Length of Time to Finalize a Divorce

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The length of time it takes to get a divorce depends to some extent on the nature of the divorce and the civility of the couple. Circumstances such as children, divorce challenges, and extensive property disputes can drastically increase the amount of time the case takes to reach resolution. Fortunately, for every problem that can emerge there are usually ways to get the process moving again.

Length of Time for a Fault Divorce

Some states still allow parties to claim that the other party was at fault for the marital problems. If a party can show that the other was at fault, in some of these states, the division of property might be affected by the courts finding. Wrongdoing during a marriage that warrants a determination of fault by the court includes cruelty, desertion, and adultery. While fault divorce cases can be filed immediately, if the matter is contested, it can take six months to a year or more to go through the process of litigating the fault grounds and the property distribution and support issues.

To avoid this problem, either file a no-fault divorce or, if it must be filed under fault grounds, avoid inflammatory statements or exaggerations in the filing. Remember that if the other party becomes offended by the filing, their natural inclination will be to challenge it and prove themselves innocent.

Unfortunately, even no fault proceedings can become drawn out and lengthy, particularly where children are involved and parents cannot agree on issues related to custody and parenting.

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Child Custody Disputes Lengthen a Divorce

Child custody and visitation are also matters that have to be decided. These may be separate hearings and can lengthen the process. If there are proceedings on no-fault grounds based upon separation, the separation must be for the required period of time. If there are children involved, most states require that the parties wait one year. Additionally, many states require that during the waiting period, a couple undergo counseling that addresses how the couple should act toward each other after the divorce in the interest of the children.

The reality is that most custodial trials where the parties are contentious can last for years and even be retried if one of the two people feels cheated. The best way to avoid this problem is to hire a mediator before filing for divorce and decide the custodial arrangement and support amounts in advance. This way, the couple simply fills out the information in the divorce papers and agrees to honor the terms. In general, mediation results in a much more positive outcome for custodial arrangements and is much less expensive than fighting out the issue in court.

Property Division

Sometimes property ownership can be difficult to define in a marriage. Property that may have been purchased before the marriage may have since been paid off and was most likely used by both parties, which means it may be intermingled with the marriage property. When this happens, divorces are known to come to a complete halt because the parties cannot even establish a basic property estimate. Normally, these matters must be decided by the court in a separate hearing which can add as much as an extra year to the divorce. Instead of waiting it out and not moving on with their lives, couples in many states have the option of bifurcating the divorce. In a bifurcation the court grants each party legal single status, but reserves the property division issues for later.

As a general rule, the more agreeable the parties are in a divorce, the faster the divorce will move through the court. A divorce can take hardly any time at all if a couple agrees on the issues and the divorce is uncontested. For couples seeking to streamline their divorce, the best decision is to hire a mediator and settle every issue prior to filing the divorce. This saves a great deal of time and gives both parties a sense of fairness because they created the agreement independently.

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