The length of time a divorce takes varies from state to state. Some states have a minimum waiting period between filing the initial divorce petition and receiving the final divorce decree Even if your settlement is drafted the day after your initial filing, you must still wait a number of days before a judge approves your settlement and your divorce is finalized. The waiting period ranges from 6 weeks to 12 months, depending on your state.
Here’s what to expect at each stage in the process, including what factors might shorten or lengthen the time it takes to get a divorce.
Your spouse usually has 30 days to respond to the divorce papers. Once they reply or this period lapses, you can file divorce papers, known as a divorce petition, with the court.
If your divorce is uncontested, you simply need to create your settlement and get it approved. A divorce attorney will help you create a settlement that's fair to all parties. Ask your attorney what information they need before meeting with them to prevent delays in creating your paperwork.
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Your paperwork should be ready in no more than 1 or 2 weeks. Once it has been created, you and your spouse can both review and sign it together. In some states, you must appear in court with your settlement while in others you only need to file the divorce agreement.
You can avoid delaying the process by entering divorce mediation. This typically takes 4 to 6 hours but may take a much shorter or longer time depending on the issues you disagree on. If you can reach an agreement, your lawyers can prepare the documents for filing an uncontested divorce.
If no resolution is reached during mediation, you'll face a contested divorce. Both parties in a contested divorce must appear in front of a judge and explain their point of view about issues they disagree on. A contested divorce can take months or even years to finalize as couples’ schedules and delay hearings and attorneys correspond back and forth.
The amount of time it takes to finalize a divorce often depends on court schedules and state laws. For example, a California dissolution judgment cannot be issued any sooner than 6 months plus 1 day from the service of the initial papers, according to divorce lawyer, John Henry Perrott. It may take as little as 6 weeks or as much as 1 year or more.
In some US states, you are now free to marry another person once your settlement is approved. In other states, you must wait for a period of time to remarry. Remarriage waiting periods apply in the following states:
Divorce can be time-consuming, but understanding how long each part of the process takes can help alleviate your concerns during this often stressful time.