Many of our clients are surprised to learn about the “no signature required” divorce process in New York. It is true that in New York state, a person can get a divorce without obtaining their spouse’s signature if their spouse failed to respond to the summons. This is called a “no signature required” divorce. If you cannot locate your spouse to serve them with divorce papers, you can obtain a divorce by publication. This article will explain the process of getting a divorce by publication or a no signature divorce. 

What Happens if Only One Person Wants a Divorce?

Divorce is never an easy process, but some situations complicate the divorce process. For example, in some cases, one spouse will serve a petition for divorce on the other spouse but never receive any response consenting to the divorce or challenging the divorce. Or, one spouse who wants a divorce has been separated from their spouse and does not know where their spouse is located. In these difficult situations, it is impossible to serve a divorce summons on the other spouse. If you are asking one of the following questions about your divorce, attorney Jason Lutzky of the Law Offices of Jason Lutzky is here to help:

  • Can I get a divorce if I do not know how to locate my spouse?
  • Can I get a divorce without a spouse’s signature?
  • Can I file for divorce when my spouse does not respond to the summons?
  • Can I get a divorce if my spouse refuses to sign my divorce papers?


How to Obtain a “No Signature Required” Divorce in New York

The legal process for obtaining a divorce in New York requires that the spouse petitioning for divorce formally serve the divorce papers to the non-filing spouse. After this process, the spouse receiving the summons must respond to it for the divorce process to go forward. In some cases, spouses will refuse to respond to the divorce summons. And these situations, the spouse seeking a divorce can take advantage of the “no signature required” divorce process, which can be broken down as follows:

  • You file the petition for divorce
  • You or another party formally serves the divorce notice to your spouse
  • Your spouse does not respond to the summons within the required timeframe of 20 days
  • The divorce may proceed

After your spouse is formally served divorce papers, he or she must respond within 20 days. If more than 20 days pass after being served the divorce papers, the lack of response by the other party is considered a “default,” and the divorce may still proceed. A default divorce can only occur if the other spouse noticed that the divorce petition had been filed. For example, you will not be able to obtain a  “no signature required “divorce if the other spouse did not receive the summons for divorce. Hiring a lawyer is one of the best ways to ensure that your spouse received the summons with notice or summons and complaint about the divorce.

To a layperson, the terminology of a “no signature required divorce”  can be misleading. This terminology might imply that their spouse does not have to know about the divorce for them to obtain a divorce. This is not true, however. The spouse who was seeking the divorce, also called the plaintiff, must present proof to the court clerk through an affidavit of service that the necessary documents have been served on the other spouse, called the defendant. The plaintiff will also need to give the defendant time to respond. As a result, the only way someone can obtain a divorce without a signature is when they properly served their spouse, and their spouse has failed to respond for 20 days.


Divorce by Publication in New York

Another issue arises when trying to get a divorce when one spouse does not know where to find the other spouse. Perhaps someone has been separated from their spouse for years or has been cut off from contact. In these cases, one spouse does not know where the other spouse lives, works, or even who their friends are and whom they spend time with regularly. Tracking their spouse down can become difficult, if not impossible. 

Perhaps the spouse has left the country and has not been in contact with anyone in the U.S. for years. In other cases, the spouse seeking the divorce may not know if the other spouse has died. In these cases, the spouse seeking a divorce can obtain a divorce by publication. The first step in the process of getting a divorce by publication is to document all of your actions. You will need to provide evidence that you have pursued every possible avenue to try to find your spouse. 

If you still can’t find your spouse at the end of the process, you can request that the court approves your attempt to locate him or her by allowing you to seek a divorce by publication. Once the court grants your petition, you will be required to publicize your divorce notice in the newspaper for three weeks. After placing an ad in the newspaper for three weeks without any response, you can proceed with a divorce on your own.


Discuss Your Case With a New York Lawyer

If you are considering getting divorced, but you cannot locate your spouse, or you are concerned your spouse will not respond, you need an experienced divorce lawyer on your side. Attorney Jason Lutzky of Law Offices of Jason Lutzky has extensive experience in divorces in New York. He will provide you with excellent representation and guide you through the process to meet all of the requirements under New York law. Contact him today to schedule your initial consultation.