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How long will it take to finalize my divorce?

by | Nov 21, 2023 | Divorce, Firm News, Temporary Orders |

It’s understandable that, in a lot of cases, clients are anxious to finalize their divorce You might be wondering how long it will take to finalize your divorce … and there’s no easy answer to that question. A lot of that depends on the people involved with the divorce: The two people actually getting the divorce, as well as their legal teams.

In a recent article, we talked about the process of getting served and how that might affect your case. If both parties in the divorce are expecting it and are preparing for it, it’s quite possible that by the time the petition for divorce is officially filed in court, the couple’s already down the road toward their divorce, and doing what it takes to help the process along — like having their financial documents together and ready for the lawyers to review.

If one of the parties to a divorce is caught by surprise, it might slow the divorce down, simply because the person caught by surprise might not be ready to give up on the marriage. Serving your spouse with papers and saying “I want a divorce” might feel like closure for you, but while you might have been planning that moment for a while and getting yourself emotionally and legally prepared for the divorce, your spouse could be caught completely off-guard in such a moment.

There’s a concept in our practice known as “divorce readiness,” and there’s even a Dr. Phil quiz that asks questions around the idea. It’s not unusual in divorce for one person to be more ready to divorce than the other, and while the divorce can eventually happen regardless of whether one spouse wants to hang on to the marriage, the spouse who wants to stay married can slow things down through inaction.

If you find yourself in that situation, know that the legal process and the court system will eventually compel a reluctant person to participate as is legally necessary. But it could take some time and some motions from your lawyer before it gets going.

Typically, a divorce petition will be followed with temporary orders which spell out how the couple should interact, especially with respect to any children and property, while the divorce is being settled. In a lot of cases, there’s standard language for temporary orders that couples sign off on without a problem. But in some cases, one party might seek special language or balk at the temporary orders, and that can set off motions for hearings and delays.

In some cases where abuse is alleged, there might be a need for protective orders or restraining orders for the safety of those involved in the divorce, and that can cause additional delays while attorneys work through those issues.

Finally, once lawyers are in place, temporary orders are signed, and documents are being produced to help the judge get a sense of the assets and debts in the marital estate, there’s the X factor of how the couple is deciding to get divorced.

In some cases, it’s possible that the couple settles the divorce before it even gets to the courtroom. But if it does go to a judge, it can be delayed while merely waiting for a court date, and then it has to progress through however many days the hearing takes.

In some cases, collaborative law can produce a faster result than litigation, especially if a couple and the lawyers involved can get to the heart of the disagreements and come up with workable solutions.

However, if a collaborative case bogs down and the couple can’t settle their differences that route, deciding to litigate brings its own delays. Per the collaborative process, lawyers who commit to the collaborative process with those clients pledge not to litigate on their behalf if the couple suddenly decides they want to go to court.

What happens in that case? Well, each of the two parties need to get a lawyer who will litigate the case and get acquainted anew with the situation.

And even if a couple decides in principle to a divorce, it takes signatures from both parties to signal agreement and bring about the case’s resolution. While that seems like it should be a fairly simple process, it can sometimes create a final unexpected delay that’s particularly frustrating for the person who’s signed a divorce decree and believes it’s about to resolve.

So, when you hear about a family member or a friend’s divorce taking 18 months or more, it might seem surprising but maybe should not be. A Forbes article from August said that in 2023, a contested divorce typically takes over a year, though a “simple divorce” might wrap up in three months.

At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we work with a number of clients to finalize divorces, some who litigate and some who seek alternative dispute resolutions. Whether you’re looking to initiate a divorce, responding to be served, or looking for advice on how to mutually proceed with a divorce, we’re ready to work with you.

Our initial consultations answer all kinds of questions from people getting divorced, including those who wonder how long it will take to finalize their divorce. For those who want it done as soon as possible, we can help with strategies that will move it along while making sure that you, your assets, and your children are being taken care of in the process.