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How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced on Average?

Michael Tierney
October 22, 2022

While marriage is intended to be a lifetime commitment, it can end prematurely for one of many good reasons. While divorce might not be the outcome you desired or might still be staved off in your circumstances, it is still a reality of the marital institution. The process will always be arduous and draining, regardless of the reason that brought you and your spouse to contemplate divorce. This is especially true if you and your spouse have had a serious falling out before filing for divorce.

When a relationship cannot be saved, an amicable divorce becomes the gold standard as it's relatively straightforward, low cost, and quick. However, it is not always attainable if you and your spouse have a newfound animosity or complex disagreements over things like custody or child suport. With all these concerns about what can lead to divorce or affect the climate, a significant question is how long it will take to resolve.

Divorce is easily one of the most complex and unpleasant legal proceedings anyone can face in their lifetime. Regardless of the amicability of your spouse, divorce is not something anyone wants to drag out. This is why most people are curious about how long it takes to complete the divorce process.

Solution Understanding how long it will take to be free of the legal constraints divorce causes is important to everyone going through the process.

Unfortunately, the answer might not be as simple as you are hoping.

1. The Separation Phase

When a couple decides to break up, they seldom jump straight to filing divorce paperwork. Instead, most couples go through a separation phase where they suspend cohabitation and live separately for a time. Often, the couples initiate this separation independently, and one spouse moves out of the marital home while the other remains, usually with any children. However, requesting a legal separation from your local courthouse is also possible.

The difference is that legal separation is often used as a substitute for divorce in relationships where divorce is against certain cultural or religious customs. Regardless, the separation phase is an extremely important part of the divorce process that can affect the timeline.

Married Couple Separating

This is especially true if you live in a state that mandates the "separate and apart" requirement in divorce proceedings. These states legally require couples to go through a legal separation process before they are permitted to divorce. The exact requirements vary by state, but an example is North Carolina, which requires a couple to remain separated for 1 year before filing for divorce. Conversely, Kentucky only requires 60 days before the separation requirement is met.

Solution This means anyone living in a "separate and apart" state can see their divorce timeline increased by anywhere between 2 months and 1 year at minimum.

This can be frustrating since you cannot legally file the divorce paperwork until these requirements are fulfilled. Fortunately, most states do not require you to be separated before filing for divorce, though it is recommended if you believe there is a chance for reconciliation. Otherwise, you are free to file for divorce as soon as you see fit.

2. The Filing Phase

Following the separation phase, the first step in any divorce is filing a divorce petition. This step is what informs your local court system that you intend to divorce your spouse so you can begin the process. The one responsible for filing this important paperwork is the spouse who requested the divorce, meaning only one party must fill out a divorce petition.

The divorce petition, also known as a complaint for dissolution of marriage, will require specific information from the filing spouse to ensure the form is properly filled out.

Filing For Divorce

The information requested by a divorce petition includes:

  • Your personal information. (i.e., name, address, social security number)
  • Your spouse's personal information.
  • Whether you have any minor children, along with their information.
  • The grounds for the divorce.
  • Your requests for child custody, child support, property division, alimony, and other asset divisions.

Once you have completed the petition form, you must bring it to your local courthouse to complete the filing process. You might be required to submit additional documents with the petition based on your state and situation. You will also need to pay the associated filing fee, which varies by state but averages between $100.00 and $350.00 nationwide.

You can file a fee waiver request if you cannot afford the filing fee. This request will delay your divorce slightly since a judge must evaluate the request and approve or reject it. Aside from the potential fee waiver request, the petition will not be overly time-consuming. Filing the petition is one of the few parts of the divorce that is within your control to complete when you see fit.

3. Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

When filing for divorce, there are 2 major categories the following procedure can fall under: uncontested or contested. Depending on which your case falls under, the timeline for your divorce can be significantly higher or lower. The first divorce type, uncontested divorce, is almost universally preferred for every couple going through a divorce. As the name suggests, uncontested divorce has little to no opposition and involves you and your spouse agreeing on how the divorce should work. As a result, uncontested divorces have fewer negotiations and almost no court hearings.

You must meet certain state-based requirements before pursuing an uncontested divorce, but the result is usually worth the effort. Uncontested divorces help preserve amicability with your spouse, are less stressful, and have fewer associated fees. For those concerned about the duration of the divorce, an uncontested petition is the least time-consuming since you and your spouse negotiate the details independently and file once you are both satisfied.

While an uncontested divorce is preferable in most cases, they are far from perfect. Often, the grounds for the divorce make an uncontested divorce almost impossible. If you and your spouse had a serious falling out, you likely would be unable to negotiate an uncontested divorce.

A Contested Divorce

Divorce can bring out the worst in people, but there are also nobler reasons for an uncontested divorce failing. Sometimes it is as simple as wanting to save the marriage, but if you are not prepared to continue fighting for a relationship you believe is unsalvageable, you can file a contested divorce.

Contested divorces are the opposite of uncontested divorces and arise when you and your spouse constantly argue about key points of the negotiations. A contested divorce is far more involved and lasts longer than an uncontested one. This extended process can lead you to be stuck in divorce proceedings for longer than you are comfortable, and you will be expected to meet the following requirements:

  • File and serve the divorce petition. (If you are the requesting spouse.)
  • Respond to the divorce petition. (If you are not the requesting spouse.)
  • Interview and hire an attorney.
  • Begin the discovery phase of the divorce by gathering information from your spouse, witnesses, and documentation pertinent to your marriage.
  • Attend pre-trial motions and hearings.
  • Allow your attorney to conduct negotiations and submit proposals to your spouse's attorney.
  • Prepare for trial in the event no settlement can be reached.
  • Complete the court trial. (Should you disagree with the result, you can file an appeal.)

The number of steps and their complexity can greatly extend the length of your divorce. An uncontested divorce can last from a few months to several years, depending on what is holding up your negotiations. Some of the steps involved in an uncontested divorce are best completed slowly, but the others can last longer than they have to due to drama and arguments. Ultimately, a contested divorce, while time-consuming, is still as effective as an uncontested divorce. They are just more common due to most divorces leading to animosity between you and your spouse.

4. Searching for an Attorney

A skilled attorney is one of the most important resources in a legal process like divorce. While retaining an attorney is an optional step in any legal proceeding, it is recommended by most to seek an attorney's services. An attorney can represent your interests at the negotiation table and can file the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

Searching for an attorney can be challenging, especially if you try to remain frugal during your divorce. Often, you might be compelled to retain the services of the first attorney you consult with, but this can be a mistake. When looking for a divorce attorney, you will want to search for names with high win rates and credible reviews.

While time-consuming, shopping around for an attorney can be a rewarding process if you remain steadfast. Regardless of their success rate, most attorneys offer free consultations to hear your case before they require a fee. This means you can hear their proposals and tactics before retaining their service to see if their approach is compatible with your intentions. This can help you come to terms with the legal actions that will likely be necessary for your divorce proceedings. While these consultations help you find the best attorney for your specific needs, an additional benefit is just as important.

Speaking With An Attorney

One of the most revered rules in the legal world is attorney-client privilege, which prevents an attorney from betraying the trust of their clients no matter how long they have been in service to that client. This is usually viewed as an attorney being unable to disclose information about their clients to anyone not employed at the firm. Many do not realize that this privilege can dictate which clients an attorney is allowed to represent in certain situations. Something as simple as a consultation creates the veil of attorney-client privilege that lasts even if you elect not to retain them.

Consulting with an attorney gives them privileged information about you and your side of the divorce. As a result, your spouse cannot retain the same attorney if you elected not to retain them since the attorney has inside knowledge about your side of the claim. As a result, working for your spouse generates a conflict of interest that can lead to disbarment if you do not retain them. So, while attending multiple consultations can add to the length of your divorce, it also locks your spouse from retaining high-quality attorneys' services.

As previously stated, retaining an attorney is a personal decision you might not be willing to make. Attorneys are not legally required during divorce proceedings, but if you decide to retain their services, shopping around a bit can reinforce your side. Aside from that, there is little else that might delay your divorce proceedings.

Learn the Law

Divorce, while not the end goal of any relationship, is a common outcome that has heralded the end of over half of all marriages in the country. The commonality of divorce has led to more people seeking information about the process. Insofar as the timeline is concerned, divorce is not guaranteed to end within a set time and could last longer than you might prefer.

While a time-consuming divorce is probably not what you are after, you might find that giving the negotiations time can help yield a favorable settlement with your future ex and possibly avoid going before a judge. While your divorce might go to trial anyway, the extended timeline might still allow a more agreeable divorce settlement than you might reach by rushing the process.

Learning Divorce Laws

If divorce seems to be in your future, you are likely a little nervous about what will come. While these nerves are understandable, divorce is only as daunting as you allow it to be, and there is information available that can help you prepare. Knowledge can help protect you from underhanded tactics your spouse might employ if they are less reputable.

This information was once difficult for the average person to access unless they were training to be attorneys themselves. Fortunately, modern tools have made accessing this data as simple as tapping on a keyboard rather than pouring through legal tomes. We realize this is likely a difficult time for you, but we hope this article has been helpful to you.

If you have any further questions regarding the divorce process, we highly urge you to read through our vast collection of articles, or simply leave a comment down below, and we'll assist you however we can.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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