Long Delays for Divorces

Massive budget cuts and layoffs in the NYC court system are causing long delays in granting of uncontested divorces. Divorce cases are taking longer to resolve in most counties, with Richmond County and Kings County judges taking up to 10 months to sign uncontested divorce judgments.

William J. Leininger, a veteran matrimonial attorney, said “the wait to obtain a signed judgment finalizing a divorce is now nine months or more after both sides agree to terms. The finalization process used to take three or four months.” And that, he says, is “on top of the time typically required —  from a few months to two years — to reach the divorce settlement.”

These delays are hindrance to remarriage by the parties and, far more importantly, to payment of needed alimony and child support, because settlements incorporating them are unenforceable without the signed judgment. This can place some parties in financial hardship as they wait around for the final judgment, without which they cannot collect the promised sums they need to continue to support their families. Under New York’s no-fault amendments, parties may seek pendente lite support, but that, too, takes time and burdens the system, and meanwhile they are without needed support. Pendente lite support is often used to provide support to the lower income spouse while the divorce process is pending.

According to the New York City Bar Association, the state judiciary, in 2010, was subjected to a $170 million budget cut. About 8 percent of its workforce, or 1,300 employees, left the courts due to early retirements and layoffs.

Meanwhile, in New York County it only takes four to five months to finalize a divorce, but this time is increasing as more attorneys flock to file their divorces in New York County under Sec. 509.

The new administrative judge said “There have been resources transferred to the matrimonial part. I can tell you the entire staff in the matrimonial part is working very hard to decrease any type of delay, but, sometimes, it’s innate in the matrimonial part. It’s my belief that we should be up to date as of the end of March.”

One way to avoid this long wait is to include language in the parties settlement agreements which makes the payment of either child support or maintenance payable at the signing of the Settlement Agreement, which is an enforceable contract.