Divorce gets complex. That’s not news to anyone. Two people dividing up the things they acquired throughout a relationship is rarely simple. One of the most common questions we field is how long does divorce take in California and why.
Factors That Affect Length Of Divorce In California
The amount of time between filing the initial divorce paperwork and signing the final documents varies from one case to the next. Without knowing the specifics, it’s difficult to estimate how long a divorce will take. Every divorce is unique and many factors affect the outcome.
That said, many common issues often arise and slow down the process tremendously.
Related Reading: How To Get Divorced In California
California Waiting Period
At the very minimum, whether in San Diego or the surrounding areas, divorce in California takes six months.
That’s because the state requires a six-month waiting period for all parties seeking to dissolve their marriage, regardless of location.
This means that six months will pass between the time you serve the other party and when your divorce becomes final.
And that’s for the most amicable, uncontested splits, where the couple agrees on everything and there’s nothing left to deal with. When there are points of contention, it often takes much, much longer.
Related Reading: How to Prepare for Your Initial Consultation With a Divorce Lawyer
Division of Property
Divorce impacts our financial futures in a big way. So it’s important to take the time to do things right.
If you and your spouse have little or no shared property to split up, this part usually goes relatively quickly. But the more assets and obligations you have, the more complicated things become. And this, you guessed it, leads to delays.
Some couples only fight over big items, like houses and cars, while others throw down over what most of us keep in the back of the junk drawer. It’s not uncommon for the division of property to mire down a divorce.
California follows community property rules when it comes to the division of assets in a divorce. This means the courts view all assets acquired during a marriage as belonging equally to both spouses. In community property states, this also applies to debt.
This doesn’t mean you automatically split everything in half. Courts use a fair and equitable standard when making these decisions. They consider the length of the marriage, financial standing, level of need, and more.
Related Reading: How Is Debt Divided in Divorce?
Many people assume mothers always receive custody of their children. Though that’s the perception, as written, the law doesn’t favor one parent over the other.
Parents can reach an agreement on their own in this regard. But even if they figure out a deal that works for both, a judge has to sign off on a parenting plan.
A parenting plan is the court document that addresses custody issues and lays out the specifics. The parenting plan is important because these orders layout:
- Where a child lives.
- How much decision-making power you have.
- How much time you spend with your child.
- Everything involving custody and visitation rights.
- How much time you get to spend with your kids.
- Even how much influence you have in their upbringing.
As usual, the more complicated the situation, the longer this takes.
If there are many details to handle and parents are stubborn, this may require mediation or even a trial. It’s common for custody issues to prolong the divorce process.
Related Reading: An In-Depth Look At Types Of Child Custody
When there are custody issues involved, there’s also inevitably child support to deal with. After divorce, this is often one of the biggest continuing expenses parents face.
These court-ordered payments cover all of the usual daily expenses of raising a child. This includes food, shelter, clothing, regular medical care, and more.
Other areas of family law are often much more open to interpretation. Unlike those, however, child support follows a rigid mathematical formula. It accounts for the income of both parents, the amount of time you spend with your child, and other financial factors.
Related Reading: How Is Child Support Calculated in California?
When one partner makes more money than the other, you often have to contend with spousal support.
Much like child support, these payments help ease the financial hardships of a dependent spouse after divorce.
When determining spousal support, courts look at, among other factors:
- Length of the marriage.
- Job skills.
- Earning potential of both spouses.
- Health concerns.
- The standard of living while married.
- Child-care responsibilities.
- Level of need.
- Ability to pay.
Depending on the situation, the payments may only be temporary. In these cases, it’s designed to help one spouse get back on his or her feet.
Other times, there may be continuing issues such as a disability or inability to work, and payments may last indefinitely.
Related Reading: How Is Social Security Handled In Divorce?
Representing Yourself: Pro Se Divorce
“Pro Se” divorce means that you represent yourself. With countless online resources, guides, and services, a do-it-yourself approach to divorce is easier and more common than ever.
In certain situations, it can be a perfect fit. But in others, it slows things down.
Dissolving a marriage requires filling out tons of forms. They’re often complicated, written in difficult legal language, and go into a great deal of detail.
It’s all too easy to overlook details, and mistakes or omissions can lead to delays. If it’s bad enough, a judge might throw it all out and you have to start over from scratch.
As you might expect, an experienced attorney who has been through this many times is more likely to be able to handle all the details faster than someone representing themselves.
Related Reading: Pro Se Divorce: A Closer Look at DIY
Investigations in The Divorce Process
Other factors also impact how long a divorce takes. It’s not uncommon for the process to require a period of discovery or investigation. This happens most often in two circumstances:
First, is parenting evaluations. The court may order a parenting evaluation for many reasons. Concerns about abuse, mental health, substance abuse, and more may trigger an investigation of this sort.
You may also encounter this if one parent wants to move out of state with a child. A third party looks into your situation and reports back to the court.
Investigations may also be necessary when it comes to valuing assets. This often means you and your ex have a great deal of wealth to divide.
But it also comes into play when a divorce involves a business or in cases of complex investment portfolios. Such appraisals take time, and the divorce can’t proceed until this concludes.
Common Experts Needed In Divorce
Divorces often require input from outside experts. It’s seldom necessary for a case to need all of these experts, but there are, however, some common specialists required in a divorce.
- Vocational Evaluation.
- Vocational Evaluator In-Court Testimony.
- Custodial Evaluation.
- Private Custodial Evaluation.
- Forensic Accountant.
- Special Master.
- Home appraiser.
- Personal Property Appraiser.
- A computer expert for data recovery and discovery.
- Court Reporters and transcripts.
- Process server.
- Private investigator.
- Financial Planner or accountant.
Divorce is not a speedy process. Even in the best circumstances, it takes time and attention to detail. Negotiating the terms of divorce requires diligence and effort. These are just a few factors that can drag things out.
Related Reading: What Is The Guardian Ad Litem And The Minor’s Counsel?
How Complicated Divorce Can Become
With so much to take into account, divorce gets complicated and time-consuming in a hurry. Even in amicable splits where the couple agrees.
All it takes is for your ex to decide you need to pay more child support, or that the custody schedule skews too far to one side, and you may wind up in a legal battle.
No two divorces are ever identical. Still, a good rule of thumb is, when estimating how long your divorce will take, the more complex your situation, the longer the divorce.
The more conflict and details to address, the more delays you should expect. If you agree on everything, it can go relatively smoothly, but if not, prepare to be occupied for a while.
Don’t agree to an unfavorable deal simply to get out of a complicated divorce. What you do now has a huge impact going forward. Consider hiring a lawyer, or at least having an attorney look over your paperwork before you sign.
Related Reading: Bankruptcy Or Divorce: Which One Do You File First?