Many different factors can speed up or slow down how long it takes to get
a divorce. Some of these factors are out of your control. Other factors
are in your control.
Factor #1: Mandatory Waiting Periods
Nearly all states have waiting periods before you can complete a divorce.
- Some states require a period of separation (living apart) before you are
allowed to even file for divorce.
- Most states require a mandatory waiting period between the filing of your
divorce petition and when the court will issue your final divorce decree.
The average mandatory waiting period is between 30 and 90 days, though
some states require up to a 12-month wait.
Each state has various reasons for its mandatory waiting period laws. These
reasons include trying to reduce unnecessary divorces (some couples do
decide to attempt counseling or even reconcile during the waiting period).
They also include providing enough time for divorcing couples with children
to become educated on co-parenting and make the proper arrangements to
reduce the potential negative impact of the divorce on their kids.
Factor #2: The Amount of Conflict in Your Divorce
The amount of conflict between you and your spouse directly correlates
to how long it will take to get a divorce.
If your divorce is uncontested (you agree on all issues), then you typically
can finalize your divorce as soon as you have met your state’s waiting
If your divorce is contested, meaning that you and your spouse disagree
on some or all issues (like property division, child custody, or child
support), it can take much longer to finalize a divorce. You will have
to, at the very least, work through the issues in negotiation. This can
take several months, depending on the issues. And if your conflicts result
in the need for trial, then it can take many more months — sometimes
over a year — to resolve everything in court.
Factor #3: The Complexity of Your Divorce
Complex divorces often take longer to resolve. If you have serious parenting
issues, own a business, have
significant assets, or if there are international or interstate issues, it can take a while
to sort out the details of your divorce. It might take longer to obtain
and prepare all of the information needed to get the full picture of your
relationship and what your divorce should look like. You may need expert
evaluators, a parenting investigation, medical evaluations, forensic accounting
specialists, or other special information.
Speeding Up the Divorce Process
If you would like to speed up the process of finalizing your divorce, there
are many ways to do so:
Attempt to waive the mandatory waiting period: In some states, you may petition the court to have the mandatory waiting
period waived. These tend to be approved only if you are filing for an
Act early: One of the easiest ways to speed up the divorce process is to be prepared.
Gather the information relevant to your divorce (financial documents,
parenting information, etc.). Meet with an attorney early in the process
to figure out what additional information you will need from your spouse
or others in order to have a complete picture of your marriage and divorce.
Later, if necessary, you can seek additional information that you need
Cooperate with the process: Cooperating with your spouse in the lead-up to, and during, the divorce
can go a long way toward speeding up the process. Cooperation does
not mean that you should simply agree to everything that your spouse is requesting.
You probably should not. You should, however, follow deadlines, respond
to requests for information, and communicate in a timely manner.When both
spouses cooperate during a divorce, there are generally fewer court appearances.
When everyone shares information and fully participates in the process,
settlement discussions occur sooner and are more effective. This can be
especially true in more complex divorce cases where you must gather and
analyze a lot of information.
Avoid unnecessary conflict: When couples are engaged in a high amount of conflict, there are usually
more court appearances, and they are usually not able to come to agreements
to narrow the issues. This can drag the process out for many months. Some
conflict is often necessary. Do not expect to agree with your spouse on
everything immediately. Instead, be guided by common sense and good legal
advice regarding what areas to focus on.
Try mediation in lieu of trial: If you cannot resolve your case by agreement, through mediation, or through
another dispute resolution process, you will have a trial. Trials are
often scheduled months or even a year after the petition for divorce is
filed. Litigation can also take a long time, especially if a continuance
is requested and issued (this is when one or both sides requests a postponement
of the trial due to extenuating circumstances).Because waiting for a trial
can take months, mediation is often a quicker alternative to going to
court. Mediation allows you to meet with a third party to discuss the
issues in your case and work toward agreement. The mediator can provide
feedback during the mediation to help you evaluate your case and narrow
what issues you and your spouse disagree on. Settling the case outside
of court through mediation can save both time and money.
However, meditation is not always appropriate, depending on your situation.
Be sure to discuss with your divorce lawyer if mediation may be a good
option for you.
After You’re Divorced
There may be additional matters to address after you are officially divorced
that will extend the time it takes to implement the orders set out in
your divorce. These can include, for instance:
- Directing the division of any retirement plans with a Qualified Domestic
Relations Order (QDRO).
- Transferring titles of property.
- Updating your estate plan and changing the beneficiary designations on
your insurance policies.
Considering divorce? Read our tips on
how to find a divorce lawyer.
Please be advised that family law cases can be very complex and are different
for everyone, based on unique circumstances. The information provided
here should not be construed as legal advice in your case.
McKinley Irvin proudly serves Washington State and Oregon with offices
in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Puyallup, Vancouver and Portland.
Contact our family law offices to set up an appointment with a McKinley Irvin family attorney.