How long will my divorce take?

Q:

How long will my divorce take?

A:

One of the most common questions that couples ask when considering divorce is, “How long will it take for the divorce to be finalized?” Unfortunately, there's no simple and easy answer. In fact, the amount of time that it will take can depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The state in which you live
  • The residency requirements of your state
  • Whether your state requires a cooling-off period
  • Whether your state requires a separation period
  • The length of time it takes the state to process the divorce
  • Whether you and your spouse can agree on the major divorce issues
  • The complexity of the divorce
  • Whether there are conflicts concerning spousal support, child support or child custody

Major Issues That Can Prolong the Divorce Process

Divorce is an emotional issue, and although many couples would like to get it done as soon as possible, there are several major issues that can prolong the divorce process (as mentioned above). Let’s discuss some of the most common issues:

1. Your state requires a cooling-off period

Many states have implemented what is termed a waiting or cooling-off period prior to formally terminating a marriage. The purpose of the waiting period is to ensure that couples have had adequate time to consider their decision. It also allows them time to reconcile.

Although there are 34 states that do not require a waiting period to file for divorce or to receive a divorce decree, states such as Kentucky require a 60-day waiting period to receive a divorce decree. Other states, such as Louisiana and Montana, require a 180-day waiting period before couples can file for divorce. Other states such as Arkansas and New Jersey have a much longer waiting period, requiring couples to wait 18 months before they can receive a divorce decree.

2. The residency requirements of your state

Another factor that could increase the amount of time of your divorce process is whether your state has a residency requirement: the time required for one person in the marriage to be a resident of the state before they can file for divorce in that state.

Only two states (Alaska and Washington) don't have a residency requirement. All other states have various residency requirements. For example, some states' residency requirements are 60 days. Most other states, however, require one person to reside in the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.

Note: Residency laws in a state may require a spouse to be a resident of the state, while others have a tougher standard of requiring the spouse to be “domiciled.” For information about the difference, talk to an attorney familiar with your state’s laws.

3. The complexity of your divorce

The complexity of your divorce is one of the most important factors in determining how long it will take to finalize your divorce. For example, if you and your spouse file an uncontested divorce and agree on property distribution, spousal support, child support and child custody – and assuming that your state has limited residency requirements and fast processing – your divorce may be completed in just a matter of months.

4. The number of divorces to process in your county’s court

Spouses may have control over many factors to speed up their divorce. One factor that you cannot control, however, is the number of cases that have to be completed, or the backlog of divorce cases in a particular court. Unfortunately, the larger the population in your area, the more likely it is that your case may take longer to process.

5. Your spouse is hiding assets and will not cooperate

Unfortunately, getting a divorce finalized quickly can be jeopardized if your spouse does not cooperate. Although they will not be able to stop the divorce, weeks and months can be wasted if your spouse is concealing assets or they hide and make it difficult to locate them and serve the divorce papers.

Forcing you to go to court to reach agreement on major divorce issues – such as custody and visitation, division of property and spousal support – can also increase the length of time of the divorce.

How can I speed up the divorce?

If your goal is to speed up the divorce process, there may be several steps that you can take. Although you won't be able to change your state’s residency or waiting period requirements, in some cases, you can speed up the divorce by working together with your spouse and agreeing on major divorce issues together.

Bottom Line

In some states, such as New York, after you have met the residency requirement and have a ground for divorce, an uncontested divorce could take as little as three months. A contested and complex divorce, however, could take several years. In other states, such as Nevada, you may be able to get an uncontested divorce in as little as a few weeks. The best way to determine how long your divorce might take is to discuss your case with a divorce lawyer who is familiar with the laws in your state.

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Whether you're facing a legal issue or just seeking information, Justipedia aims to be your most trusted resource for legal information on the Web. With the help of legal professionals across the country, we put the law in plain language to help answer your top legal questions.

Justipedia was founded by Internet veterans Cory Janssen and Mitchell Allen. Janssen founded Investopedia.com and grew it one of the largest investing sites on the Web. Allen is an author, speaker and the founder of LeadRival, the leading provider of pay-per-action advertising in consumer legal services.

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