TOP 10 QUESTIONS WOMEN ASK DURING THE DIVORCE PROCESS
Please note: many of these answers only apply in new york.
Q: My husband refuses to give me a Get. What can I do?
A: If your husband is refusing to give you a Get, you can go to a beis dein of your choosing. They will issue a hazmonah (summons) for your husband to appear in the rabbinical court. If your husband fails to appear after three hazmonot, the court will issue a seruv holding your husband in contempt, which can impact his standing in the community. If your husband remains unwilling to give you a Get, you can contact the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (“ORA”), which uses lawful means to put pressure on your husband in his community, such as contacting his employer or staging a rally to draw attention to his refusal to give you a Get. Also, if your husband is the Plaintiff in a civil divorce or has counterclaimed in a divorce action you have filed, you can ask that he sign an affidavit swearing to remove the barriers to your remarriage, which will be incorporated into your divorce. If he refuses to sign, the court can take this into consideration when ordering alimony or distributing the marital property/assets. If he signs the affidavit and then still fails to give you a Get, you can file a motion for contempt.
Q: I was just served with a summons for divorce. What should I do?
A: First, you need to file a document called a Notice of Appearance within twenty days of when you received the Summons. You should do this even if you plan on hiring a lawyer in the future or if the twenty days have passed. You can get a copy of a Notice of Appearance from the Supreme Court Office of the Self-Represented or from the courtwebsite at
Fill out the form and make three copies.
– Send one copy to the opposing party (your spouse) and your spouse’s attorney, by certified mail, return receipt requested.
– Take two other copies to the County Clerk in the Supreme Court where the divorce was filed. Take the Summons with you as well. Give the clerk one copy of the Notice of Appearance and the slips showing that you sent a copy to the opposing party and attorney. The Clerk will file the Notice of Appearance. Ask the Clerk to date stamp your other copy and keep it for your records. Then you wait for the opposing party to serve you with additional documents.
Q: I was just served with a summons for divorce, but I do not want to get divorced. What should I do?
A: One spouse is able to divorce the other spouse even if the other spouse does not want to get divorced. This means that your spouse is able to divorce you whether you want to get divorced or not. See above for information on how to respond to a summons for divorce.
Q: I would like to get a divorce, but I don’t have money to pay an attorney. What should I do?
A: 1) If you and your spouse agree on all of the issues arising out of the divorce (such as the distribution of assets and debt, custody/visitation of the children, child or spousal support, or orders of protection) and no one has filed for divorce yet: you may file for divorce by filing the uncontested divorce package that is available in the Supreme Court of each borough for free as well as online at www.courts.state.ny.us/litigants/divorce. There is a booklet which explains the forms, how to fill them out, and how to file them with the court. If the income of the spouse who files for divorce is low, he/she may ask the judge to waive the court fees, which are $285.00 in total. To do so, ask the clerk for an Affidavit in Support of Application to Proceed as a Poor Person and the Poor Person Order and fill them out.
2) If you and your spouse do not agree on the issues arising out of the divorce (such as the distribution of assets and debt, custody/visitation of the children, child or spousal support, or orders of protection) and no one has filed for divorce yet then your divorce is contested; an attorney is often necessary. You should call your local Bar Association for an attorney referral. If you cannot afford an attorney, the Supreme Court may appoint one for you but only on the issues of custody/visitation of the children and orders of protection. You are not entitled to a court appointed attorney to handle money or property issues.
Another option if you cannot afford to hire an attorney might be to resolve issues such as custody/visitation of the children, child or spousal support, or orders of protection in the Family Court located in your borough and file a petition for free. The Family Court may also appoint an attorney for you for custody/visitation of the children or an order of protection. However, only the Supreme Court can grant the divorce, distribute the assets and debt, and award occupancy of the marital residence.
Q: I would like to get a divorce, but I do not want my spouse to know where I live. What should I do?
A: In order to get a divorce, it is necessary for you to put your address on the Summons with Notice, which your spouse will get a copy of. However, in cases of domestic violence, you may file for address confidentiality, so that you do not have to put your address on the Summons with Notice, or any other court documents. Before filing the Summons with Notice, ask the clerk for an Order to Maintain Plaintiff’s Address Confidential and a Request for Judicial Intervention.
You are entitled to a free court-appointed attorney on custody or visitation matters if you cannot afford one. You should bring proof of your income, or show that you do not have income.
Q: I need custody of/visitation with my child(ren). What should I do?
A: If you want custody of/visitation with your child(ren), go to the Family Court in the borough where you or the other parent live and file a petition for custody or a petition for visitation. In your petition, you need to explain why you are fit to have custody/visitation of the child(ren). There are no filing fees in Family Court. The Family Court may appoint an attorney for you on the issues of custody/visitation. For more information about custody or to obtain court forms, please go to http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/nyc/family/faqs_custodyandvisitation.shtml.
You are not entitled to a free court-appointed attorney on support matters.
Q: I need child support. What should I do?
A: If you have custody of the child(ren) in question, you are the custodial parent and you may file for child support from the parent who does not have custody (non-custodial parent). Go to the Family Court in the borough in which you or the non-custodial parent live and file a petition for Child Support. There are no filing fees in Family Court.
For more information about child support or to obtain court forms, please go to
Q: My financial circumstances have changed and I need more child support than what was ordered by the Family Court. What should I do?
A: If your financial circumstances have changed (i.e. you have lost your job) and you need more child support than what was ordered by the Family Court, go to the Family Court where the support was ordered and file a petition for an upward modification of the order. In your petition, you will need to explain the financial circumstances that have changed since the Family Court ordered the support.
Q: My spouse is not paying the child support that the Court ordered. What shall I do?
A: If you are in the middle of the case then you should inform the Judge, and file a violation or enforcement petition in the Court in which your case is proceeding. If your case is over, then you should file a violation or enforcement petition either in the Court which ordered the support, or in the Family Court. Bring a copy of the order with you.
It is recommended that you speak with a lawyer or advocate before filing for an order of protection. They can help you write the petition and discuss safety planning with you. Once you file a petition, you are also entitled to a free court-appointed attorney to get an order of protection if you cannot afford one. You should bring proof of your income, or show that you do not have income.
Q: How can I obtain an Order of Protection?
A: If you are related to the abuser by blood or marriage, or you have had an intimate relationship with him/her, you can go to the Family Court in the borough in which you or the abuser live, or in the borough where the abuse occurred. Go to the Petition Room and tell the clerk you need to file for an order of protection. In the petition, you will need to describe the first incident of abuse, the most serious incident of abuse, and the most recent incidents of abuse in the form the clerk gives you. Your description of the incidents of abuse should use as much detail as possible (such as the approximate date of the abuse, the words the abuser said, the specific parts of the body that the abuser injured, and other details) and should always specify whether you called the police, whether the police wrote a Domestic Incident Report, whether the police arrested the abuser, whether you suffered any injuries, and whether you received medical treatment.
At the end of the petition, you will need to specify the type of relief that you would like the court to provide. If you live with the abuser and you do not want the abuser to live in the shared residence any longer, you will need to ask the court to exclude the abuser from the home. If you do not live with the abuser but want the abuser to stay away from you, you will need to ask the court to order that the abuser stay away from you, your home, and your workplace. If you do not want the abuser to stay away from you, you are able to ask for an order of protection that says that, while the abuser does not have to stay away from you, the abuser must refrain from committing any family offenses against you.
If you need help filling out the petition or need help obtaining other services, like shelter, go to the Safe Horizon office located in the Family Court. You can also call the Domestic Violence hotline at 800.621.4673; TDD 866.604.5350.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. The police have to arrest the abuser. You will also get a Domestic Incident Report. If he/she is arrested, the police take the abuser to criminal court and the District Attorney may file a case against him/her. At that point you will likely get an order of protection from the Criminal Court.