This blog looks at different types of divorces, how long the divorce process typically takes, factors influencing the length of time, and strategies to expedite the process.
What is divorce?
Divorce is the court process for legally terminating a marriage. Along with the dissolution of marital bonds, divorce also redistributes property, assets, and debts, and arranges parental responsibilities for the parties to follow post-divorce. The duration of the process varies based on the specific divorce laws of the state where the divorce is sought, with states having different timeframes for the length of divorce proceedings.
Types of divorces and average timeframes
The following provides average timelines for the completion of proceedings in different types of divorces:
1. Do-it-yourself divorce
In a do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce, both spouses mutually agree to end their marriage and navigate the legal process without legal representation. DIY divorces take anywhere from six months to a year, depending on how efficiently the parties can complete the required paperwork and meet court deadlines.
2. Uncontested divorce
In an uncontested divorce, spouses may be represented by counsel but they agree on all major issues, including property division, child custody, and financial matters. Uncontested divorces typically take six weeks on average, with the exact time frame depending on state law (inc. any required waiting period), court processing times, and the complexity of the divorce agreement.
3. Contested divorce
In a contested divorce, spouses cannot reach an agreement on one or more issues, necessitating the involvement of a court or a legal authority. Contested divorces can be lengthy, often requiring two to three years to resolve. In acrimonious cases, especially those involving large amounts of marital property, the timeline for a contested divorce can stretch to several years due to discovery, court hearings, negotiations, and trial.
4. Collaborative divorce
Collaborative divorce involves a team of attorneys, financial experts, and mental health professionals working together to find mutually agreeable solutions. Each spouse is represented by a separate team. Typically faster than a contested divorce, a collaborative divorce can be completed in an average of 12 months, depending on case complexity.
5. Mediated divorce
In a mediated divorce, a neutral third party assists the couple in reaching agreements on various issues. Although the average time taken in a mediated divorce can be quicker than conventional divorce litigation, the mediation process can take three to six months. The divorce timeline depends on the willingness of both parties to cooperate and compromise.
Factors affecting the duration of a divorce process
The following factors considerably influence the timeline of divorce proceedings:
Cooling-off and separation periods
There are two types of waiting periods that state law might impose as a condition of getting a divorce. They are intended to give couples a pause for reflection before finalizing their divorce. The first type, a “cooling-off” period, is a minimum amount of time that must pass between the time the petition for divorce is filed and the court’s issuance of the final divorce decree. The length of the cooling-off period varies across states. Some states, such as Alaska, Minnesota, and Maine, do not enforce a waiting period for divorce. Maryland and Nevada have the longest cooling-off periods, 365 days.
On the other hand, a separation period requires couples to live apart before filing for divorce, the duration of which varies by the state. Arkansas has the longest separation period—18 months.
Residency requirements are essential and can affect the timeline. The law of most states stipulates a specific duration of residency before filing for divorce in a state. Satisfying these requirements is crucial for the court to establish jurisdiction over the parties involved. The residency requirements for divorce vary across states. Washington, for instance, has no residency requirement, while states like Massachusetts and New Hampshire have a one-year residency requirement.
Whether the divorce is a no-fault or fault-based
No-fault divorces tend to be quicker, as they do not require proving misconduct. Allegations of fault, such as adultery or cruelty, prolong the process.
Time taken to serve divorce papers
The time to serve divorce papers to your spouse can considerably affect the timeline of a divorce. Delays in serving papers can extend the time required to complete proceedings.
Financial considerations and alimony
Disputes involving finances and alimony can prolong the divorce process, especially if court intervention is required to divide assets and determine spousal support. The divorce process will go more quickly if the parties are able to agree on such matters, or if there is a prenuptial agreement in place that governs financial considerations. Mediation or collaborative methods can help expedite agreement on financial matters, leading to a faster and more amicable divorce.
The workload of the court where the divorce is filed considerably affects divorce processing times. Courts with higher caseloads can delay dates for trials, affecting the duration of the divorce process. By contrast, courts with lower workloads can swiftly proceed with the case, set dates for hearings, and complete the divorce process.
Agreement of parties have on crucial matters
The level of mutual understanding and agreement between the parties greatly influences the speed of the divorce process. A quicker resolution is possible in all types of divorces when there is consensus on critical matters such as child custody and asset distribution.
Spouse hiding assets
A spouse suspected of hiding assets can prolong a divorce case. Uncovering hidden assets requires considerable effort. In some cases, spouses can hire investigative agencies to perform comprehensive investigations to ascertain hidden wealth. This process can lead to delays in settlement.
How can you speed up divorce proceedings?
Spouses seeking divorce should agree on the following issues for a quick resolution of divorce proceedings:
- Division of property and debt: Both parties agreeing on the division of assets and debts can expedite the divorce process. A comprehensive and fair agreement can facilitate a quick resolution.
- Custody and visitation: Mediation can help resolve custody and visitation issues faster. If both parents prioritize the best interests of the children, they can reach consensus quickly.
- Child support: Collaboratively agreeing on child support terms with the other parent can expedite the process. Having a clear understanding and documentation of the agreed-upon terms streamlines legal proceedings.
- Spousal support: Spouses successfully negotiating alimony terms without prolonged disputes speeds up divorce. Mutual agreement and documentation of spousal support terms expedites the legal process.
- Health and life insurance: Clarifying about health and life insurance matters reduces post-divorce complications. Clear agreements on insurance coverage for both parties contribute to a quick resolution.
- Other issues: Create a comprehensive agreement covering all relevant issues to address all outstanding personal matters to minimize delays during legal proceedings.
How long does it take to get a divorce once papers are filed?
The time frame of a divorce depends on the type of divorce. DIY divorces take anywhere from six months to a year. Uncontested divorces typically take six weeks on average, whereas contested divorces can be lengthy, often requiring two to three years to resolve. A collaborative divorce process can be completed in approximately 12 months. Mediated divorces can take between three to six months. The length of time for finalizing a divorce also depends on whether the state has a waiting period, whether any residency requirement applies, and the workload of the court.
What factors can potentially delay the divorce process?
Various factors can delay the divorce process, including any applicable residency requirement or waiting period imposed by state law, whether the divorce is fault-based or not, whether the parties agree on issues such as property division and spousal support, and the workload of the court.
How can legal representation affect the speed of divorce proceedings?
Legal representation can speed up divorce proceedings. Because disputes can be contentious, legal guidance and negotiation on behalf of spouses can reduce the time required for granting a divorce.
Can the divorce process be expedited?
Yes, a divorce can be finalized more quickly if the parties mutually agree on issues such as division of property and debt, custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, health and life insurance, and other relevant issues.
How does court scheduling impact the duration of the divorce process?
Court hearings and trial dates must be coordinated during divorce procedures; therefore, the divorce process may take longer in a busy court. High caseloads in a court can contribute to delays, whereas courts with low caseloads can swiftly set dates for hearings and more quickly issue a final divorce decree.
Where can I seek professional guidance on the divorce process duration?
Consult with a family law attorney to get personalized advice on the divorce process in your jurisdiction. They can provide insights into local rules and procedures, expected timelines, and strategies for navigating the legal system to get the results you want.