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FAQ: How Long Does It Take a Divorce to Finalize?

Michael Tierney
November 17, 2022

Most people like to have a schedule for important events, tasks, or activities to maximize their time management. For the most part, creating a schedule for yourself is a simple affair that you can work around your obligations. Unfortunately, we cannot manage everything into a neat schedule since some situations are out of your control.

One of the biggest examples of situations where you cannot dictate the timeframe is legal proceedings. Such proceedings operate on the schedule of the court system and attorneys involved. Typically, legal events have varying timeframes depending on the type of claim, with criminal claims usually taking the longest. Civil claims can still take a great deal of time to finalize, especially if the civil claim is a divorce.

Divorce proceedings can easily become convoluted for particular couples with high tensions and animosity. The negotiations and discussions involved in a divorce are exhaustive and must cover the breadth of the couple's assets to determine the best division. Ending a marriage is not simple and will require resources and patience to navigate successfully. Unfortunately, divorce is also a deeply unpleasant scenario for most people, which makes them eager to resolve the divorce as soon as possible.

One of the biggest questions people have about divorce is how long it takes for the cases to finalize.

How Long Does Divorce Take?

Divorce proceedings are an interesting legal occurrence in which you and your spouse must agree on things you shared while married. This means intense negotiations about assets and familial connections that suit the needs of everyone involved. Divorce is supposed to leave both spouses in a position to maintain their quality of life after married life. These negotiations ensure that divorce is time-consuming, no matter your situation. However, the exact timeframe is a little more complicated than you might have hoped.

Divorce Negotiations

Solution The required legal time for a divorce to finalize is usually around 6 months, depending on state law.

While half a year to get divorced might seem like a long time, this estimate is one of the shorter available timeframes. Whenever a legal motion is filed, it takes time for the courthouse to assess and rule on the motion. While most divorces do not go to trial, documents must be filed and approved. Such documents are usually reviewed in the order they are received, and motions filed before yours will take priority.

Unfortunately, the legal timeframe for divorce is not consistent with the average timeframe most divorces experience.

Solution The average time for a divorce to be finalized from the initial filing is 15 months.

This means some people end up waiting over a year to dissolve their marriage legally. The timeframe is much longer than it is supposed to be because divorce proceedings are subject to circumstance. Certain details about your divorce could extend the timeframe until the issues are resolved, and you can file the final motion for divorce.

What Type of Divorce?

As previously mentioned, some situations cannot be neatly scheduled so that we can plan our lives around them. Among those situations are divorce proceedings, where the circumstances can vary significantly. Legal proceedings are subject to several factors that can alter the situation to fit a specific niche. More accurately, several legal proceedings have subtypes that affect the procedure and timeframe involved.

Insofar as divorce is concerned, 2 major subcategories can directly affect how long it takes to finalize the process. These categories are contested and uncontested divorce. As the names might imply, the type of divorce you are involved in depends on the willingness of your spouse to get divorced:

  • Contested Divorce: A contested divorce occurs when the non-filing spouse is unwilling to accept the terms of the divorce as outlined in the petition filed by the filing spouse.
  • Uncontested Divorce: An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties in the marriage agree to the terms outlined in the initial petition.

There are profound differences between contested and uncontested divorces, but it is important to note that they both alter the divorce timeline. An uncontested divorce is a gold standard for most couples since it minimizes conflict and expedites the process. Unfortunately, contested divorces are far more common due to the leading causes of divorce being points of contention in the relationship.

The more contentious divorces tend to take longer since you and your spouse will have trouble finding common ground amidst the negotiations.

An Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse outline the terms of asset division, child visitation and custody, and other important details. Because the divorce is consensual, there is usually very little conflict, and the process of divorcing each other goes much quicker. The divorce kicks in immediately once the agreement is finalized and approved by the officials at your local courthouse. The problem is when your divorce is contested, and your spouse elects to fight you every step of the way.

In a contested divorce, you and your spouse actively attempt to wrest assets and child custody from one another. Divorce attorneys help with the negotiations and attempt to find compromises that suit everyone's needs. While divorce attorneys are the primary tool for negotiating with your spouse, they cannot always find a resolution when private negotiations fail. In some cases, neither spouse can make headway in the negotiations, the divorce goes to court, and a judge makes a ruling.

When a divorce gets to the point where a judge must rule on divorce negotiations, it can drag out the process. The process could be extended by a significant period depending on when the court session can be scheduled and how much was accomplished. There is a little uncertainty when assessing how a hearing could delay a divorce, but ultimately the divorce will be finalized despite the unwanted extra step.

Does Abuse Delay the Process?

Sadly, abusive relationships are toxic and must be stopped as soon as possible.

Solution Victims of abusive spouses will already experience a significant delay in divorce proceedings due to the fear of their abuser's retaliation. While this should not discourage you from leaving an abusive spouse, it affects the divorce process.

To start, divorcing an abusive spouse will almost certainly result in a contested divorce that will significantly delay your case. As previously mentioned, contested divorces are caused by spouses unwilling to accept the terms outlined in the initial petition for divorce.

When dealing with an abusive spouse, divorce becomes dramatically more complicated. When divorcing a spouse on the grounds of abuse, you must prove they were abusive through whatever evidence you can muster. Depending on your situation, such evidence might not be readily available since it is difficult to prove old injuries were inflicted by your spouse. Most abusers can be nefariously clever in hiding their actions, so only you and your spouse are aware of their actions.

Proving abuse is not optional if it is one of the main reasons you are going through with the divorce.

While proving physical abuse is difficult, proving emotional abuse is harder since there is less hard evidence to present in court. Fortunately, there are still tools you can use to prove your claim.

An Abusive Marriage

The best tools for proving your spouse was physically or emotionally abusive is to gather the following:

  • Medical reports of injuries inflicted by your spouse.
  • Witness statements confirming your spouse's abusive nature.
  • Character witnesses who can testify about your spouse's abusive behavior.
  • Logs of text messages, e-mails, or other correspondence in which your spouse threatened violence against you.

With this information, you have a better chance of divorcing an abusive spouse while ensuring they have as little contact with you and your family as possible. Unfortunately, finding the evidence needed to prove abuse is not the only concern you might have. Dealing with an abusive spouse can be terrifying, and you might need to take extra steps to protect yourself. This usually involves requesting a temporary restraining order against your spouse to keep them at bay while the divorce is processed.

One of the most common versions of a TRO in divorce cases is an ex parte order.

Using a TRO to keep an abusive spouse at bay can prevent them from retaliating over the divorce, but filing one is an additional step. Therefore, dealing with an abusive spouse and attempting to divorce them could be a more time-consuming process than divorcing a spouse who has never demonstrated abusive tendencies. While abusive spouses are one of the most harrowing experiences, they are not always the cause of delays in divorce. Sometimes, your spouse might take matters into their own hands to keep you from divorcing them.

Your Spouse Might Delay the Process

The odds of your spouse being cooperative during a divorce depend on your relationship's climate before the process begins. If your spouse is still amicable with you and sees the need for divorce, they will likely offer minimal resistance when the process is underway. However, if your spouse is adamantly opposed to the divorce, they might take things into their own hands to stop you. Sometimes, your spouse might try to slow the divorce process to diminish your patience and get you to give up. In extreme cases, your spouse might use this tactic to drain your finances and cost you the funds for your legal counsel and filing fees.

One of the most common ways a spouse might delay the divorce is by abusing the discovery process.

The discovery process is the part of the case where both sides exchange evidence pertinent to the case. In divorce, this can be correspondence, financial records, proof of infidelity, etc. While this is an essential step of the divorce process, your spouse can weaponize it by bogging it down with requests for impertinent information. The more requests filed, the longer it takes to close out the discovery process.

Spouse Delaying Divorce Process

On the other hand, your spouse might force you to extend the discovery process by hiding assets you will need to file motions to uncover. Even though you will be the one filing the motions, the divorce process will be delayed while all the paperwork is processed to uncover whatever your spouse has hidden. While this is extremely inconvenient, it can accomplish your spouse's goal of drawing out the divorce proceedings and wasting your time and resources.

Countering your spouse's attempts to draw out the divorce proceedings can be difficult, but the more obvious attempts can be struck down. Most divorce attorneys can easily dismiss superfluous requests for discovery. Being aware of your spouse's attempts to draw out the process can help resolve the divorce at a more reasonable pace.

Learn the Law

Divorce is a complicated and unpleasant experience for everyone involved, and most people want to resolve it as quickly as possible. While it is understandable that you might want to get the divorce over with so you can focus on the next chapter of your life, it is not that simple. Divorce is as particular as any other legal process and is subjected to scrutiny to ensure a just resolution. This means there will always be a 6-month average for how long it takes to resolve a divorce through proper channels. Even an uncontested divorce will endure a lengthy wait to ensure everything is processed properly.

Unfortunately, the complexity of divorce goes beyond how long it takes to complete. You might encounter several details and scenarios that not everyone is prepared to handle. The old idiom "knowledge is power" is accurate in the legal world. Finding more information about the potential situations you might encounter during divorce is important to get through the process with minimal issues.

Divorce Court

Fortunately, finding the information you need about divorce is easier than 50 years ago when most information was still stored in closed libraries. Regardless of your desire to learn more, we realize this situation is extremely stressful and unpleasant. We only hope this article has proven helpful. If you're in need of any further information regarding anything divorce-related, we highly urge you to browse our selection of additional articles that may greatly assist you with the divorce process.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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