How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce?
by Unbundled Legal Help
When contemplating the end of your marriage, it is natural to wonder “How long does it take to get a divorce?” The answer to this question depends on several factors.
It generally takes a few months to a year to complete a divorce process through the courts. The time it takes to get a divorce will be influenced by whether or not your divorce is contested or uncontested, how cooperative both parties are, the complexity of the case, and the timing of the courts.
If you are considering a divorce, working with an experienced divorce lawyer in your area will help expedite the process. We can connect you today with a local divorce lawyer to learn more.
Factors That Affect How Long Your Divorce Can Take
Every divorce is different. In some cases, spouses can reach an agreement through independent negotiations or with some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) like mediation. If spouses can reach an agreement on their own, they can skip the typically long and drawn-out court process.
Alternatively, if couples are not able to reach a settlement agreement on their own, they will likely have to spend a lot more time in court and with their divorce lawyers.
The factors that have the greatest influence over how long your divorce will take include the type of divorce, cooperation from both parties, the complexity of your divorce, and your state’s family court system. Learn more about each below.
Uncontested vs Contested
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to all parameters of the divorce that are included in a divorce judgment. This can include spousal support, division of property, child support, custody, etc. While an uncontested divorce is generally the fastest, it is not a guarantee that your divorce will be granted quickly
A contested divorce is much more involved than one that is uncontested. A contested divorce is when a couple cannot agree about all or some divorce-related issues. This is typically the lengthiest and most expensive route to take. Contested divorces often involve a lengthy discovery process, court-ordered evaluations, financial advisors, etc.
Are Both Parties Cooperative?
Cooperation can mean the difference between a divorce getting finalized in a few months vs it taking a year to conclude. Couples that cooperate on their own or with the help of a third party (i.e. mediator, arbitrator, etc.) are more likely to reach a settlement agreement without going to trial.
Actively seeking “win-win” scenarios that are fair to you and your spouse can save a lot of money as well as time.
The Complexity of a Divorce
Some divorces are more complex than others. In many cases, the more complex a divorce, the more likely you are to have disputes with your ex about divorce-related issues. Factors that can contribute to the complexity of your case can include:
- Complex financial disputes
- Child custody issues
- Spousal or child support disputes
- Disagreements about the division of property, assets, and debts
The divorce process differs slightly from state to state, and in some cases, city to city. Once you have filed your paperwork and completed your steps, you are at the mercy of the family court judge who is presiding over your case.
Your divorce lawyer may have some insight into how long you can expect your case to take. However, in most cases, lawyers are not able to predict an exact amount of time.
Steps To Get a Divorce
The steps for getting divorced will vary depending on the state where you live. Uncontested divorces typically require fewer steps. Contested divorces, on the other hand, are much more involved. It will be beneficial to consult with your divorce lawyer and/or research the exact steps your state requires you to take. In general, the process to get a divorce can include:
File for Divorce
Before filing for divorce, it will be helpful to contact the family court clerk’s office and/or check your state’s website to learn where to get the correct forms, how to file them, and what your fees will be. When filing your documents with the court, the clerk’s office will typically give you a hearing date.
It is important to note that the court clerk can only help you with procedural questions. They cannot provide you with legal advice or tell you what you should do since that duty is reserved for your divorce lawyer.
Serve Your Spouse
Every state requires the spouse filing for divorce to serve the other spouse with copies of the paperwork. You are not allowed to personally serve the documents. Your divorce lawyer can serve your spouse or you can hire a professional process serving company for this.
Most courts require you to provide a “proof of service” to the clerk’s office. When your spouse receives the divorce documents, they typically have 30 - 60 days to respond. If they do not, they risk a default judgment or other negative consequences. The spouse who files for divorce must serve the other spouse with the paperwork, regardless of the type of divorce involved.
Couples that can successfully negotiate before filing for divorce, typically file for an uncontested divorce, draft a settlement agreement, and wait for the judge’s approval. However, if you are unable to effectively negotiate with your spouse before filing your divorce, a judge may order mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution.
Also, the discovery process can go on during this time where spouses and their attorneys request detailed financial information and documents from the other party. Most family court judges prefer that couples agree during mediation. If they do not, then the case will likely head to a drawn-out and expensive divorce trial.
Go to Court
If you and your spouse are unable to draft a settlement agreement together, you give up your ability to influence the outcome of your divorce and cede that power to a family court judge instead.
During a divorce hearing, a judge may order child custody evaluations, mediation, mental health evaluations, etc. This can add to the length of your divorce trial as well as to costs. When making a ruling, the judge relies on the evidence presented, professional recommendations, eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, and other forms of testimony.
Contrary to the name, when a judge issues a final order, it is not necessarily final. If you or your spouse are unhappy with the final ruling, you have the option to file an appeal or to file a petition to modify the final order.
Filing a successful appeal requires that you prove the court made some type of legal error when making a final ruling. That can be a difficult task, even with the help of a divorce lawyer. This is why most people choose to modify the order.
In most cases, a family court requires the spouse requesting a modification to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances to warrant any change in the initial final divorce decree.
What Is the “Waiting Period”?
Although filing an uncontested divorce is generally a faster option, many states require couples to wait a specific amount of time after the final ruling is made for the divorce to become finalized. During this period, you are not allowed to remarry.
Generally, the mandatory waiting period is six months to a year. Check with your divorce attorney to learn what the wait time is in your state.
Ways To Speed Up the Divorce Process
A divorce lawyer cannot predict exactly how long it will take for your divorce to be finalized. However, there are ways to potentially speed up the process. They include:
- Filing an uncontested, no-fault divorce
- Agreeing on “win-win” proposals
- Working with an experienced divorce lawyer in your area
Speeding up your divorce not only saves you time but can also result in significant cost savings.
Will Hiring a Divorce Lawyer Make My Divorce Quicker?
In general, yes, hiring a divorce lawyer will lead to a faster ruling or approval. However, in some cases, a divorce lawyer may need more time to negotiate, investigate your spouse’s finances, and/or prepare you for trial.
Divorce lawyers can expedite the divorce process by ensuring that you follow the correct procedures, file mistake-free paperwork, and effectively negotiate with your spouse. If you choose to file for divorce on your own, you can expect to make mistakes and experience a steep learning curve.
While most people recognize the benefits of hiring a divorce lawyer, many cannot afford one. The average divorce lawyer charges $3k - $5k upfront, and an additional $300 - $500 per hour on top of that. Needless to say, this is not realistic for most middle-class families.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your legal fees. Most notably, hiring an unbundled attorney to take care of certain parts of your case allows you to save money by handling the rest. Learn more about how unbundled legal services save you money below.
How Can Unbundled Legal Services Save Me Money on Legal Fees?
With unbundled legal services, you can hire a divorce lawyer to handle specific parts of your case, while you save thousands in upfront fees by taking care of the rest on your own.
Fees for unbundled legal services start as low as $500 -$1500. If your case is a good fit to be unbundled, you will not be required to pay unnecessary upfront fees. If your case is more complex, our network of unbundled attorneys also offers full representation at affordable rates.
Before you spend thousands of dollars in upfront fees, fill out our online form, get instantly connected to an unbundled divorce lawyer, and learn if your case is a good fit to be unbundled today.