Divorce is a process, not simply a stamp of finality. How long does it take to get a divorce? Well, that depends… on factors both within and outside your control.
You may want a divorce yesterday, but even the speediest dissolutions are at the mercy of your state’s divorce laws.
And, even if the court is ready to give you back your maiden name, you and your future ex could drag out the process.
When factoring in the time quotient for getting a divorce, it’s important to recognize and embrace the entire process.
Divorce isn’t a fast-food drive-thru window. There are stages leading up to it and stages coming out of it.
When asking “How long does it take to get a divorce?” you may have only the pragmatic, legal, sign-on-the-dotted line timeline in mind.
But the bigger picture of going through a divorce involves questions like “How long does it take to get OVER a divorce?”
That may sound irrelevant when all you want to do is have lawyers and courts—and your future Ex—out of your life. But recognizing the totality of the divorce process will help you make wiser choices in what you do and how you do it.
For example, even if the legal part of your divorce is relatively quick, you may feel as if your divorce takes years. From contemplation to grieving to making lifestyle adjustments, recovering, and healing, the entire process may take three to five years.
And what if you flounder in the contemplation stage, living in marital limbo without taking action?
Even if you find yourself paralyzed in your marriage, unable to move it forward and unwilling to leave, the clock still ticks. And not educating yourself on the process and truths of divorce can keep you in denial and prolong the inevitable.
When You’ve Decided to Proceed with Divorce
But let’s say your mind is made up and you’re determined to follow through with your divorce. Now you need to know how long those flaming hoops are going to take to jump through.
The primary determinants are your state or jurisdiction, your ability to come to agreeable terms with your spouse, and the judge’s schedule.
An uncontested divorce will always be facilitated more quickly than a contested divorce. So, even if you and your spouse could never agree during your marriage, divorce could be a good time to start.
The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with your state’s divorce laws. Several factors may affect the timing and ease of your divorce, including:
- Mandatory residency of both spouses in the state and/or jurisdiction (usually six months to a year).
- Mandatory separation or waiting periods. For example, some states require a six-month waiting period before a couple can get a divorce decree. Some states require a one-year waiting period before even filing. And some states require a separation period before a divorce will be granted.
- Involvement of a child expert if you have children
If you have hired a lawyer to help you through the process, s/he will usually need a couple weeks to draw up the petition. And then your spouse will have anywhere from 20 to 60 days to respond after being served.
That means five to 10 weeks just to get the ball rolling, assuming you have met the time requirements mentioned above.
For Help, Turn to Mediators
So, how long does it take to get a divorce once you have filed and your spouse has responded?
Again, that depends.
If you have no children and relatively few (or at least uncomplicated) assets and little debt, you can potentially DIY it. Get the papers online, fill everything out, file, endure your state’s waiting period, and you’re done.
But, if you can’t agree on certain issues, you will need the help of professionals.
If your goal is to stay out of court, mediation can bridge the gap between the DIY divorce and a contested divorce. And it can be especially helpful if you have children or more complexity to your assets.
A mediator can be an attorney or even a therapist well-versed in the applicable laws. What’s important is his/her ability to help the two of you reach an agreeable solution to difficult areas such as custody.
Arbitration involves a third party who weighs both sides of the argument and decides on the settlement. While this approach keeps you out of court and waiting for a court date, it’s still a longer process than an uncontested or mediated divorce.
Finally, if your divorce is turning out to be too contentious for the above choices, there’s always court. And court means waiting for an available date in what may already be a backlogged schedule for the judge.
It also means attorney fees, court fees, and potentially drawn-out negotiations.
There’s the pre-trial. There’s the trial. There are the judge’s rulings that have to be written into court orders.
Then, if there is any disagreement with the rulings, there are appeals.
And, even after everything is agreed to and the judge signs off on your divorce, those rulings have to be carried out. Perhaps the house has to be sold or accounts have to be split or documents have to be changed.
And yes, that can mean months or even years.
You may want to do some research on the details of what happens if your divorce goes to court.
If you’re starting to squirm and feel a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities, you’re not alone. Millions of women have been where you are, and each has her own story.
Leaning on women who have “been there” can be the best support for navigating this painful, unfamiliar process.
What’s the takeaway from this long answer to your question, “How long does it take to get a divorce”?
The most important realization is that you have more power than you may think you do.
You may feel challenged in exercising that power if your spouse chooses to make things difficult. But you always have the choice and the power to educate yourself and surround yourself with outstanding resources.
Ultimately, the time it takes for your divorce to be finalized will depend on you and your future Ex.
Can you bring the best, most composed, informed, prepared versions of yourselves to the table to advocate for everyone’s well-being and future?
If you can, your divorce will have to answer only to the timeline set forth by your state or jurisdiction.
And that means money and heartache spared… and a head start on your new life.
Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and choose to not go it alone.