How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?
A survey by Nolo.com found that the average time it took to complete a divorce from filing a petition to getting a final court judgment averaged about 11 months.
Cases that went to trial took an average of almost 18 months to resolve.
On the other hand, couples who were able to settle issues on their own averaged 9 months to finalize their divorce.
Here are some of the factors that play a role in just how long your divorce may take:
What state you live in.
Some states have what is known as a “cooling off” period, while others do not.
For example, in California, there is a six-month cooling off period, which is the longest of any state in the nation. In Pennsylvania, it’s 90 days. Idaho’s cooling-off period is 20 days, but if children are involved, it could be as much as 90 days.
States with no cooling off period include Georgia, Montana, New Jersey, New Hampshire and others.
Keep in mind that the cooling off period is the quickest that you can get divorced. It could take longer if you’re not able to reach an agreement.
What type of divorce you choose.
There are several divorce process options. The primary divorce options are litigation, mediation, and collaborative divorce.
Mediation and collaborative divorce are types of alternative dispute resolution methods. It’s called this because they are ‘alternatives’ to litigation, which is the default.
In mediation and collaborative divorce, the objective is to reach a global settlement agreement on all issues without ever stepping foot in a courthouse.
Uncontested divorces take much less time because there is no trial.
If you and your spouse can agree on all the major points and reach a settlement agreement, then your case will move quickly through the legal process.
This also holds true when you file for a no-fault divorce as well. A judge will only need to take a quick review of your divorce paperwork to make sure everything is in order, and then you should be granted a divorce.
This could take anywhere from several weeks to several months and is dependent in part on how backed up your local court system is.
In a contested divorce, you will need help resolving major issues such as custody, alimony, child support, and property division. If you’re not able to reach agreement after mandatory settlement conferences, then you may have to go to trial. Often times, a contested divorce will take at least a year to finalize.
I’ve had clients which took up to seven years from start to finish (not a record you want to shoot for!).
How complex is your divorce.
For people who have not been married very long and have few assets, there are fewer issues to be negotiated.
Fewer sticking points means a divorce can move along quickly. It also increases the likelihood of being able to use mediation as a means of resolving disputed issues, avoiding an expensive and lengthy trial process.
If you have been married for some time, and/or you have a lot of assets including one or more homes, ownership interests in one or more businesses, and considerable financial holdings in savings, 401k, or stocks, then determining who gets what will take much more work.
In some cases, a spouse may attempt to hide assets from the other one, and this can prompt legal actions that could add months or years to a divorce action.
Child custody, child support and alimony issues.
These are the most contentious of all divorce issues and are often the cause of the most fights among divorcing couples.
If you can work out a reasonable parenting plan by agreement, you will have resolved a major stumbling block.
In many states, child support and alimony are often pre-determined, but can still be a flash point among couples.
However, you can significantly reduce the timeline of your divorce if you can work these items out in advance.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce if Both Parties Agree?
The actual length of time that it takes when both parties agree on all issues varies by state.
Some states have waiting periods of up to six months from the time paperwork is filed until the time a divorce can be finalized. Other states can finalize a divorce in as little as two months from start to finish.
Part of what impacts the length is how much of a backlog there is in the court where you filed for a divorce. A major backlog could produce delays of several weeks up to several months.
Other states may have waiting periods before the judge approves and signs the judgment in case either side wants to file an appeal.
The one stumbling block for uncontested divorces is making sure that you meet the state’s residency requirement.
Most states require that you have been a resident of the state where you file for divorce for six months or in some cases, for a full year. If getting a divorce in as short of a time frame as possible is important to you, check your state’s laws regarding residency and factor that element in if needed.
How Long After a Divorce Does it Take to Get a Divorce Decree?
Depending on the court system, it could take up to a month depending on the court’s backlog and where you live. If you have been represented by an attorney, then they will be the ones to get the copy of your final decree.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce Once Papers Are Filed?
Assuming the divorce petition was filed correctly, if a divorce is uncontested then in some states it can be finalized in as little as 60 days.Other states have a cooling off period which means a divorce could still take six months or longer.
Once papers are filed, a spouse must be served with a copy of the complaint. Generally, they have 30 days or longer to respond to the complaint and can either agree with the terms that are stated, or contest one or more parts of the complaint.
If they are in agreement, then depending on the jurisdiction, a judge may review the paperwork and approve the settlement, finalizing the divorce in as little as 30 additional days (sometimes less).
Most of the time, the process takes a bit longer due to court backlogs or if the judge has a question about the proposed settlement.
In a contested divorce, it’s impossible to determine how long it will take to get a divorce after papers are filed.
Depending on the nature of what is being contested and how spouses decide to move forward, it could take months or even a year or more to reach a final conclusion.
In cases like this, filing the initial paperwork is just one small step in what can be a very long process.
Looking for more great tips to help you get through divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources: