New York Family Law: An Overview

Family law covers a variety of legal topics from marriage to divorce and many other emotionally-charged issues. New York's state family laws regulate things like adoption, alimony, child support and much more.

Whether you have a family law case in Brooklyn, Syracuse, or Rochester, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo's New York Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. New York family law attorneys can assist you with any of the following topics (and many more).

New York Marriage License

If you plan to get married in New York, you will need to apply for a marriage license. To qualify for a New York marriage license, couples must meet the following requirements:

  • If one party is younger than 18 years of age but older than 14 years, parental consent is required. Parties 18 years or older do not require parental consent.
  • Both parties must each present proof of age and identity to the County Clerk.
  • Neither party may be related to the other as parent and child, siblings, or uncle/aunt and nephew/niece, regardless of the relationship's legitimacy.
  • Any party who's had a previous marital history must present information regarding previous marriages and divorces with the marriage license application.

You will have 60 days to perform your wedding before the license expires. However, you must wait 24 hours upon receiving your license before you can marry.

New York Divorce Requirements

Marriages end for a number of reasons, from domestic abuse to simply disinterest between spouses. The circumstances that lead to the end of your marriage may seem reasonable at first, but you should be aware that New York has specific requirements for legally dissolving marriages.

To get a divorce in New York, you or your partner must have been living in the state for one year or longer without interruption prior to filing for divorce. Additionally, one or both parties must prove one of the following reasons as grounds for a divorce:

  • One party abandoned the other for one year or longer.
  • One party was confined in prison for three consecutive years or longer.
  • There is evidence of one party's cruel and inhuman treatment towards the other party.
  • One party committed an act of adultery.
  • Both parties have been living separately and apart due to a separation agreement, judgment or decree.
  • The relationship has suffered an irretrievable breakdown for six months or longer.

A divorce is inherently stressful and highly emotional. If you're divorce is contested—meaning that you and your spouse dispute aspects of your divorce such as custody or the equitable distribution of property—it's likely that things may get emotionally heated. A New York divorce attorney can help keep things civil and on track.

Equitable Distribution in New York

Spouses will need to negotiate an equitable distribution of property during the divorce process. If they cannot, it will fall to the judge to determine an equitable distribution, which may not necessarily be an equal distribution of property.

When it comes to distributing marital property in New York, not everything a divorcing couple owns is divided up. Only marital property is considered for division and distribution between the divorcees. Separate property is almost never considered for distribution.

Marital property is anything that either party bought during the marriage. This can include vehicles, real estate, securities and insurance. The court ultimately determines how marital property is divided regardless of ownership if an agreement can't be reached.

Separate property consists of anything that either party owned prior to the marriage. It also includes property given to either party from someone else during the marriage, including inheritances, gifts, and compensation for personal injuries. Your spouse is not entitled to your separate property.

When Do I Need a New York Family Law Attorney?

Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there's a prenuptial agreement involved.

Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.

Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced New York family law attorney if you have additional questions.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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