Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

OCA Reports Backlog of Divorce Cases

What is being done to expedite divorce cases in New York?

It is widely known that most states allow No Default divorces in which neither spouse needs to prove the other spouse did something wrong. Before the no fault law was approved in New York in 2010, a couple needed to prove grounds for a divorce such as adultery, domestic violence or cruelty. Of course, these are still valid reasons for divorce, but now either party only must show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least 6 months.

In short, this streamlined process makes it easier for a couple to end a marriage, and more couples are splitting up, which is reportedly causing a backlog of cases in the New York courts. According to statistics compiled by the state Office of Court Administration, there were about 4,500 pending contested divorce cases in New York City last year, a 10 percent rise since 2011.

Of these 4,500 cases, 1082  were in Manhattan, while there were 1,077 in Queens, followed by Brooklyn (985), the Bronx (980) and Staten Island (338). Although similar data is not available for uncontested divorces, there also are a number of settled cases awaiting court approval.

Some attorneys attribute the delays to the no fault law, but budget cuts also play a role as understaffed courts have a hard time keeping pace with the growing case load. At the end of the day, the backlog is proving to be a roadblock for people trying to move on with their lives. The fact that there are delays in the court system should not dissuade anyone from considering a divorce, however.

The Takeaway

Until the state dedicates more resources to the judges handling these cases, the backlog is likely to grow. In the meantime, the court will not grant a judgment of divorce in a no fault case until the key issues are resolved, including the division of property, the payment or waiver of spousal support, payment of child support, child custody and visitation. In light of the fact that these issues can become contentious, it is crucial to engage the services of an experienced matrimonial attorney to ensure you arrive at a fair divorce settlement.

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