How Divorce Works in New York
Once your lawyers have helped you negotiate a comprehensive marital settlement agreement, they will file it with the court along with a number of forms and affidavits that enable the court to issue a final judgment of divorce. (The timing of the filing is up to the two of you; one does not have to proceed immediately to divorce once one has an agreement in place.) This is all done “on papers” and so does not require either of you to actually appear in court. And now that NY State has finally adopted a no-fault statute, the two of you can simply declare that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marriage.
The marital settlement agreement initially becomes a legally binding contract when signed and notarized. It then becomes incorporated in the court’s judgment of divorce, as if the court itself wrote the agreement. Once the court issues the judgment of divorce, you are now not only bound contractually to honor the terms of the agreement, but you are in contempt of court if you do not.