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How Long Does a Divorce Take to be Finalized?

how long does divorce take to finalize

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Once people file for divorce, invariably at one point, they would ask, “Why is this divorce process taking too long?” Or, “How long will it take to finalize my divorce?” however, there’s no straight answer to such questions.

It all depends on how you go about your split – if you chose the court’s way, including many other factors. Several reasons could cause a case to drag. But generally, how long a case takes to be finalized can hinge on a number of factors.

What Factors Affect the Duration of My Divorce?

factors of divorce determining how long

Each divorce is unique. This is something every divorcing couple should always note. You will probably face a different set of circumstances that will impact how your divorce proceeds.

Where You Live

Some states have a “cooling off” period while others require a period of separation. This will probably have an impact on how long your divorce will be finalized. There’s also the residency requirement for each state. For instance, Nevada requires either spouse to have lived in the state for at least six weeks.

Other states have a one-month residency requirement, while others have a six-month residency requirement. Once you satisfy this requirement, you can then proceed with the filing. Your family lawyer can let you know about residency requirements in your state.

Whether It Is a Fault or No-Fault Divorce

All states allow filing for no-fault divorces (no one is blamed for the broken marriage). A fault-based divorce would often need submission of evidence if you filed on the grounds of cruelty, adultery, inhuman treatment, etc. The at-fault spouse may deny it wasn’t their fault why the marriage is ending and this can drag the entire case.

Some spouses file for a fault-based divorce to try and stop the whole divorce case. But it doesn’t stop but makes the process longer.

Whether It Is Contested or Uncontested

An uncontested divorce has several of its major issues resolved. A contested divorce, however, is likely to end in a trial because the exes could not resolve the major issues in their divorce.

If the two of you are fighting, the longer the case will take. If you clash over property division, child support, visitation, and custody, it will automatically drag the process and cost you more.

If your divorce is uncontested, it will depend on how long it takes to complete all the steps. Once the summons has been served to the defendant, they have 20 days to respond. Afterward, the papers will be filed with the court. Expect the entire process to take anywhere between six weeks and 12 months.

Whether You Need Forensic Work Done

If you have a significant amount of marital wealth, it may take time to finalize your wedding. You’ll need to confirm that your ex has made a full disclosure about assets. If you believe this isn’t the case, you will have to talk to your divorce lawyer about forensic business valuation and lifestyle analysis to find any hidden money or assets.

Forensic may also be required if you have serious child custody conflicts. A forensic custody evaluator may be needed to come in to investigate, report, and recommend a parenting plan that suits the family dynamic. All these forensic assessments take a lot of time.

Whether The Two Parties Are Cooperative

Finance is a big topic in divorce. Once the divorce is filed, the next stage is the “discovery phase” which involves the production of financial documents; whether marital or non-marital. If any of the two starts to play games, it automatically prolongs the process.

If you want your ex to produce certain documents, you’ll have to file a motion with the court requesting the judge to compel them. You will go for a hearing, then wait for a determination. What this does is just delay the process.

Whether You Can Find Your Spouse to Serve Them

If your soon-to-be-ex avoids being served, it will take longer to finalize your divorce. This is common as we’ve seen. If this is the case, you should get a process server.

What Court You File In

which court will you file for divorce

Part of the reason why cases drag is that you and your lawyers are just trying to get an audience with a judge. Most courts across the country are burdened with numerous family law cases and struggle a lot as they are understaffed and underfunded.

If your family court has a backlog of cases, it is likely it will take longer before a judge grants you your divorce.

What’s The Difference Between Waiting Period and the Separation Period?

Some states lay a mandatory period where divorcing couples have to “cool off.” A cooling-off period is a time that must pass before a divorce is issued. Not all states have this mandatory period, but in those that have, the period can start as soon as filing is done or once your spouse is served.

The purpose of this period is to consider reconciliation or at least adjust to the new situation, or favor any minor children who need both parents. California has a six-month cooling period while Tennessee has a 90-day period if children are involved, and 60 days if there are no children.

Conversely, a separation period is the amount of time required for spouses to remain separated before getting a divorce. Not all states have this requirement. But those that have, you must be separated for a specific amount of time before filing, or a separation period before finalizing the divorce. The separation period also serves the same purpose as the cooling-off period – giving you a chance to think over if you want to go on with the divorce or use alternative measures.

How Can I Speed Up My Divorce?

speeding up divorce

There are several ways of quickening your divorce. The best way is to agree with your spouse on issues of:

  • Child custody, visitation
  • Alimony/spousal support
  • Division of property and debt
  • And any other issues that need to be resolved

Ensure you also meet the residency requirements in your state before filing. Get a divorce lawyer to help you complete the papers accurately so that you don’t have to redo them.

You can also apply for a waiver of the cooing-off or separation period. However, both parties may need to agree while others require the application to be for “good cause,” e.g. in the best interests of the children.

Can We Continue Living Together During the Divorce?

Normally, yes. Not all states have a separation period requirement. But even in the many that do, this is often the date one spouse decided that the marriage was over and the two no longer lived as a couple, even if they shared the same residence.

However, in some states especially in the southeast, the parties must have lived at separate residences for a specific amount period. In these states, it will typically be 6-18 months. And this type of separation means the parties don’t engage in sexual relations during this period.

How Long Will It Take to Get Over My Divorce?

There’s no specific answer to this. But therapists and counselors generally say one year of healing and recovery for every 5-7 years of marriage. But if you were both unhappy in the marriage and agreed to divorce, then it may not take too much time.

There’s a misconception that men get over divorce faster than women. According to mediate.com, men tend to hold onto their marriage harder than women. Even though they remarry faster than women, men face a myriad of emotional challenges than women. Most men lose their source of intimacy, social connections, and most face reduced finances and a raw bargain in terms of child custody and visitation.

If you want to shorten this period of divorce, consider mediation, arbitration, and negotiated settlement, collaborative divorce. This is a good alternative if you wish to move on with your life ASAP.

When your divorce is taking long and emotions are running high, things can go downhill real fast. And it does help to have someone on your side like a divorce attorney or divorce therapist or counselor.

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Mike Mwangi

Most people will agree with me that divorce is a very difficult time. And for me, I’ve taken the path of helping people through this transition of life by giving them information that will make their lives a lot less stressful as they adjust. I work in a legal research role with Divorce Mistakes Network and have assisted leading law firms with research and delivering relevant content for those facing divorce. Whether lawyer, law firm, or other divorce-related professionals (mediators, financial advisors, accountants, therapists, counselors, etc) I help bridge the gap between legal minds and those affected by divorce. Let’s connect with ideas for content that helps everyone successfully conquer divorce.

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