Frequently Asked Questions
How long will my divorce take?
There are technical factors which also affect how long it will take. In California, there is a mandatory waiting
period of six months from the time that the responding party is served with (or
acknowledges receipt of service of) the summons and petition (which is filed to initiate
the legal divorce). That means a judgment terminating the status of the marriage cannot be
entered before that time period, although the judgment including all of the other terms of
the divorce may be filed before, and then, on the six-month anniversary of the date of
service, the status will be terminated. Other than by filing the judgment, though, the
termination of the status of marriage is not automatic. If no one files a judgment
including all the terms of the divorce, nothing happens. Also, if you wait until the
end of the calendar year to submit a judgment, your judgment may not necessarily be
entered until the following year because there are many technical rules in obtaining a
the last quarter, and they are sometimes sent back for correction two or three times. Further, in
the last quarter of each year, there is often a significant backup in the courthouse, where each
judgment and the related documents are reviewed for technical errors before the Court
grants a divorce.
In very simple cases, the parties may reach agreement in a short time.
More typically, however, it takes about a year and, in many cases, it may take several
years to reach the terms of dissolution, either by settlement or by judicial order. This
is in part because of the need to find out information about income, expenses, assets, and
debts, in part because of the many temporary issues that must be handled, but also because
it is typical that one party is less emotionally ready than the other to divorce. Usually,
one person has been thinking about separating for a long time and the other person needs
time to catch up. The less-ready person may cause delays, consciously or unconsciously.
Therefore, the process will go no faster than the time needed for the
"slower" spouse to make decisions. This is true whether the matter is mediated
or litigated since there are many legitimate ways to drag out the process. Finally, it is
important for both parties to the divorce to take enough time to reach an agreement that
neither will regret in the future. At the early stages of separation, people often
do not think clearly, so it makes some sense to take it a bit slow until you each have an
idea of what the future holds. Pushing a non-cooperative spouse too early in the process
can often be highly unproductive and stress inducing.
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