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Divorce Summons and Service: The Legal Paperwork You Need to Start a Divorce in New York

To begin a divorce, one spouse gives the other spouse a divorce lawsuit. The initiating spouse is the plaintiff, while the other spouse is the defendant who needs to respond once the divorce papers are served. Before you plunge ahead with this paperwork, however, there are residency requirements that must be fulfilled. There are several ways this can happen:

  • You two were married in New York, and at least one of you has lived in New York for one straight year.
  • You lived as a married couple in New York for one straight year.
  • Events that triggered the divorce (such as infidelity) happened in New York, and one spouse has lived in New York for one straight year.
  • If your marriage was not held in New York, and you never lived there as a married couple, then, one of you has to have lived in New York for two straight years.

Once you have fulfilled the residency requirement, you can file the divorce papers at the Supreme Court in the county where you live. The plaintiff would file a "Summons" or "Summons with a Complaint", with the "Complaint" being the legal paperwork that gives a definite ground for the divorce. If the plaintiff files just a "Summons", the defendant has 20 days to respond by serving the plaintiff with a "Notice of Appearance". This means that the defendant will show up in court, after which point the plaintiff will have 20 days to serve a complaint to the defendant. If the plaintiff files the complaint at the same time as the summons, the defendants has to respond to the complaint within 20 days.

Service means directly handing off the summons to the defendant. The plaintiff cannot personally serve the papers themselves, however. A friend, family member, or hired process server who is at least 18 years old could need to serve the papers. For example, a co-worker or someone who lives in the same household as the defendant could personally deliver the papers AND the summons would also have to be sent as first-class mail. The envelope for the mail would have to say "personal and confidential", but nothing on it can refer to the lawsuit inside. If the defendant cannot be tracked down, the court can permit the notice of the divorce to be published in a newspaper. The court can also approve other ways to serve the papers.

Of course, if you want to file divorce papers, then you need to be ready for the divorce process itself with a legal expert on your side. You can find the experienced Long Island divorce lawyer you need when you contact the Meyers Law Group, P.C. Learn what our dedicated legal team can do for you when you call us today!