Since COVID, the New York court system has experienced extensive delays, especially in handling divorce cases. The courts were shut down and then became virtual. Many court employees left their jobs while the volume of cases simultaneously rose, possibly because the pandemic changed how couples related to each other leading to more conflicts. Whatever the cause, there are still lingering problems today at every stage of the divorce process, including the signing of the divorce judgment.
When Is a Divorce Judgment Final?
Once the parties have resolved their differences or the court has decided the case, the judge will sign a divorce judgment. However, the divorce isn’t final until the judgment is entered by the county clerk. Unfortunately, because of court delays, this last step can take weeks or months. Importantly, the judgment is valid as of the date the judge signed it but it’s not official until entry by the county clerk. That leaves the parties in a difficult position.
What Should Parties Do If There is a Delay in Entry of a Divorce Judgment?
While the parties wait for the entry of the divorce judgment, their separation agreement governs property distribution, spousal and child support, child custody and any other issues. As a result, the parties must comply with all terms of that agreement during this interim period.
Since the parties are unable to obtain proof that their divorce is final, they are unable to get married to another person. However, the parties can still exercise the legal and financial rights and obligations of married people, which may be beneficial. For example, to the extent the judgment is not signed, one spouse can still be covered by the other spouse’s health benefits and the couple can still file a joint tax return.
It may be inconvenient to wait for the divorce judgment to be official, especially after lengthy negotiations or litigation. However, the courts are trying to catch up so be patient.
Divorce can be a time-consuming process and the pandemic only made it worse. If you are considering divorce, settling issues out of court with your spouse will speed the resolution of your divorce. It may not help at this last stage, but overall, your case will move much faster when you aren’t litigating your disputes.
If you are looking to file for divorce or your spouse already has filed, contact us for a consultation to learn how we can help you achieve a positive and efficient outcome in your case.