A divorce, like any other legal proceeding, does not always have a set timeline for how fast or slow it may go. Depending on your jurisdiction and how contentious your particular divorce is, it could take anywhere from a few weeks, to a few months, to a few years.
If you've decided you want to get a divorce, or you're already in the process of getting one, you likely want to know when it will be over so you can start moving on and adjusting to your new life. It's important, however, not to rush the process along too hastily at the expense of getting the outcomes that you want.
Your divorce attorney will have the best insight into how long you can expect your divorce to last, or how it may be possible to speed it up, but there are a few general guidelines you can look to as well.
The length of your divorce proceedings can be impacted by a number of conditions, such as how contentious your divorce is, whether you have children and need to determine custody and visitation, the complexity of your assets, among other factors.
If you and your spouse can come to an agreement on most, or all, of the terms of your divorce, the process will likely be much quicker. An uncontested divorce, where you both agree on the division of assets or custody arrangements and other considerations, does not require much interaction with the courts. Instead, your wait will simply be for the paperwork and other technical aspects of the process to finish up.
If your divorce is contested, however, and you and your spouse cannot agree on who will retain which property, who will have custody of your children, whether or not alimony will be involved, and other considerations of your divorce, then it can greatly impact the length of the process.
In some cases, you may be able to settle your differences with a mediator, who will help you come to an agreement outside of the courtroom to save you both time and money. But if your divorce is more contentious, you may end up in a full court trial, which could potentially take a year or more to finalize. In a divorce trial, you'll each need to present a case for why you should get certain property or financial assets, or custody rights for your children. You'll have to take time to build your case, wait for a court date, and go through with the emotionally draining procedural elements of a trial.
It may be worth the fight for you if you feel strongly about retaining primary custody of your children, or you feel especially attached to your home or other property, if your spouse won't agree to your terms. But if you're willing to compromise on some points, you could speed up the timeline of your divorce.
In some states, you can differentiate between a fault and a no-fault divorce. If you opt for a fault divorce, you'll need to prove that your spouse or their actions made divorce necessary. Common grounds for a fault divorce include adultery, domestic violence, or addiction.
Your spouse is more likely to contest a fault divorce, because it can impact what award they'll get in the process, and will put the blame on them for the dissolved marriage.
In a no-fault divorce, you'll typically cite something like "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the divorce. Neither one of you will be "blamed" for causing the divorce, and you won't need to take the time to prove a case for your spouse's fault.
You may have strong reasons for going with a fault divorce, such as trying to limit custody access for an abusive spouse. But if not, you may want to consider a no-fault divorce. No-fault cases will move quicker through the courts and will take you less time to build your case.
How long your divorce will take can depend on what state you live in, as they can all have different rules for how a divorce must go. In some states, for example, you may be required to be legally separated from your spouse for a few months or a year before you can get divorced. Different jurisdictions may also have more cases than another, which could impact when you have your turn in the courtroom. A busier court can mean a longer wait, even if the other elements of your divorce are mostly settled.
Divorces can become complicated. If you want to move your divorce along a little faster, an experienced local divorce lawyer can help you identify your best options, assist you in negotiating for an uncontested divorce, or represent your interests in a heated divorce trial.