What Do All the Legal Documents Mean in a Divorce?

In a divorce, there are many legal documents that get filed with the Court. Here is a brief summary and explanation of those documents:

  • Summons: This document states the names of the two parties (Plaintiff and Defendant), the name of the Court where the case is filed, the attorney’s contact information, and some other basic information. Once the Summons is filed, it will be assigned an Index Number. There are two types of “Summonses”, one is simply a “Summons”, the other is a “Summons With Notice”. If it is “Summons With Notice”, it will state that the Plaintiff is seeking a divorce and a brief summary of the relief the Plaintiff is seeking (for example, child support, spousal maintenance etc.). Both the Summons and the Summons With Notice have to be properly served upon the Defendant and upon serving the Defendant, the Defendant typically has 20 days to respond to either type of Summons.
  • Complaint: Will give the basic facts of the case, such as date of marriage; children’s names; parties’ addresses; and the cause of action (in a divorce, it is almost always “no fault divorce”) and finally, what relief the Plaintiff is seeking (similar to the type of relief that a Summons With Notice requests). The Complaint will also have to be properly served upon the Defendant, and the Defendant will need to respond with an Answer.
    Answer: The Defendant will respond to the complaint by providing the Answer. The Answer will typically state that the Defendant denies the substantive parts of the Complaint. In some cases, the Defendant may respond with an “Answer with Counterclaims”.
  • Counterclaims: A counterclaim is the mirror image of a Complaint, but, they are the Defendant’s “complaints” against the Plaintiff.
  • Reply: If the Defendant files a counterclaim, then the Plaintiff has to respond with a Reply, which is the mirror image of the Answer.
  • Request for Judicial Intervention (“RJI”): In New York, a Judge will not be assigned to your case until a RJI is filed. By filing a RJI, you are requesting that a Judge be assigned and depending on how the RJI is filled out, what you are asking the Judge to do.
  • Orders (and Decisions): During the divorce process, the Court may issue several Orders and/or Decisions. An Order is issued by the Court, and gives a specific command or direction for the parties to follow. A Decision may be how the Court decides a certain issue. For example, the Court may show how the Court decided child custody, spousal maintenance and a host of other issues. In some Orders, it may have several decisions. Depending on the Judge, a decision and an order may mean the same thing.
  • Stipulation of Settlement: In New York, a Stipulation of Settlement is typically the agreement that resolves all the issues in the divorce. It will be signed by both parties and also notarized. In most divorces, this will be a very extensive document.
  • Note of Issue: This informs the Court that all discovery has been completed and that the divorce is ready for trial. If the parties have settled the divorce, the Note of Issue will indicate that no trial is necessary.
  • Judgment of Divorce: Once the Judgment of Divorce is signed, you are officially divorced. The Judgment of Divorce will contain the basic findings and orders of the Court. Oftentimes, the Judgment of Divorce will refer to the parties’ Stipulation of Settlement.

Divorce is complicated and there are many legal documents that will be filed with the Court. In order to make sure that your Divorce is handled properly you need an attorney who can explain all these documents to you and make sure they are properly completed and filed. Contact David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office, P.C. today at 631-239-1702, email at david@dbnylaw.com or visit us on Facebook to get important legal news, tips, and articles: www.facebook.com/BadanesLawOffice.