Speeding Up the Divorce Process in NY

When New York residents start considering the idea of divorce, a lot of questions will cross their minds. How long will the divorce process in NY take? How much will it cost? Will I stay friends with my soon-to-be ex or will we become lifelong enemies? And these are just a few. In many cases, the biggest concern is this: how soon can I get this over with?

How Can I Have a Quick New York Divorce?

Not everyone is able to dissolve a marriage peacefully, cheaply and quickly, but many New York couples are becoming the exception to the rule. Indeed, some couples are even celebrating the friendliness of their divorces by taking happy “divorce selfies” outside the courthouse to commemorate the first day of their new and separate lives as single people.

One strategy for ensuring a quick divorce is to file for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce involves both spouses coming to agreement on all issues involved in the process. In other words, both spouses will agree on divorcing, and they will agree on matters of child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, and asset division. When the parties can come to agreement on all these issues prior to the divorce filing, then the process is deemed “uncontested” and there is no need to go to court.

Call an Albany Divorce Attorney

At the Colwell Law Group, LLC, we know that swift and peaceful divorces are more than possible. Indeed, we have achieved this for many of our New York clients. In addition to a speedy divorce, a lot can also be done to reduce costs and ease tensions during the divorce process in NY — especially when sides are committed to working together.

Representing Yourself in a Divorce

It’s a common motivation among spouses considering ending their marriage: Represent yourself in a divorce to save money on attorney’s fees and streamline the divorce process in NY. The temptation to go it alone is understandable, especially if you and your spouse can agree on the majority of issues related to alimony, property division, and minor children. However, even an uncontested divorce – for which many couples aren’t eligible – can carry pitfalls that make the process anything but cheap or easy. There are a number of reasons you shouldn’t take on your own representation, so discuss your situation with an experienced attorney to avoid significant consequences.

Complex Court Forms and Supporting Documents

There are a number of required documents you must file with the court to initiate divorce in New York, as well as some optional forms that you have to submit depending on your circumstances. Not only can this paperwork be difficult to understand and properly complete, but it can be tricky to determine which of the optional documents apply to your case. Note that a few of these forms are “Affidavits,” which are statements that you swear are true and accurate. If you make a mistake in completing these in a false or misleading way, there can be severe consequences.

Misunderstanding New York Divorce Law

Even if you’re able to get past filing the initial documents, you must be knowledgeable about state divorce law in order to protect your interests. There are three primary areas that couples typically need to handle in a divorce case:

  • Minor Children: You must address the needs of minor children, including custody, visitation, and child support. If you don’t know the law, you may miss out on the opportunity to maintain a relationship with your child or may not get enough to support them financially.
  • Property Division: Through the divorce process, you and your spouse will split the property you acquired during marriage. However, the distribution of assets must be fair and equitable; an exact 50-50 split isn’t necessary. It’s critical to know the statutory factors that make the property division fair between divorcing spouses.
  • Spousal Support: You or your spouse may be required to pay alimony to the other person. The recipient spouse must first establish that spousal support is necessary; then, there are complicated formulas to calculate the amount of alimony.

Avoid the Pitfalls by Contacting Our Albany Divorce Lawyers

You can see that divorce process in NY is complicated, so it’s a mistake to represent yourself. You put your legal rights at risk unless you have a legal background, and errors can be even more costly than retaining an attorney. At The Colwell Law Group, LLC, our dedicated divorce lawyers have helped many New York couples through the proceedings, and we’ll ensure protection of your interests. For more information on our divorce-related services, please contact our team today. We can set up an initial consultation for you at our Albany offices, where we serve clients throughout the Capital District region.

New York No-Fault Divorce

A no-fault divorce is exactly what it sounds like. Two New York residents were married and decided to break up, but no fault is placed on either party for the dissolution of the marriage. In the state of New York — and all other states in the country — it is possible to carry out one’s divorce proceedings as “no-fault.” As such, the spouse who wants to have a divorce does not need to prove in court that the other spouse committed a wrongful act that led to the divorce.

Grounds for a No-Fault Divorce in New York

Interestingly, a no-fault divorce was not possible in New York until the law was changed in 2010. Until that time, New York was considered to have some of the most conservative divorce laws in the country because — in all divorces — blame had to be placed on one or the other party in order to get the divorce legally approved. “At fault” divorces are still possible in New York. The grounds for an at-fault divorce could include:

  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Abandonment
  • Imprisonment
  • Adultery

In order to qualify for a no-fault divorce, New York residents simply need to claim that the reason for the divorce is one of the recognized reasons by the state. Irreconcilable differences lasting more than six months is now an approved reason for divorce by our state. Divorce as a result of separation is also an acceptable reason for getting a divorce approved.

Contact an Experienced Family Lawyer in Albany

Before filing for divorce, New York couples may wish to speak with a divorce attorney in order to make sure they know exactly what they are getting into and are fully prepared. Speaking with a divorce attorney ahead of time can help make the divorce process in NY easier, less stressful, less costly and faster.

No-Fault Makes Divorce Easier, Not Faster

Divorce process in NY, Divorce Lawyer in Albany NYWith a backlog of divorces in the New York court system, many New Yorkers are waiting longer than usual for their divorces to go through, according to a recent New York Post report.

New York Long Divorces

But until recently, long divorces were almost always the norm. That’s because New York was the very last state — by 25 years — to adopt no-fault divorce, only joining the rest of the country in 2010. Prior to the reform, one partner needed to be held responsible for the divorce on grounds such as adultery, abandonment or cruelty.

If fact, one explanation for the current backlog in New York courts is the 2010 reform that makes it much easier for people to divorce now.

It might be easier, but it’s not necessarily much faster. Before a no-fault divorce can go through, both spouses first need to reach an agreement on everything from property division to child custody.

No-fault divorce is based on a breakdown of a marriage over a period at least six months long. In a few cases, divorcing couples have still had to undergo trials to determine whether their marriage was indeed irrevocably broken down, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2012.

Though the rate New York’s court system processes your divorce may be out of your control, a skilled attorney can make sure your no-fault divorce goes as smoothly as possible once it hits the courts.

The Brass Tacks of Getting Divorced: The Divorce Process in NY

When you get divorced, many folks offer you advice. As well-meaning as friends and family try to be, they may suggest non-helpful words of wisdom about closure and moving on. When what you really may need is information on the more pragmatic side of divorce. Such as: “How does my divorce impact my credit score?” “My spouse and I shared internet accounts—how do we split those up?” and so forth. These are little-discussed issues, but they can have a dramatic effect on your post-divorce life.

Steps Taken After Divorce

That’s why, in this series, we will give you the insights you need to take control of your new independence. We’ll look at this from a legal perspective — explaining what the law requires. And we’ll also address the practical requirements — what you actually need to do, to get yourself on a stronger, more secure footing. We’ll look at topics such as:

  • Privacy and security issues
    Separating financial accounts (credit cards, bank accounts, etc.)
  • Getting (and staying!) organized
  • Understanding credit scores and other key financial metrics
  • If you run/own a business, special concerns you may be facing (e.g. Should you sell or buy out your ex?)
  • Budgeting for weeks, months and years ahead
  • Choosing a financial advisor
  • Getting new insurance
  • Revising your estate plans—or getting them done for the first time
  • What to do if you suspect your ex is hiding money or assets
  • Retooling your career after divorce
  • What happens to the house and other real estate during a divorce
  • How to divide property equitably
  • How to divide marital debts equitably—while protecting yourself
  • Spousal support (a.k.a. alimony)
  • Child support
  • Resources to help you become more financially literate
  • Special concerns for high net worth individuals

Let Us Help You With Every Aspect of Your Divorce

We know that reconciling with the emotional aspects of divorce is more complicated than reconciling your check register, and we also realize that some ordinary tasks may be surprisingly emotional for you. Because they signal a finality to your marriage. But they’re worth doing. If nothing else, they will be one less thing for you to worry about, and that should bring some peace of mind. And if any of these tasks do seem challenging, please know that we’re here to help. In the meantime, we firmly believe that once you understand these issues, and take these initial steps, you will be on a solid path to the future.

Separation vs. Divorce

Though you may hear the two terms used interchangeably, there is a big difference between separation and divorce from a legal perspective. Depending on which applies, you have a distinct status under New York’s divorce statute on separation and divorce. As such, there are certain pros and cons you should weigh when figuring out what works best for your situation. You can trust a knowledgeable New York divorce attorney to review your circumstances, assess your goals, and advise on your options. However, a general description on separation and divorce may also be useful.

How Separation and Divorce Are Different

The primary distinction between these two statuses is the obvious: When you complete the divorce process, your marriage is legally dissolved in divorce court and you are single. With a legal separation, you remain married but are living apart. Additional differences include:

  • Benefits that you receive through your spouse, including healthcare and Social Security, cease when you divorce. Through separation, you can retain these.
  • You are free to remarry after your divorce is final. However, you are still officially married in a separation situation, even if you do not live together. Plus, if you are separated, you can reconcile and get back together with your spouse. Divorce cannot be reversed.
  • Separated couples may still be on the hook for each other’s debts. When you are divorced, debts belong to the respective individual.
  • For jointly owned property, a legal separation means the ownership interest is transferred to one spouse if the other dies. If spouses divorce before one dies, the interest of the decedent goes to his or her heirs.

Similarities Between Separation and Divorce

Despite the significant differences, there are some common elements, including:

  • One spouse may be entitled to alimony from the other in legal separation, just as with divorce;
  • As the parent of a minor child in divorce and separation, you have rights and obligations. You are entitled to agree or have a court decide on child custody, visitation, and financial support;
  • You can go through the process of asset division, whether you are divorced or legally separated.

Why to Consider Separation or Divorce

You may want to separate from your spouse, rather than go through the official divorce process, for various reasons. Separation may be the right fit if:

  • You want to retain medical insurance or other benefits you receive through your spouse;
  • You have debts as a married couple, and you want to resolve these together while living under different roofs;
  • There is a possibility that you will reconcile with your spouse, so you do not want the finality of divorce until you work through your relationship issues.

Consult with a NY Divorce Attorney to Learn More About Separation vs. Divorce

This overview on separation and divorce is helpful, but it takes a knowledgeable lawyer to show you how New York divorce laws apply to your specific circumstances. There are advantages and disadvantages that you cannot appreciate unless you have a legal background. If you would like to discuss your situation with a skilled divorce attorney, please call the Colwell Law Group, LLC. We can schedule a consultation to advise you on different alternatives.

Collecting Evidence: What Is Permissible During the Divorce Process in NY?

When you are involved in a battle over asset division, alimony, child custody, or other issues in a contested New York divorce case, evidence is critical. Statements, documents, and other information serves two purposes in a divorce matter:

  1. You need sufficient details to support your side of a disputed matter; and,
  2. You also want enough evidence to counter the positions of the other party.

Still, New York rules of evidence apply to a divorce case, just as they do to any other matter before the court. There are tactics you can legally use to collect evidence, and bring it before the court. Other acts to gather information may make the relevant facts inadmissible in court because they were not obtained through the proper legal channels. You can trust your Otsego County divorce lawyer to address the specifics about evidence in a divorce case, but there are some key points to keep in mind.

Why Collect Evidence in a New York Divorce Case

Though there are two general reasons to obtain information in divorce, the specifics depend on your unique circumstances. However, it is likely that you need evidence in connection with the primary issues in a divorce case:

  • Asset Division: In a contested divorce case, a judge will make a decision on how to distribute marital property between the parties. Evidence on assets is essential to a fair, equitable result.
  • Alimony: When a party seeks spousal support, evidence is central to a determination on appropriateness and amount.
  • Issues Related to Minor Children: The child’s best interests are paramount in custody and visitation, and the non-custodial parent must pay child support. Evidence is necessary for all of these considerations.

Evidence You CAN Collect

In general, you can access any information regarding assets, income, and debts that is within your possession.

  • Text, email, and other electronic communications that you received or sent;
  • Your own phone records, if presented to prove the existence and duration of an incoming or outgoing call;
  • Your financial records; and,
  • Related materials that you control, own, or possess.

Evidence That May Be Inadmissible

The rules of evidence are highly complex, but some examples of information that may be tossed out of court include:

  • Pictures or video that you cannot authenticate;
  • Financial records that are not in your name;
  • Any documents you misappropriated or obtained through dishonesty;
  • Wiretapped conversations; and,
  • Any other details that should be excluded because they were obtained contrary to the rules of evidence.

Consult with a Knowledgeable New York Divorce Lawyer About Collecting Evidence

You put your rights at risk by not accessing evidence through proper procedures, since unlawfully obtained information may not be allowed in court. There are tactics you can employ to collect evidence, thereby ensuring admissibility. However, the rules regarding discovery, subpoenas, and other legal methods can be complicated if you do not have a legal background. At the Colwell Law Group, LLC, our divorce attorneys are skilled at various strategies aimed at uncovering the evidence necessary to protect your interests. Please contact us today.

Practicing Transparency During the Divorce Process in NY

Divorce process in NY, Divorce Lawyer in Albany NYOne of the primary issues when filing for divorce in New York is dividing marital assets between the parties, through an equitable distribution. In some cases, another question will be the appropriateness and amount of alimony for one spouse. For both considerations, the law requires full, honest disclosure of all assets, income, and debts to ensure fairness. As such, it may be tempting to hide assets, deceive your spouse, or engage in other misconduct. Some parties act for purely financial reasons, while others are driven by spite.

No matter what your motivation to conceal or misrepresent your assets, doing so is a major mistake for multiple reasons. Making false or misleading statements under oath is unlawful, which means you could face legal penalties. Plus, being transparent in a divorce proceeding has advantages you may not have considered. A Schoharie County divorce lawyer can explain in detail, but an overview may be useful.

Both Parties Benefit Financially

Both parties to a divorce have access to discovery tools as provided in New York’s civil practice rules on disclosure. You must produce documents, answer written questions, and provide other information as requested by opposing counsel. The discovery process typically moves along smoothly, unless one party attempts to conceal assets or engage in misconduct. Protracted litigation on discovery disputes can cause legal fees to skyrocket for both sides. Transparency will keep you out of court.

Transparency Can Move the Process Along

Providing relevant information upfront, without a battle or dispute, ensures that your divorce proceeds efficiently through the court process. You are aware that opposing counsel can access this information through discovery anyway, so waiting for a request only causes delays.

Reduced Potential for Future Problems

In the rare event that you could get away with dishonesty related to your income or assets, there is still the possibility that your misconduct could come back to haunt you. Talk among family members or friends could raise suspicion in the mind of your former spouse. Even years after your divorce was complete, you could find yourself back in court.

Legal Consequences for Dishonesty

Regardless of whether your attempt to conceal assets is discovered during proceedings or after the divorce is final, the consequences can be severe. Based upon your dishonesty alone, a court may side with your former spouse on asset division or alimony. Worse, you could face legal sanctions. Your actions could be in contempt of court, subjecting you to fines or payment of the other party’s attorneys’ fees.

Discuss the Benefits of Transparency with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer

If you would like to learn more about the advantages of full disclosure in a divorce case, please call the Colwell Law Group, LLC today. Our legal team can explain more about how the divorce process in NY works and how transparency offers benefits throughout the process. If you suspect that your spouse is concealing assets, we are prepared to seek relevant information and fight for your rights in court.

5 Common Myths About Divorce in Albany

Divorce is a painful and emotional experience. Even under the most amicable of circumstances, ending a marriage is a confusing time for most people. This confusion is often compounded by a misunderstanding of how New York divorce laws actually work. Here are some of the more common myths we hear about in our office from people asking themselves, “what do I need to know about getting divorced in Albany?”:

1. If My Spouse Commits Adultery, I Get Everything

Divorce law is not about revenge. New York law requires a court to make an “equitable distribution” of marital assets based on a variety of factors. The mere fact that your spouse was cheating will not necessarily affect that distribution. However, if there is evidence that your spouse spent a significant amount of money to support his or her affair–in legal terms, a “wasteful dissipation of marital assets”–then that can work in your favor during a divorce trial.

2. A Judge Can Refuse a Divorce Unless One Spouse Did Something Wrong

Historically, divorce was difficult to obtain. One spouse had to prove wrongdoing by the other, such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Those are all still grounds for obtaining a divorce in New York, but today most couples opt for a “no-fault” divorce. This means there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marriage that has lasted for at least 6 months. Once the parties (or the court) resolve outstanding issues like property distribution and child custody, the judge will grant you a divorce.

3. I Can’t Get Divorced in New York Because We Got Married in Another State

Divorce is based on where you live now, not where you got married. After all, lots of people elope in Las Vegas; that does not mean they have to go back to Nevada to get a divorce. However, New York does have certain residency requirements:

  • Either spouse must have resided in New York continuously for at least two years prior to the start of the divorce case;
  • This requirement is reduced to one year if you got married in New York, you lived in New York during the marriage, or the grounds for divorce occurred in New York; or
  • You and your spouse are both New York residents at the time divorce proceedings began, and the grounds for divorce occurred in New York.

4. It Does Not Matter What State I File For Divorce In

In the United States, divorce laws are state-specific. Each state has its own rules regarding residency, calculation of child support and alimony, and distribution of property. This means your choice of state can have a significant impact on the final terms of your divorce. For example, some states like California require a 50-50 split of marital (or “community”) property, not an equitable distribution like New York.

5. I Do Not Need An Attorney to Get a Divorce

Strictly speaking, you can represent yourself in any court case, including a divorce. But it is never a good idea. Even an amicable divorce involves creating a binding legal contract that affects your property rights and family obligations. An experienced Albany divorce lawyer can make sure you are treated fairly and equitably during the divorce process in NY. Call The Colwell Law Group, LLC, today if you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our qualified attorneys.

Can Adultery Affect the Divorce Process in NY?

Divorce in New York State used to require proof that one spouse was at “fault” for the breakdown of the marriage. Adultery is probably the most common ground for a fault-based divorce. When you discover your spouse is cheating, you are understandably hurt and angry. You probably want nothing more than to expose him or her as an adulterer in court and get what is coming to you.

But the reality is that since 2010, when the state legislature amended the law, most Albany divorces now rely on no-fault grounds, i.e. there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marriage that has lasted for at least six months. Once the parties resolve various divorce-related issues, including division of marital property and child custody, a judge will grant a divorce without inquiring as to who was at fault.

A Limited Impact on Alimony, Property Distribution, and Child Support

Of course, you can still sue for a fault-based divorce on grounds of adultery. But you will actually have to prove there was adultery. And even if you do, that does not necessarily help you when it comes to obtaining custody of your children or a greater share of the marital estate.

When it comes to property, New York follows an “equitable distribution” rule. This means the court is generally not interested in how or why the marriage ended. Instead, the court looks at other factors like the length of the marriage, each spouse’s likely financial condition after the divorce, and any potential tax consequences.

So the fact that a spouse had a one-night stand with another person is unlikely to affect the court’s thinking. However, if there was a long-term affair where the cheating spouse spent thousands of dollars on their lover – effectively, a “wasteful dissipation of marital assets” – then the court may consider that in dividing property or even awarding alimony.

Similarly, while adultery by itself will not result in an automatic award of child custody to the non-cheating spouse, it may be a factor in certain situations. For instance, if the cheating spouse is having an affair with a convicted sex offender or routinely neglects parental duties to spend time with their new boyfriend or girlfriend, the judge can take that into account.

Dealing With the Emotional Fallout of Adultery

In most cases, the real impact of adultery on divorce is emotional. The cheating spouse may feel guilty. The other spouse will definitely feel angry. While this may not affect how a judge rules, it may play into settlement talks between the parties. In many cases, it is in everyone’s best interest to reach a fair and equitable agreement without making the cheating spouse’s affair public knowledge.

If you have discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful, it is important not to react out of anger. Instead, you should speak with an experienced Albany divorce lawyer who can help you calmly and rationally consider the best options for you and your family if you are thinking about divorce for adultery in Albany, NY. Call The Colwell Law Group, LLC if you would like to schedule a consultation today.

The Danger of Infidelity During Divorce

Most divorces in New York are “no fault,” meaning the person filing for the divorce alleges that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Instead of blaming either spouse, the court recognizes that the marriage cannot be saved. Fault grounds still exist in New York, though, with infidelity being one of them. If your spouse seeks divorce on the grounds of infidelity, you can fight it. Your spouse will need to prove that you have actually engaged in sexual relations with someone else. This is a pretty high bar to meet, however, which is why few people choose to claim fault when going through the divorce process in NY.

However, chances are the marriage isn’t retrievable at that point, so there is little reason to fight to save the marriage. The real reason to fight allegations of infidelity comes when deciding child custody and the division of marital property.

How Infidelity Affects Child Custody

During the divorce process in NY, a judge will decide custody based on the best interests of your child. To that end, a judge will analyze a variety of factors, including:

  • The child’s preference
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • Who has been the primary caretaker of the child
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • Each parent’s finances and ability to take care of the children

Infidelity can implicate several of these factors. For example, your children might resent you if you suddenly shack up with a new boyfriend or girlfriend while still married to their other parent. As a result, they might not want to spend time with you and will tell the judge they want to live with the other parent. Also, having a stranger living in your home can make it seem less stable than it otherwise would. Depending on your new partner’s criminal history, your home could also pose a danger to your children.

In one New York case, Blank v. Blank, the wife brought a new lover into the home, where the children overheard them. The trial court decided that the mother placed her own needs before her children’s and used this fact against her when awarding custody to the father.

How Infidelity Can Affect the Division of Marital Property

Simply being unfaithful should not affect how a judge divides property. However, if you blow money on your new love interest, then a judge can award your ex more marital property to offset the amount that you spent.

For example, imagine if you cleaned out your savings account to go on a vacation with your new love. A judge will not look kindly on that, since the account was undoubtedly marital property that belonged to both you and your spouse. As a result, your spouse could get more money or assets in the divorce decree.

Meet with a Divorce Lawyer in Albany

Divorcing couples are often anxious to move on with their lives. Nevertheless, you must carefully consider how any relations outside of marriage will affect your divorce. At the Colwell Law Group, we help clients protect their rights throughout the divorce, and we are here to help you as well. To schedule a consultation with one of our Saratoga County divorce lawyers, please call today.

What Is the Divorce Process in NY If You’re in the Military?

Going through a divorce is never easy; it is a stressful, emotional, complicated process. For active military members, divorce can be even more challenging. Indeed, there may be additional logistical and legal issues that need to be addressed in a military divorce case.

At the Colwell Law Group, LLC, our compassionate Saratoga County family lawyers have extensive experience handling all types of divorce cases. Here, we discuss some of the important things that you need to know about military divorces in New York state.

Federal Law May Be Implicated

As a general rule, active duty military members have additional legal protections in family law proceedings. This means that their spouse may not be able to initiate a divorce until the military member returns. Military members have special legal rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a federal law that grants active duty military members additional protections when they are away from home, and thus unable to respond or devote energy to dealing with the divorce process in NY.

Residency and Filing Requirements

To get a divorce in the state of New York, you and your spouse must meet the state’s residency requirements. In general, a couple must fit into one of the following three categories to get a divorce in New York:

  • You must have been married in New York and have lived in the state for at least one year;
  • At least one spouse must have resided in the state for two years prior to the start of the divorce proceedings; or
  • Both spouses must be current residents of New York at the time the divorce is being initiated.

Of course, the residency can be more complicated for military members and military families who may be forced to move from state to state more frequently. To account for this issue, New York has somewhat relaxed residency rules for military service members: If a member is stationed in New York state, their divorce papers can typically be filed within the state.

Division of Military Benefits

Under New York law, all of a couple’s assets, including their retirement benefits, are subject to the state’s equitable distribution standard. Under this legal standard, assets are to be divided in a manner that is fair to both spouses in the couple. Military benefits are no different. In fact, under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), if a marriage lasted for at least 10 years, a share of the military retirement benefits may be sent directly to the spouse of the retiring service member. It is important for military members and their spouses to discuss benefits with a qualified divorce attorney.

Contact Our Office Today

At The Colwell Law Group, LLC, our New York family law attorneys have extensive experience handling military divorce cases and can help you navigate the divorce process in NY. If you or your spouse is in the military and you need family law help, please call us today to schedule your fully confidential initial legal consultation. We serve families throughout the Capital District, including in Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga and Troy.

Changing Your Name After a Divorce

It can be quite a relief when your divorce is finalized, the decree is entered in court, and you can look forward to a bright future. However, women who took a married name have one last administrative task to complete before squaring away the entire process. With certain entities, your married name is still the official record on file, and you may want to change it so that you’re really starting fresh. While the process isn’t overly complicated, there is certain paperwork that you must file and support with proper documentation. A New York divorce attorney can assist you with the specifics, but some answers to the most frequently asked questions may help you understand what involved with changing your name after a divorce.

Can I Use My Divorce Decree to Change My Name?

Your divorce decree may be useful in the name change process if the document contains a provision that grants it; this order serves as your legal proof of name change, so long as it was properly filed in court. If your divorce decree doesn’t include the right language, it may be possible to amend it to reflect a grant of name change. Not all courts will allow amendments, so you will need to proceed with a Petition for Name Change as an alternative.

Will I Need Additional Documents?

You may need to submit documents in addition to your divorce decree to change your name. Additional paperwork is also necessary if you are filing a Petition for Name Change because your divorce decree isn’t sufficient for purposes of a name change. Your birth certificate, showing your pre-marriage name, may be required and you can obtain a copy upon request.

Where Do I Need to Register My Name Change After a Divorce?

Even if you have a divorce decree with a name change clause, you still need to notify relevant agencies of your new information. The most important entities to contact include:

  • Social Security Administration: To officially change your name for purposes of Social Security, you should file Form SS-5 and submit it to your local office. Agents will verify your documents and present an official certificate approving the name change. You should receive a new card within six weeks.
  • New York Department of Motor Vehicles: Changing your name on your driver’s license requires you to appear in person at the closest DMV location. You’ll need your SSA certificate or card to prove your identity.

Our Rensselaer County Divorce Lawyers Can Help with All Divorce Matters

Hopefully, this information answers some of your questions regarding changing your name after a New York divorce, but you may have many more about a wide range of divorce-related topics. The legal team at The Colwell Law Group, LLC can provide you with the additional details you need to make informed decisions before, during, and after the divorce process in NY. Our attorneys have assisted many couples through proceedings, so please contact our team today to request your initial consultation. We serve clients throughout the Capital District region from our conveniently located office in Albany.