What is an "uncontested divorce"?
The New York State Unified Court System offers free instruction booklets and forms for people who are looking to start a divorce action and believe that they can file the paperwork with the court without the help of an attorney. This is a route to be taken with great caution however, in certain circumstances, where there is (1) little or no property subject to equitable distribution; and (2) no issue between the parents pertaining to custody, child support, or visitation, an uncontested divorce may in fact be the appropriate route in which to "consciously uncouple." If you want to stay out of court and you do have parenting or economic issues to work out with your spouse, in appropriate cases where there is no domestic violence or abuse, you may want to consider the limited involvement of attorneys for the purpose of mediation or collaborative law. There are a variety of ways in which limited attorney involvement can improve the communication between you and your spouse (in particular if there are children involved) and reduce the cost, stress, and trauma of divorce on the entire family unit.
A word of caution before attempting to file your own uncontested divorce in New York:
Before you attempt to use the booklets and forms provided by the court we strongly suggest that you give serious thought to at least consulting with a lawyer for your divorce action, even if you believe that your divorce will be “uncontested.” First, just because your spouse does not oppose the divorce doesn't mean that all issues are resolved between you under the New York Domestic Relations Law ("DRL"). There can be a lot more to think about than just ending the marriage and filling out court papers (For example, did you know that a license or degree obtained during the marriage is an asset of the marriage in the State of New York?). Second, the seemingly simple "booklet" found online for filling out an uncontested divorce is hardly simple. Many non-matrimonial lawyers attempting to file uncontested divorces on behalf of clients quickly find that mistakes can not only be costly in court fees, but also delay a divorce fore three to six months or more.
Divorce Forms: http://www.nycourts.gov/divorce/forms.shtml