Everyone getting a divorce wants to do it quickly. No one wants the process to drag out because it can be costly. But how long does it take for a divorce to be finalized?
How Long Does It Take for A Divorce to Be Finalized?
The time it takes for a divorce to be finalized depends on where you live, whether it is uncontested or contested, and how long the judge takes to do the paperwork.
Each divorce proceeding is different and the time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on several factors:
1. Your Home State
Every state has its requirements for divorce proceedings.
In some states, a divorce can be finalized in two to three months. In other states, it can take several years if there are several issues to resolve.
One aspect that affects how long it takes for divorce to be finalized is the amount of backlog there may be in the court in which you file for a divorce.
A major backlog could mean delays of several weeks or even months.
Other states also have waiting periods in case either spouse wants to file an appeal. The judge may have to wait for the appeal before approving and signing the divorce.
In summary, state-by-state divorce rules affect how long it takes for divorce to be finalized. This refers to the state in which you are getting your divorce.
Take note, also, that nearly all states require a minimum length of residency before you can file for divorce in that state.
In California, for example, a divorce timetable would look something like this:
- Monday – File for divorce.
- Tuesday – Go through the statutory requirements.
- Wednesday – Go through the mediation process.
- Thursday – Execute the settlement agreement.
- Friday – File for divorce.
In the above timetable, you should be technically done with your divorce case.
However, you remain legally “married” to your spouse for the next six months after your divorce was originally filed.
Remaining legally married only means, you cannot remarry. It may also have some tax consequences. But you are done with the divorce process, so to speak.
The processing time for divorce is a different story altogether, though.
- California – 360 days
- New York- 360 days
- Nebraska – 420 days
- Rhode Island – 510 days
- Arkansas – 540 days
These states have the quickest divorce processes:
These days include the cooling-off periods, processing times, and residency requirements:
- Wyoming – 80 days
- Idaho – 62 days
- South Dakota – 60 days
- Nevada- 42 days
- Alaska – 30 days
2. Cooling Off Period
Some states require a “cooling off period. It legally requires the couple to take the divorce process more slowly to prevent them from making hasty decisions.
While it is the right of couples to decide on their own, the cooling-off period is more for the benefit of the courts than about the couple.
The cooling-off period gives the couple more time to seriously think about their action to prevent them from wavering back and forth.
However, Montana, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and several other states do not require a cooling-off period.
Pennsylvania requires a 90-day cooling-off period. Idaho’s cooling-off period is only 20 days if there are no children involved and 90 days if they are. California requires a six-month cooling-off period, the longest in the country.
States with the worst “cooling-off periods” include:
- California – 6 months after the filing of paperwork
- Vermont – 6-month separation
- North Carolina – 365-day separation
- South Carolina – 365-day separation
3. Uncontested Divorce
The quickest way to get a divorce is to agree on all the issues before filing for a divorce.
After all issues are settled, the couple can file for an uncontested divorce.
An uncontested divorce is quick because there is no trial so you and your spouse can quickly go through the legal process. It also saves on time and money.
An uncontested divorce means you and your ex-spouse have reached an agreement before filing the divorce on the issues that constitute the terms of the divorce judgment including:
- Division of properties
- Division of debt
- Child custody (shared custody, parenting responsibilities, and parenting time)
- Child support (amount and duration)
- Alimony (amount and duration of spousal support)
This is also a good option if both spouses agree that they want a divorce, and want the papers filed immediately without hurting each other along the process.
Once the spouses have reached their agreements, they just need to file their Divorce Settlement Agreement in court. No litigation is necessary.
The judge will approve the settlement agreement and final divorce, unless they find some terms to be unfair to one spouse or if he determines that one spouse was under duress.
You typically must hire a lawyer to prepare all your divorce documents based on the requirement of your state. The lawyer signs the agreement and files it in court.
Although uncontested, both spouses still need to engage the services of an attorney. Each spouse should seek legal advice before signing the settlement agreement.
A financial adviser or other experts should also get into the picture if there are spousal pensions that need to be divided before signing the settlement agreement.
If you are seeking an uncontested divorce, make sure your spouse is not hiding any assets from you. In short, make sure your spouse is declaring all assets in the divorce before filing your papers.
Filing of Summons with the Court.
This is done by person who is requesting a divorce. The summons is also served to the other spouse who is the defendant.
The defendant signs the service of the Summons and an Affidavit. The defendant is given 20 days to reply to the summons.
If the defendant does not file a reply, the plaintiff can proceed with the filing of the divorce papers.
The defendant can sign the papers in front of a notary public to signify that he / she is not contesting the divorce. The plaintiff will also sign the papers.
Filing of Divorce Papers
Once the divorce papers are signed and notarized, or the 20-day period given to the defendant has passed, the divorce papers are filled in court in the county of residence of the plaintiff.
After your divorce papers have been filed in court, the waiting game starts. The time an uncontested divorce takes is out of anybody’s hands.
Your attorney or the office of the clerk of the court where you filed your divorce may be able to give you an estimate of how long it will take for an uncontested divorce to be finalized.
On average, the time it takes to finalize an uncontested divorce (signed and approved by the judge) can take between 6 – 12 weeks.
In states with mandatory waiting periods, the judge finalizes the divorce when the mandatory waiting period expires, typically between 1 to 6 months.
Should you decide to go for an uncontested, you need to ensure that you qualify for the residency requirement of the state where you file for divorce.
Most states require that you must at least be a resident for six months or in some states a full year.
Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce
Negatives of an Uncontested Divorce
- An uncontested divorce is not feasible if either spouse cannot reach amicably reach an agreement.
An uncontested divorce is often referred to as a “friendly divorce.”
Every uncontested divorce is different and runs smoothly. The process is simplest and fastest when there are no minor children involved, no real properties to divide, and just a few assets.
An uncontested divorce also works best when each spouse can become self-supporting. These conditions are only strictly limited to marriages that lasted five years or less.
An uncontested divorce cannot become a contested divorce because both spouses have signed a settlement agreement.
However, there are instances wherein a spouse reconsiders and wants to contest a provision/s in the settlement agreement.
The divorce can shift from uncontested divorce to a contested divorce, at any point, before the judge finalizes the divorce. This change can affect how long does it take for divorce to be finalized.
However, once the judgment has been entered and the divorce becomes final, any change either spouses want on the court order, should follow the state’s rules or file a modification of the order.
4. Contested Divorce
A contested divorce is a divorce filed in court without a settlement agreement.
A contested divorce starts with the filing of a Complaint by one of the spouses. The Complaint is served on the other spouse. The other spouse has 30 days to answer the Complaint.
After the other spouse files the answer to the Complaint, the contested divorce will be set for hearings and mediation to give the spouses a chance to reach an agreement on the contested issues.
If some of the contested issues remain unresolved after many attempts to reach an agreement, the divorce case will be set for trial. It is now the judge who will decide on all the contested issues.
Contested divorces can take time. Both spouses will need to present evidence and call witnesses to prove that the contested issues should be ruled in his/her favor.
A divorce case that goes into trial or litigation can be very expensive and can take a long time to resolve. On average, a trial divorce case can be completed in about 18 months.
Typically, a trial divorce can take a few weeks to be completed. However, it can take time for the judge to hand down his ruling.
Add in the 30-day appeal period given by the court to the spouse who does not agree with the ruling.
In summary, here are the steps of a contested divorce case:
- A spouse files a petition in court.
- The court issues a summons and gives the other spouse time to reply.
- The court does some mediation.
- If mediation is unsuccessful, the court calls in the witnesses and accepts the evidence.
- The counsels of both spouses present their final arguments.
- The judge hands down his final judgment.
Benefits of Contested Divorce
- The best option for divorcing couples who cannot agree on child custody, child support, and division of properties.
- The judge is allowed to negotiate a marital settlement agreement.
Negatives of Contested Divorce
- Can be messy
Once the divorce has been finalized, any changes to the court order should pass through the state’s rules on modification of the order.
Factors that Affect the Divorce Process
A divorce can be financially and emotionally challenging. One thing is constant, though getting a divorce is stressful.
Upon consulting a divorce lawyer, it will take him about two weeks to draw up a divorce petition. Your spouse has between 20 to 60 days to respond to your divorce petition.
As a rule, a divorce procedure is quickest when both parties agree and when there are no children involved.
On average, it should take about 11 months to complete a divorce proceeding from the time of filing a petition to getting the final court judgment. It should take about 9 months if the ex-spouses can settle all issues on their own.
On the other hand, divorce cases that went to trial should take about 18 months to resolve.
Anyone getting a divorce wants to have this difficult and stressful period over and done with as quickly as possible.
Every divorce case is unique, and the surrounding circumstances have its timeline on how long it takes for a divorce to be finalized.
However, some factors affect the length of time it takes to finalize your divorce.
Child Custody and Support
The involvement of minor children slows down the divorce process. Child custody is the top issue in divorce proceedings.
It is unfortunate that both parents often do not agree on what is best for their children after the divorce.
If both parents do not agree on who gets child custody, the court will decide for them. This can be a long process because the court needs to be sure on its decision is in the best interest of the children.
Disagreeing over Major Issues
An uncontested divorce is quick because both spouses agree about the major components of their divorce – child custody, child support, division of properties, and other financial issues.
Child custody and division of properties are two of the most highly debated issues in a divorce proceeding.
Arguing every detail of child custody and division of properties drags the divorce process.
The high assets of the ex-couple always slow down the divorce process. Protecting the rights of each spouse is more important than fast-tracking the process.
The higher the assets, the more complicated the division of properties. In some states, such as Texas, properties are not divided equally between the ex-spouses.
Instead, the properties are divided based on the extensive discretion of the court on what is “just and right.”
The same holds true when the ex-spouses own a business or businesses together. It can be extremely difficult to determine the absolute value of a business because there are several factors to consider.
The process can also affect how long does it take for divorce to be finalized.
The Waiting Period
Each state has a different waiting period or cool-off period. Although in some states, the judge can waive this requirement, they typically do not.
Ways to Speed Up a Divorce Proceeding
Anyone who decides to get a divorce wants the entire nightmare to be over and done with as soon as possible.
- Cooperation between the ex-spouses is the primary key to a fast divorce process.
- Make sure to provide you’re your lawyer with all the correct information including your marriage contract, your spouse’s full name, and current address.
- Go for a collaborative divorce so issues can be resolved without going to court.
- Going into mediation where both spouses can work on an agreement, especially on child support and division of properties.
- Have a divorce attorney prepare the final divorce papers.
There are also other ways to speed up the divorce process.
- File your divorce in a state with a shorter “cooling off” or waiting period than in your state of residence. Be certain, though of the residency requirement.
- File in another state that requires a shorter year of separation than your home state.
- File in another state that has a shorter residency requirement than your home state.
Filing for divorce typically means high legal fees and long delays. Working with your ex-spouse to file an uncontested divorce is the fastest way to finalize your divorce so you can move forward with your new life.
Remember, though, that you can only remarry another person after 60 days from the date your divorce is finalized. This is so because either ex-spouse can still appeal the divorce judgment.
Final Thoughts on How Long Does It Take for Divorce to Be Finalized?
Getting a divorce can be stressful, takes a lot of your time, and can cost a lot of money.
Once you’re certain that divorce is unavoidable, don’t delay matters by trying to put off the inevitable and not going ahead with your decision.
The divorce process can be shortened when both spouses co-operate with each other and their respective attorneys so as not to hold up the legal proceedings.