Many people assume that contentious litigation occurs in all divorce cases. In fact, statistics show that most divorces in New York are settled without any court appearance. In an uncontested divorce, the parties resolve all issues either by themselves, in mediation and/or with the help of attorneys. They seek court intervention solely to have a judge approve their settlement and sign the Judgment of Divorce. Litigation occurs only in contested divorce actions where the parties are unable to resolve the issues themselves. In 2019, statewide 44,531 uncontested divorce actions were filed compared to only 11,179 contested divorce actions. The percentage of uncontested and contested divorce cases in New York has remained relatively constant for the past 10 years. Report of the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee to the Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts of the State of New York, January 2021, Appendix G.
The New York State Unified Court System is committed to promoting the appropriate use of mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a means of resolving disputes and conflicts peacefully. New York State Unified Court System, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mission Statement, NYCourt.gov. The question, then, is since so many divorce actions are resolved without litigation, can ADR methods be successfully employed in divorce actions after litigation commences? The answer is yes, but only if expectations are realistic and coupled with patience.