What is Default Divorce in New York?

Many people believe they can only get divorced if their spouse agrees to it and willingly participates in the divorce process. In New York, you have the option to proceed without your spouse if you meet certain criteria.

Default divorce: When the respondent doesn’t respond

When you file for divorce in New York, you must serve your spouse a copy of the divorce papers and summons. This alerts them that a divorce has been filed. They then have 20 days to respond. However, some people choose to ignore these proceedings, thinking it's better for them in the long run not to respond to the divorce petition.

If your spouse fails to file an answer in court within the specified time frame, you may apply for a default judgment from the court. When this happens, any requests made in the original petition for divorce will be granted without further input from the other party. This type of divorce is usually much quicker than litigation with a divorce lawyer and can happen in weeks as opposed to months.

Default divorce in New York

New York allows for default divorce. Every state wants both parties to a divorce proceeding to have their voice heard and get a fair debt and property division in their final orders. However, states also want to promote judicial expediency, so if one spouse does not respond to the divorce petition, courts in New York will allow you to proceed.

What to do if your spouse fails to respond

If your spouse fails to respond to your divorce petition, you can file a motion for default with the court. This motion informs the court that your spouse has failed to respond to the petition within the required time frame and that you are requesting a default judgment be entered. You must provide proof of service, which shows you have served your spouse with a copy of the petition.

In some instances, if your spouse never accepted service, a judge may require additional steps before granting a default. This may include publishing a notice in the newspaper of the divorce and giving your spouse time to respond. Once the judge is satisfied that all efforts have been made to serve your spouse – and they've had a chance to respond but have not done so – they may proceed with entering a default divorce.

Why would a spouse choose not to respond?

There are many reasons a spouse might not respond to a divorce petition. They may be unaware that the action has been taken and therefore unable to respond in time, or they may not feel the need to respond if they do not disagree with the contents of your petition. They may be attempting to avoid taking responsibility for the marriage or to delay proceedings. Or, they may simply be unwilling to engage in a divorce.

Regardless of their reasoning, if they fail to respond within the specified time frame, you can request a default judgment from the court.

Read: What Is Personal Service? What is a Waiver of Service?

Pros and cons of default divorce in New York

A default divorce in New York can be beneficial for the filing spouse if the other party has failed to respond to the petition. A default judgment allows them to resolve the divorce quickly and efficiently, as they do not need to go through the lengthy process of a contested divorce. 

If the Plaintiff has requested reasonable distribution of assets and debts, a judge is likely to grant their petition as filed. This often leads to the petitioner getting everything they want in divorce proceedings, which can be a massive downside to the spouse who does not respond.

However, there are some drawbacks as well. If the spouse is not properly served, the court may require the petitioner to take extra steps to ensure their spouse has been notified of the divorce proceedings. This can add extra cost and time to the divorce proceedings, further delaying the final judgment of divorce.

Hello Divorce can help you with a true default divorce. We offer a menu of online divorce plans and services from which to choose. 



Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.