In New York State, neither party has to appear in court when the divorce is uncontested and all outstanding issues have been resolved in advance, such as equitable division of marital property, spousal support, child custody and child support and other financial issues. However the applicant must file a Complaint and other legal documents and forms with the court to formally dissolve the marriage, and if everything is in order, a judge will approve the settlement and grant a final judgment of divorce.
On the other hand, a contested divorce case involves court intervention, due to the fact that all issues are not agreed upon by the parties, and one party is aggrieved and contests the issuance of the divorce until these matters have been resolved in court. In a high asset divorce case, a fair settlement may not be achievable without the need for financial discovery to ensure that all tangible and intangible marital assets have been identified and fairly valued. The party's attorney can issue discovery subpoenas to third parties to obtain records related to a spouse's income, employment,businesses,credit cars and bank statements. This party files a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI) after being served with the initial divorce Summons.
A judge is then appointed to oversee the proceedings, and the parties must then attend court conferences with a view towards a settlement, meet discovery deadlines set by the judge, who can also issue orders regarding interim support, interim child custody and access etc.
Most cases settle at some point along the way, but in the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a trial date is scheduled by the judge who will then make the final decision on resolving the outstanding issues.