How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

If you’ve decided to file for divorce, it’s natural for you to want it completed as quickly as possible. However, divorce is a complicated legal process, and you need to be prepared for a potentially long timespan. While this can be frustrating, you have to understand that you’ll have many details to work through before you can finalize your divorce, which can take several months to a year to complete.

To help you know what to expect, we’ve broken down the standard divorce process into a timeline with every step your case may encounter.

 Figure Out Where and When You Can File for Divorce: 0 to 6 months

Certain states, such as California, require you to meet specific residency requirements before filing for divorce in that state. For example, you must be a California resident for 6 months and a county resident for 3 months before you can file. So if you’ve recently moved, you’ll need to check your state’s residential policies. However, if your spouse still lives in your old state and has been there an adequate amount of time, you can usually choose to file immediately in that state.

 File and Serve the Paperwork: 1 Week to 1 Month

Filing the official petition for your divorce will not take long, especially if you have an experienced lawyer helping you. Once the paperwork is complete, you will need to serve your spouse with the papers, after which your spouse typically has 30 days (depending on the state) to file a response. If your spouse chooses not to respond, the court may issue a default judgment. However, in most cases, the court will officially file your paperwork once your spouse sends in their response.

Attend Your Initial Status Conference (ISC): approximately 40 days

About 40 days after your paperwork has been filed, you will go to court for your ISC, where a judge or facilitator will outline the schedule for your divorce. If temporary orders for child custody, support, etc. are needed, this meeting will also tell you when that hearing will occur. If both of you have legal counsel, you can choose to draw up your schedule instead and submit it to the court, waiving the need to come to this meeting.

Wait: 1 to 6 Months

Individual states require that couples sit through a “cool down” period after filing (20 to 120 days), while others require a certain number of separation days instead. Some states hope that you’ll work through your differences during this time and decide to remain married. However, if you’ve decided to continue with the divorce, you’ll still need to wait the designated amount of time for your divorce to be final.

Regardless of which state you’re in, you will likely spend this time trying to work through the terms of your divorce—in fact, many states require that you do. If you can work together, you can attend meetings and mediation to develop acceptable terms for both of you. But if you and your spouse are simply incapable of coming to any agreements on your own, the court will end up issuing a default judgment at the end of the waiting period.

If you asked for a temporary orders hearing, this would take place during this period, usually one month after your ISC.

Receive the Final Court Order: 10 minutes to 1 day

After the waiting period has ended, your last step is to receive your final court orders. If you and your spouse have successfully navigated your divorce terms, you can finalize your divorce with a written agreement. However, if one spouse does not have representation and children are involved, you will have to attend a 10-minute meeting where the court will review the terms, and both of you must agree to those terms under oath.

In the case that you and your spouse could not amicably write up divorce terms on your own, you will have a half to a full day in court to present your case to the judge, who will then determine the final orders for you.

Whichever path you take, your divorce will be complete once the judge issues his final orders that day.

Closing Thoughts

Your divorce timeline will vary widely, depending on where you choose to file and how well you and your spouse can work together during the process. However, it’s typical to expect the process to last at least 6 months from start to finish.

If you’re ready to file for divorce and need an expert in Colorado or California law on your side, be sure to contact our experienced associates at Duncan Family Law. Our team specializes in helping families navigate the divorce process as quickly and efficiently as possible. Reach out to us anytime at (855) 369-9993 and we’ll be happy to set up a remote meeting or phone call to discuss your case.