In a September 12, 2012 press release, MyDivorcePapers.com, a self-proclaimed “established leader in online divorce forms,” announced that it had recently released another video in their online divorce forms series, How to File New York Divorce Forms Online. The video “is an education and informational video aimed at giving summary overview of specific divorce laws along with the divorce process and the state of New York.”
Unfortunately, the video appears to be two years out of date.
Thus, when discussing the available grounds to obtain a divorce in New York, the video, as well as the MyDivorcePapers.com website, itself, fail to note that for divorce actions commenced after October 12, 2010, true no-fault divorce has been available in New York. With the enactment of Domestic Relations Law §170(7), a divorce is now available upon one spouses’s sworn statement that “the relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months.”
The MyDivorcePapers.com video and website omit this ground, and refer only to the pseudo no-fault grounds available in New York before the 2010 enactment: living separate and apart for one year under the terms of a judicial separation decree or separation agreement. D.R.L. §§170(5,6).
Considering that most couples making use of online self-help will be basing their divorce actions on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown, the omission is significant.
Similarly, the video and website is two years behind the times when discussing the factors a court will consider when determining whether to award maintenance (alimony) to a divorcing spouse.
Indeed, the video and website have simply skipped the factor granted priority status in 1986: the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage. As to the other statutory factors, the website and video appear unaware of the changes made in 2010. Specifically, while the website and video do list the majority of enumerated factors within Domestic Relations Law §236B(6)(a) that a court may consider in making its maintenance determination, the following factors are omitted:
(5) the need of one party to incur education or training expenses;
(6) the existence and duration of a pre-marital joint household or a pre-divorce separate household;
(7) acts by one party against another that have inhibited or continue to inhibit a party’s earning capacity or ability to obtain meaningful employment. Such acts include but are not limited to acts of domestic violence as provided in section four hundred fifty-nine-a of the social services law;
(11) the care of the children or stepchildren, disabled adult children or stepchildren, elderly parents or in-laws that has inhibited or continues to inhibit a party’s earning capacity;
(12) the inability of one party to obtain meaningful employment due to age or absence from the workforce;
(13) the need to pay for exceptional additional expenses for the child/children, including but not limited to, schooling, day care and medical treatment;
(15) the equitable distribution of marital property; and
(19) [part] the availability and cost of medical insurance for the parties.
Moreover, the title of the video is a misnomer, you can obtain your forms online, but a court action begins, for the time being, with a filing of hard-copy documents with the County Clerk. That is followed by the submission of documents to the matrimonial part clerks of Supreme Court of each county.
Lawyers are expensive. Very often the parties are in a position to do it themselves. Indeed, The New York State Unified Court System offers free instruction booklets and forms for people starting a divorce. The clerks of the courts are very patient, although they cannot offer legal advice.
The are a number of online and other companies to assist spouses obtain their uncontested divorces. I am sure that some are up-to-date and professional. But they do not provide legal advice.
One or both spouses should run the proposed agreement by a matrimonial lawyer, in all events when there are children, and whenever there are assets or liabilities being divided or an economic imbalance between the spouses. But that’s just one lawyer’s opinion.