I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate when other divorce attorneys in the community give the rest of us “good ones” a bad reputation. Today, I was speaking to a prospective client that wants to get an uncontested divorce in New York. An Uncontested Divorce is when the spouses either come to an agreement on all outstanding issues and simply want that agreement and other require documents processed by the Court, or there are no issues to be resolved (no children, no assets, etc) and they want to divorce as quickly as possible without court intervention. In New York, an uncontested divorce is accomplished by filling out what is typically referred to by divorce attorneys as an uncontested packet. The packet is lengthy and in my opinion, requires a divorce attorney to draft them to ensure everything is done right. The last thing anyone wants is to struggle through a bunch of forms, pay all of the filing fees in order to file them, and find out months later they have been rejected by the Court for being improperly drafted, or worse having to come back to court years later to fix an avoidable mistake. The divorce packet includes many different documents providing the court with all of the information they require prior to granting a divorce.
My client and I discussed the uncontested divorce process, requirements and information I would need to get started. I explained that once all of the necessary documents are filed with the Supreme Court it would take six to nine months to get a signed judgment. Having solely focused on divorce and family law in New York and New Jersey for the last 15 years I am very well aware that if it falls on the right desk the final Judgment of Divorce (the document making your divorce official) may be signed as quickly as three months, but I always err on the side of caution (and reality) and say six to nine months. The client was in shock! He asked me, “what about those attorneys who say they can get the divorce done within thirty days!” Me – What?!?!? It takes a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks to even get it calendared and assigned to a referee or a judge. In laymen’s terms – to even get put on someone’s desk! I am then forced to tell him that is false advertising and impossible.
After we ended our conversation, I went on Google and searched for “New York 30 day divorce”. I came across one attorney’s website that very clearly states, “Expedited 30-day divorce”. I was amazed. I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that I had been doing something wrong for the past 15 years. So, I decided I would go straight to the proper source to figure this all out. I called the New York Supreme Court’s matrimonial clerk and asked if I had been doing something wrong for my entire career. I explained that this attorney claims to have the magic trick, the secret strategy for getting a divorce judgment calendared and signed within thirty days. And, I couldn’t believe what happened next. The clerk began to laugh hysterically. He said I had made his day. He said, that it is impossible and told me what I already knew from years of practice, that it takes 4-6 weeks just for it to get put on someone’s desk for review and signature.
So, I get to thinking, about this attorney that states that you can upgrade for $500 to an expedited divorce. I just can’t shake the feeling of anger I get when attorneys run such scams on unsuspecting victims. All I can think of is – you give me a bad reputation!!!!
Let’s consider that it may not be “impossible” as the clerk said. In reality, I have pushed through an uncontested divorce quickly before, I had the divorce judgment signed within two months of filing, and it was for extremely exceptional circumstances, like an immigration issue that absolutely required giving the divorce preference above the thousands of other divorces on the referee or Judge’s desk. However, try as I may, I can’t find such a disclaimer on these scammer’s websites. There is no little asterisk linked to tiny small print you can only read with a magnifying glass, NOTHING!!
I considered the possibility that these divorce attorneys are filing in counties where there may not be any backlog – like in Buffalo or Poughkeepsie, even if the divorcees live in Brooklyn (Kings County). If both spouses agree to file there they have the right to do so, but this can lead to major problems in the future. Let’s assume you need a copy of your divorce judgment, or if you must seek assistance from the court in the future with regard to that paperwork. Also, considering the New York Courts now give people the ability to fill out their forms online, charging individuals extra money to file six hours away, which can have negative consequences later down the road, just seems ludicrous to me. I wonder if those individuals are told about such possible negative consequences or given all of their options. Even though this option to get a “quickie” divorce is possible and legal, to me it is still the same as running a scam with extra fees for the same amount of work and making promises you just cannot guarantee.
After my anger subsides, and I realize I can’t possibly report all of these attorneys for false advertising, I am minimally put at ease that part of the new book, Nothing Says a Good Day Like a Divorce…If You Prepare for It!, being published in the next few months, discusses what values one should look for when hiring an attorney, and how important it is to find an attorney that values integrity and honesty. Of course, most people would never know that you cannot simply get an expedited divorce within thirty days. Also, to my surprise, some of the attorneys making such promises have stellar reviews (with horrible ones sprinkled throughout), and their websites make them out to be experts in the field. Nevertheless, I would like to think that the information I provide in the book will help some avoid shady divorce attorneys giving the rest of us a bad name.
I am by no means the last good divorce attorney. I have great respect for most family law attorneys I have to work with, litigate against, and network with on a regular basis. For the most part in order to practice solely in the field of family law, you have to truly care about what you do. I understand we all run a business and want to be properly compensated for our knowledge, our experience, and the effort we put into each and every case. However, I will never understand how one can take advantage of a spouse in a divorce case, a person embarking on an often arduous journey, whether contested or uncontested, at their most vulnerable and desperate time. They are already having to make decisions and take actions that affect not only them but also their children and their family. Not exactly the best time to make promises to such an individual that are impossible to keep.
Buyers beware, and be smart! When someone seems too good to be true, too cheap to be true, or full of promises, rather than explaining that we cannot guarantee time periods or outcomes of your divorce, they are probably just that – Not True!
Referred to by divorce attorneys as an uncontested packet. The packet is lengthy and in my opinion, requires a divorce attorney to draft them to ensure everything is done right. The last think anyone wants is to struggle through a bunch of forms, pay all of the filing fees in order to file them, and find out months later they have been rejected by the Court for being improperly drafted, or worse having to come back to court years later to fix an avoidable mistake. The divorce packet includes many different documents providing the court with all of the information they require prior to granting a divorce.