In New York, a divorce case is started with the filing of either a Summons With Notice or a Summons with Complaint.
The Summons With Notice is usually a one page document that is served upon your spouse. This document states that you have commenced an Action for Divorce. It sets forth the grounds for divorce, which can be any or all of the following:
(1) The cruel and inhuman treatment of the plaintiff by the defendant such that the conduct of the defendant so endangers the physical or mental well being of the plaintiff as renders it unsafe or improper for the plaintiff to cohabit with the defendant.
(2) The abandonment of the plaintiff by the defendant for a period of one or more years.
(3) The confinement of the defendant in prison for a period of three or more consecutive years after the marriage of plaintiff and defendant.
(4) The commission of an act of adultery. . .
(5) The husband and wife have lived apart pursuant to a decree or judgment of separation for a period of one or more years after the granting of such decree or judgment, and satisfactory proof has been submitted by the plaintiff that he or she has substantially performed all the terms and conditions of such decree or judgment.
(6) The husband and wife have lived separate and apart pursuant to a written agreement of separation. . .
(7) Irretrievable breakdown in relationship for a least six months.
Since the passage of “No fault divorce” legislation in New York in 2010, most, if not all, litigants file pursuant thereto.
Also contained in the Summons With Notice is a list of the relief sought. This typically includes: custody, health insurance, spousal support, equitable distribution of the marital assets, a determination of separate versus marital property and, of course, a Judgment of Divorce.
Serving a Summons with Notice provides that your spouse will have either twenty days (if personally served) or thirty days (if not personally served) to submit to the Court a Notice of Appearance. Should they fail to “appear”, the clock begins ticking and if, after forty five days from their failure to appear date, they have still not appeared, you can move forward with a “default divorce”. However, even if this occurs, the Courts wish to adjudicate divorce cases “on the merits” and will routinely open up any “default divorce” Judgment.
Now, onto the second way in which to commence an action for divorce, the Summons with Verified Complaint.
Basically, the Summons with Verified Complaint is similar to the Summons With Notice. However, along with the Summons, a Verified Complaint is attached. A Verified Complaint is a document that details the reasoning behind the grounds for divorce set forth in the Summons. The Verified Complaint sets forth the history of the marriage and then explains the grounds for divorce and the relief sought. Your spouse will have twenty days from the date of service to submit a Verified Answer (including any Counterclaims).
This is how a divorce is commenced in the State of New York.