Q: Hello I already have a legal separation agreement file through court. How do I go forward with the divorce?
A: The first question you have to ask and answer is whether it has been a full year since the separation took effect. If not, then you will have to wait until then before you can use the separation as grounds for the divorce [DRL 170(6)].
After a year, you can "convert" the separation agreement" into the basis for the divorce. If you've filed it with the court and paid the initial fees (probably $210), then you've essentially begun the process. You'll subsequently have the standard divorce forms to file in order to facilitate and complete the matter, but if things are amicable between you and your spouse, and the agreement is sufficiently thorough, this may be handled quickly and without contest.
Does that mean you can do all of this without a lawyer in tow? It's been done before; however, even for the most basic of situations, this would be quite a challenge. If you have no children, a simple asset profile, and an equally simple asset distribution plan, then you can at least consider it. But even if a lawyer such as myself goes this far in suggesting that path, we'll always add that securing counsel is the "correct" way to handle these matters.
A: If you have lived separate and apart for a year AND followed the agreement, you can file for a divorce. You must still serve your spouse with the divorce papers but if all the issues (child custody and support, etc.) have been resolved, in your agreement then that serves as the basis for the judgment.
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