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Three Steps to an Easier Divorce in New York

First off, put your anger aside

In 2010, when New York State became the last state in the country to pass a no-fault divorce law—allowing couples to divorce without blaming each other—experts said the law would make the divorce process easier.

Not entirely.

Gloria Sorrentino had been waiting years for a no-fault divorce law to end her 56-year marriage in the state of New York because she didn’t want to testify in court. Yet when she filed the divorce papers, her husband contested it, so Sorrentino, 79, had to testify about her husband’s negligence anyway in a contested divorce process before being granted a divorce in January 2012.

The first steps in New York divorce

Getting divorced is never easy, but divorce attorneys agree that there are things couples can do to make it as painless as possible. No. 1? Put your anger aside.

“The main tip is to allow some time for negative emotions to dissipate, to make efforts to improve communication, and above all, try to keep the case out of court if possible,” says Jacqueline Harounian, a partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates in Great Neck. “Many times, individuals will be affected by the negativity in the early stages of a romantic or marital break up, which leads them to litigate. On the other hand, couples who have had the opportunity to alleviate negative emotions early in the process, and are encouraged to communicate by their counsel, manage to … keep the process out of court.” 

David Aronson, a partner at Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan, says that you should consider looking for an attorney who has courtroom skills but is willing to settle cases.

“Rather than a lawyer who always tries cases or a lawyer who always settles,” he says, “you want a seasoned trial lawyer who will work hard to settle your cases, recognizing that settling is almost always the best alternative.”

In a settlement, he says, a lawyer can negotiate for things like alimony after remarriage and tax deductions for spousal support—things that the client might not get if the case goes to the court system.

“Every time we have tried a case, we have failed our clients,” says Aronson. “It’s cost-ineffective and it’s a crapshoot. Good lawyers can divide marital assets with a scalpel; judges, as good as they are, they just don’t have time. They will divide a marital estate with a meat cleaver.”

Minor children and child custody

Also, consider the children when discussing issues including child custody and child support. 

“A lot of the stuff people fight about is more important to them as the parent than it is to the child,” says Aronson. “Whether the kids get dropped off at 6.30 on Sunday or 7.30 doesn’t really matter.”

In the end, it boils down to communication and cooperation with both your ex and your lawyer.

“The kind of divorce case you end up with … depends a lot on the legal advice you get in the beginning stages of the case,” says Harounian. “Of course, it also depends on how willing a person is to communicate, to cooperate, to be reasonable, and to move on.”

“Each party has to give, and each party is going to feel slighted,” says Sue M. Moss, a partner at Chemtob Moss & Forman. “If each party is a little unhappy, then you have come up with the right solution.”

For more information on this area, see our overviews of family law, divorce, and mediation and collaborative law.

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