Contested Divorce

Contested Divorce in New York

A divorce is "contested" when the spouses have not agreed upon matters such as child custody, child or spousal support, equitable distribution of marital assets, or a combination of these. 

Settlement and Mediation

It is important to note that 95% of cases settle prior to trial. Therefore, while your case may be highly contested, this does not mean you will necessarily go to trial. A divorce that starts out contested can, and often does, settle, prior to trial. We have many clients that believe there is no way their spouse will ever come to the table for any reasonable settlement, only to find that initiation from a skilled attorney created an opening that he or she could not have managed on their own. Sometimes when dialogue has broken down between two people it can be reopened by a third party. Our office places great value on attempting out of court settlements because settlement saves both cost and time. In addition, avoiding lengthy litigation allows the parties to leave the marriage without the rancor that can sometimes result from the court environment. Sometimes parties can only have meaningful discussion after exchanging financial documents and conducting discovery. Our office is here to walk you through the process, and most importantly, to advocate for your rights whether it is in the courtroom or at a negotiation table.

Major Considerations during a Contested Divorce

Major factors that cause a highly contested divorce include the following:

What is the process of Contested Divorce

  • Initial filingOne spouse files a Summons with Notice or a Summons and Complaint to begin the divorce and mark the official end of the marital period and its economic partnership. The spouse that files for divorce is called the "Plaintiff," while the other spouse is the "Defendant." The Plaintiff spouse has 120 days to serve the Summons on their spouse.


  • Serving papers: A third party must effectuate service on the Defendant spouse within 120 days and complete an Affidavit of Support.


  • Responding: The Defendant spouse has 20 days (if served within New York State) or 30 days (if served outside of New York State) to respond to the filing, either by accepting or contesting the terms of the divorce. Typically, if a spouse is intending on contesting the divorce, they will file a Notice of Appearance with the Court and serve it on the Plaintiff spouse or their attorney.


  • RJI: New York requires those who have filed for divorce and received an Answer to then file a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI). This document serves as an official acknowledgement from both parties regarding the divorce and asks for the court to set up a Preliminary Conference date within 45 days of assigning the RJI. The filing of the RJI puts the divorce case on the Court's calendar.


  • Preliminary Conference: This is the first appearance in a divorce action. The purpose of this appearance is to lay out a timeline for the parties to exchange financial disclosures. In addition, the Preliminary Conference allows the court to determine which issues within the action are at dispute, and which are resolved. To the extent that there is real property or retirement assets, valuations and appraisals will be ordered. Out of court settlements are always encouraged by the Court. While the parties are expected to comply with disclosure deadlines, there is an expectation that the attorneys and parties will attempt to resolve the issues at dispute. 


  • Discovery: Discovery involves exchange of financial disclosure and other documents. The discovery process is important and can sometimes uncover hidden or undisclosed assets. Discovery also allows for parties to have a more meaningful conversation relating to settlement, as the attorneys and parties now have full financial disclosure.

  • Compliance Conference: This is typically 60 days after the Preliminary Conference. The purpose of this appearance is to ensure that parties are complying with Discovery demands, and for the Court to conference the case in furtherance of a potential settlement. 

Following the Compliance Conference, the Court typically schedules at least two additional conferences. In the interim, parties may be tying up loose ends for discovery, holding depositions, or engaging in settlement conferences. If parties cannot settle, trial dates are selected with the Court, and the parties will proceed to a hearing on any outstanding issues.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation!

No matter how involved your contested divorce in New York goes, it pays to start the entire process with the help of a trusted  divorce lawyer. At Rashad Law, we put our clients’ needs and priorities first, working closely with them from start to finish. Discover what that caliber of service can do for you by contacting us today!