UPDATED: One of the most common questions we field is how long does a divorce take in California? This is often followed up by the question ‘why does divorce take so long’?
As usual, there’s a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is that there’s a lot to deal with when dissolving a marriage. A more in-depth discussion gets into minimum waiting periods, custody, the division of property, length of a marriage, and much more. A lot goes into a divorce, and the more there is, the longer the process usually lasts.
Factors That Affect Length Of Divorce
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 final outcome.
That said, we can look at a number of common issues that often arise and slow down the process.
California Waiting Period
At the very minimum, 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. This means that six months will pass between filing the paperwork and your divorce becoming 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 longer.
Child Custody Disputes
One of the biggest issues that slows down divorce is a child custody dispute. When your divorce involves kids, you need to sort out custody, parenting plans, visitation, support, and more. As usual, the more complicated the situation, the longer this can take. If there are many details to handle and parents are stubborn, this can require mediation or even a trial. It’s common for custody issues to prolong the divorce process.
Related Reading: Child Support If the Child Isn’t Yours
Division of Property
If you and your spouse have little or no shared property to split up, this can go relatively quick. But the more assets and obligations you have, the more complicated things become, which, you guessed it, leads to delays. Some couples only fight over big items, like houses and cars, while others throw down over every last possession. It’s not uncommon for the division of property to mire down a divorce. Maybe let go of that box of random knick-knacks picked up at garage sales over the years. It can save time and money. Save the effort for what really matters.
Related Reading: If I Leave the House, Do I Lose My Equity?
“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 filing 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.
Related Reading: Pro Se Divorce: A Closer Look at DIY
It’s not uncommon for the divorce process to require a period of discovery or investigation. This happens most often in two circumstances:
- Parenting Evaluations: First are parenting evaluations. The court may order a parenting evaluation for a number of 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. Basically, a third party looks into your situation and reports back to the court.
- Valuing Assets: Investigations may also be necessary when it comes to valuing assets. This can mean you and your ex have a great deal of wealth to divide. But it also comes into play when there’s a business involved or in cases of a complex investment portfolio. Such appraisals can take a long time, but the divorce can’t proceed until both parties reach a conclusion.
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.
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 smooth, but if not, prepare to be occupied for a while.