The decision to get divorced is never easy, and once it is made, most people want the process finalized as quickly and smoothly as possible. However, the timeline varies based on the complexity of the divorce. Using an experienced divorce attorney can help expedite the divorce proceedings.
Typical Length of Divorce Cases
For a relatively straightforward divorce with minimal assets, no children, and amicable spouses, the process typically takes approximately 3-6 months from filing the initial petition to final judgment. However, contentious cases involving disputed child custody, visitation rights, or complex property division often drag on for 12-15 months or longer.
High net worth and high asset divorces involving division of substantial real estate, businesses, retirement accounts, stock options or other intricate financial assets frequently take 18 months or more to fully litigate and settle. Meticulously inventorying, valuing and dividing up complicated marital property lengthens the divorce timeline considerably compared to lower worth cases. If expert witnesses are needed to assess business interests or expensive personal property, the proceedings may take over 2 years.
Factors Impacting Timeline
Several key factors influence how quickly or slowly a divorce ultimately proceeds:
- Level of conflict and willingness to compromise – Contested, litigated divorces with bitter disputes over every issue like property distribution, spousal support amounts, and child custody arrangements inherently take much longer to resolve than amicable divorces where both spouses are willing to be flexible and compromise. Open hostility extends negotiations.
- Complexity and extent of assets involved – Cases involving the division of substantial real estate properties, investment accounts, business interests, retirement funds, and other assets require more time to fully inventory, value, and determine equitable distribution compared to simple divorces with minimal joint property.
- Court location – Urban family courts with crowded, backlogged dockets tend to finalize divorces at a slower pace than smaller, less busy county courts with lighter caseloads and more available court dates.
- Level of preparation – Incomplete or sloppy financial asset disclosure and paperwork delays the process and consumes time clarifying errors and omissions. Missing key documents like tax returns, bank statements, and credit card records leads to delays.
- Workload and responsiveness of attorneys – The pace at which the attorneys involved file motions, exchange discovery, submit agreements to the court, and schedule hearings influences how quickly the divorce proceeds. Delayed responses from counsel slow momentum.
- Children involved – Divorces involving child custody evaluations, guardian ad litem appointments, and visitation disputes inherently take longer to account for the child-related issues.
Divorce Process Overview
While the exact divorce process varies slightly between states in terms of forms filed, terminology, and timelines, the basic stages are generally as follows:
- Petition for Dissolution – One spouse initially files a petition, sometimes termed a complaint or dissolution request, to officially request a divorce. This outlines grounds for divorce and starts the proceeding.
- Service on Respondent – The petition must be properly served on the other spouse, who is called the respondent. This puts them on notice of the filing and that the marriage is being dissolved.
- Respondent’s Answer – Within 30 days after being served, the respondent must file a written response and any counter-petition contesting specifics of the divorce. Lack of response can result in a default judgment.
- Discovery – Extensive discovery is conducted to fully disclose details on all assets, debts, income sources, and other financial interests of both spouses. Interrogatories, depositions, requests for production of documents, and property valuations are undertaken. Ongoing duty to supplement disclosures.
- Negotiations – Using the discovered financial information, negotiations begin, often starting with mediation, on dividing property, determining spousal support and child support amounts, and establishing child custody arrangements. Settlement agreements are drafted.
- Waiting Period – Most states impose a statutory waiting period of anywhere between 30 to 90 days from filing the petition until the divorce can be finalized. This provides a cooling off window for reconciliation.
- Final Court Hearing – Once the waiting period has expired, a final hearing is held with the judge to present the negotiated settlement or divorce orders. The judge issues the final binding documents dissolving the marriage.
How an Attorney Can Expedite the Divorce
A skilled divorce attorney can expedite the process by beginning negotiations early, thoroughly preparing needed documents ahead of time, quickly responding to discovery requests, meticulously filing paperwork on schedule, strategically scheduling hearings to move the case forward, following up with the court on pending issues, identifying and addressing potential obstacles proactively, and leveraging professional connections and relationships with other attorneys and judges.
Tips for an Expedited Divorce
If your goal is an expedited divorce, there are several tips that can help streamline the process:First, be sure to gather all documentation related to assets, debts, income sources, and other financial interests early in the process. Complete documentation avoids delays related to requesting additional discovery.
Additionally, maintaining willingness to compromise on reasonable terms rather than fighting over every minor issue keeps negotiations smooth and avoids unnecessary court intervention. Agreeing on simple formulas for dividing assets and debts based on percentages or dollar values moves things along.
For divorces involving children, create highly detailed parenting time and custody schedules rather than leaving details vague. And be sure to use an Okoye Law attorney specifically experienced in uncontested, expedited divorce cases. They will know shortcuts unavailable in litigated divorces.
Filing in a smaller county with a less crowded family court docket can also help progress a case faster by avoiding long waiting times between hearings and orders. Lastly, opt for a simplified summary dissolution proceeding if you are eligible for one under your state’s laws. This streamlined process saves time.
When Expediting May Not Benefit
Rushing divorce proceedings is not always advisable or realistic. In high conflict cases, taking more time to litigate disputed issues is prudent to protect your rights. And dividing complex assets or business interests requires careful evaluation rather than a hasty agreement you may regret.
Patience is sometimes needed to achieve the optimal outcome, even if it adds months to the process. Your attorney can advise you on when expediting or delaying serves your interests best. The primary goal should always be obtaining a satisfactory settlement.
The divorce process varies in duration based on the circumstances of each case and local court schedules. Using an Okoye Law divorce lawyer knowledgeable in expediting divorces saves time where possible. But most would agree taking however long needed for an equitable settlement is better than a quick divorce that leaves you dissatisfied. With a combination of legal experience and willingness to compromise when reasonable, completing your divorce promptly is an achievable goal.