How long does a divorce take?
You’ve probably heard that it takes a year to get a divorce.
But is this true?
The short answer is no.
But there are some factors that can affect how long your divorce will take.
If you’re wondering how long does a divorce take, this article will give you an overview of what to expect so you know what’s coming next.
We also have some tips on things you can do to speed up the process if possible.
Let’s dig in.
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The divorce process can be fairly quick or feel like it’s dragging on for ages.
How long it takes for a divorce truly all depends on the issues with your divorce.
Many things can change how quickly you can get that Final Order and Divorce Decree from the judge.
Things like custody, alimony, hiding assets, or high-conflict situations can impact your timeline.
Those kinds of divorces will take at least 6 months (but likely a few years).
On the flip side, a divorce with little conflict, minimal assets, and no children can take as little as 31 days.
As I said, it all depends.
So the first question to ask yourself is what kind of divorce are you going through: contested or uncontested?
First, let’s talk about how long does an uncontested divorce take.
An uncontested divorce can take anywhere from 2 – 6 months to finalize.
In theory, an uncontested divorce can be over and done in as little as 31 days.
If you and your spouse aren’t fighting over assets and child custody, then you’ll have a short divorce.
But just because it’s possible to have your divorce complete in 31 days doesn’t mean that’s realistic.
On average, the divorce process for an uncontested divorce is about 2 – 6 months.
This is true even if you and your spouse agree on almost everything.
When filing for divorce, there is a mandatory waiting period.
So even though you both agree you want a divorce, we must wait 31 days before the court can grant a Divorce Decree.
Even if you both agree on everything, you’ll likely go through a few weeks of mediation and negotiations.
Many couples agree on 80% of things, but the last 20% will trip them up.
Some couples resolve things quickly.
They’re able to reach a formal agreement within a few weeks.
Once a formal agreement is reached and at least 31 days have passed, a judge can finally sign the Divorce Decree.
But the judge might not be available right away.
This can add a few more weeks to your divorce process.
This is why the divorce process for an uncontested divorce takes about 3 months.
Let’s talk about how long does a contested divorce take.
Related: Reasons a Judge Will Change Custody
How long does a contested divorce take depends on how contested it is.
Contested divorces take 6 – 12+ months.
Highly contested divorces can take a few years to complete when spouses can’t agree on issues.
For a contested divorce, the process is significantly longer.
Spouses who are not separating amicably tend to fight over every little thing.
This drags their divorce out and also racks up attorney’s fees.
In general, a contested divorce will have a minimum of 6 months to finish the divorce discovery.
During that time, there might be some preliminary negotiations.
After discovery, that’s when both parties try and form an agreement.
This is similar to an uncontested divorce, except that it will probably take longer.
You will also have a temporary hearing, court-ordered mediation, and more negotiations.
When you go through a contested divorce, there is a lot of back-and-forth between attorneys.
And sometimes you’re simply waiting for the court to schedule a time to bring your case to court.
The divorce process for contested divorces can take a year or more on average.
It really just depends on how much you don’t agree with your spouse and how long you’re willing to fight.
As you can tell, divorce timelines can vary drastically.
So just because your friend knew someone who got divorced in 3 months, doesn’t mean your case will be the same.
There are a lot of things that can affect how long does a divorce take.
But here are 5 reasons that impact how long does a divorce take:
If your divorce also includes child custody, definitely expect things to take a little longer.
In most scenarios, both parents are trying to have legal custody.
This usually results in long, drawn-out negotiations.
Sometimes deciding custody alone can take years.
In most cases, you probably know where your spouse is living (even if it’s no longer with you).
But sometimes, your spouse is nowhere to be found.
That makes serving them with divorce papers a little difficult.
But there is a work-around for situations just like this.
If you don’t know where your spouse is, you’ll have to serve them via publication.
This means that you’ll have to get an ad in the local newspaper for about two months before you can get your Divorce Decree.
Related: How to Leave Your Husband
Maybe you’re going through a divorce but your spouse isn’t being honest about their assets.
Some people will intentionally hide income, investment accounts, real estate, and other assets.
They do this because they don’t want their soon-to-be-ex to have any claim, obviously.
This can double your discovery time.
If you or your attorney think that your spouse is hiding assets, your attorney will likely ask to extend discovery.
They might even go as far as hiring a forensic accountant.
A forensic accountant will go through all your financial statements and create spreadsheets.
They’ll track your money with a high degree of detail.
A forensic accountant can give you a breakdown of all the money coming in (and going out) of the family.
The courts’ availability can be very frustrating.
No attorney has the power to change when a judge can hear your case.
All parties could have reached a formal agreement weeks ago, yet you’ll find yourself still waiting to get in front of a judge.
And there’s not really anything you or your attorney can do about it.
More likely than not, a couple is filing for a “no-fault” divorce.
However, that is not always the case.
Sometimes a couple is getting a divorce because of adultery, desertion, or cruel treatment.
This can make your divorce process a little longer.
This is because you’ll now have to prove your grounds for divorce.
If you’re divorcing because of adultery, you’ll have to prove that your spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else.
This might be fairly easy for you to prove.
But sometimes that’s not the case, which can affect the timeline.
Gathering evidence could be as easy as taking screenshots of your messages with your spouse.
Or as difficult as hiring a private investigator to follow them around.
Many people underestimate how long an uncontested divorce takes.
Once you’ve filed for divorce, you have to wait at least 31 days before getting your divorce finalized.
So just because you’ve filed divorce papers, doesn’t mean the end is in sight.
In fact, that’s only the beginning.
Once the 31 days have passed, the clerk of court will then submit your uncontested divorce file to the judge’s assistant.
So during that waiting period, the court is not actively reviewing your file.
Once the 31 days have passed, you aren’t immediately getting your divorce decree.
After the judge’s assistant checks your divorce file for completeness, then she’ll pass it on to the judge.
At this point, the judge will either approve your petition or make their own order.
At this point, it could be closer to 60 days since you filed your original uncontested divorce petition.
Once the judge signs, they’ll mail the documents back to your attorney.
After the divorce papers are filed, it will take about 60 days for an uncontested divorce.
And if you’re filing a contested divorce, expect it to take much longer.
How many years do you have to be separated to be legally divorced?
How many years do you have to be separated to be legally divorced?
It depends on the state you live in.
For some states, there is no separation period.
The most common requirement is 6 months of separation to be legally divorced.
Other states require a couple of years that you have to be separated to be legally divorced.
Most states follow the same residency requirements when it comes to divorces.
One of you needs to have lived in the state for at least 6 months.
But then there’s the requirement for how long you have to be separated to be legally divorced.
This one varies between every state.
Some states, like Georgia, require 0 days of being separated to be legally divorced.
Most states require 6 months of separation to be legally divorced.
So, how long should a separation last?
Related: Legal Reasons for Divorce
How long should a separation lasts depends on the state you live in.
The average length for how long separation should last is 6 months.
But some states require zero separation time, while others require two years.
Like we’ve mentioned before, you should be separated for at least 30 days before your divorce is finalized.
But the divorce process typically takes much longer than that.
So it’s important to stay separated for the entirety of your divorce process.
Separation is not only living in different homes or staying in separate rooms.
It also includes marital relations.
If you re-engage in marital relations, this could get your case thrown out.
Next, how long does it take to file for divorce?
Related: Spousal Abandonment
Filing for divorce takes 30 – 60 days to complete.
You will have to gather financial documents and find a divorce attorney.
Once you have done this, you can fill out the divorce papers and file them at your local Superior Court.
Once you have filed for divorce, you have to serve the divorce papers to your spouse.
Then, you can schedule your divorce hearing.
But how long does it take to be served with divorce papers?
Once a divorce is filed, there is a 90-day limit to be served with divorce papers.
How long it takes to be served with divorce papers depends on the route you take.
Normally, it takes 2-3 weeks to be served with divorce papers.
There are three ways to properly serve your spouse.
1. Mail Divorce Papers
2. Service by Sheriff
3. Service by Private Process Server
In each of these, you’ll need to include a copy of the complaint for divorce and a copy of the summons.
Not every couple can use this option.
Service by mail requires that both you and your soon-to-be-ex are reasonable.
This means that you both have to be ok with the service being performed in this way.
If you think that your spouse won’t accept the service of the complaint via mail, then this option isn’t for you.
It’s really important that you can trust they’ll accept service by mail.
Otherwise, the court will not be able to grant you a divorce.
This form of service is informal, but it tends to be very popular with couples who are separating amicably.
Related: Grounds for Full Custody of Child
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
A sheriff from your local police station will serve your divorce papers for you.
However, this form of service can be interpreted negatively by your spouse.
When you serve your spouse via the sheriff, you don’t have a lot of say of when and where they approach your spouse.
This means they could serve them while at work, which can be quite embarrassing.
This sometimes leads to resentment and “bad blood” between you and your spouse.
The sheriff’s department typically only serves papers during the hours of 8 am to 5 pm.
This makes the chances of your spouse being served during their workday fairly high.
This is the most common option.
Private process servers are either individuals or companies who are authorized to deliver legal documents to defendants in cases.
Your spouse would be considered the defendant if you are the one who initially filed for divorce.
These companies usually allow you to direct when service should be made.
This means you have more control over when and where service is made, unlike with service by the sheriff’s department.
Let’s say that your spouse is home by 6:30 pm every day.
You can arrange for the private process server to show up around then.
This can lessen any confrontation and avoid further arguing.
Divorce mediation takes 3 – 4 mediation sessions over one to two months.
For highly contested divorces, divorce mediation can last up to 6 months.
So, how long after mediation is divorce final?
The divorce is final within a month after mediation.
Once you submit your agreement to the judge, they will finalize the divorce.
Finalizing the divorce takes roughly one month to complete through the “system.”
Once the judge has signed the decree of divorce, the divorce is finalized immediately.
From start to finish, how long it takes to finalize a divorce depends on whether it’s contested or uncontested.
Uncontested divorces take ~2 months to finalize.
Contested divorces take 6-12 months to finalize.
Related: I Want To Leave My Husband
If both parties agree, how long does a divorce take?
If both parties agree and it’s uncontested, a divorce can take as little as 2 months.
If both parties agree, but it’s contested, it can take up to 12 months to complete.
If one party doesn’t agree, how long does a divorce take?
If one party won’t sign the papers, or you can’t find them to serve the divorce papers, you will get a default judgment.
The judge will grant you the divorce at your initial hearing.
This means that if one party doesn’t agree, the divorce will only take 30 days.
An uncontested divorce is the fastest route if you’re trying to figure out how to get a quick divorce.
If you want a quick divorce, sit down with your spouse and figure out how to split everything fairly.
Include your divorce settlement agreement in your petition for divorce to have a quick divorce.
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