainly not 100 percent effective in every situation. It has to be the right type of case.

Question: Are you seeing couples wait to file for divorce until a spouse that has lost his or her job to get another?

Answer: Well, it depends on which side you’re on. If I’m representing a woman whose husband used to make $150,000 and is now receiving the equivalent of $20,000 a year in unemployment, I indicate to her it’s not a good time to get a divorce. We should wait until he’s employed because spousal maintenance and child support will be based on what he’s currently earning. If he's only receiving unemployment, you’re not going to receive much.

On the other hand, if I represent the husband who is in an unhappy marriage and unemployed, there’s no reason for him to wait. I would suggest he move forward now with the divorce because it will be based on what he’s currently earning.