How long will your divorce take? Unfortunately, the answer is that “it depends.” It depends on the personalities involved, the size of your family’s assets, whether or not children are involved, and a whole lot more. This is one of the most common questions that divorce attorneys like Mr. Smith have to answer. It makes sense — divorces are stressful — and people want to know how long they will be stuck in that stressful state. Keep reading to learn the main factors that affect how long your divorce will take.
A divorcing couple that remains amicable can finalize a divorce quickly—in just a matter of months. A couple with a large collection of community property and lots of animosity probably won’t finalize their separation as quickly (it could take years).
This article was written to discuss some of the key phases a couple will have to go through in order to complete a divorce. While it is impossible for this page to predict the amount of time your particular divorce will take, it should still give you a general idea of what to expect.
Starting With an Offer
Whether the relationship with your soon-to-be former spouse is amicable or atrocious, one way to ensure that the divorce process remains as short as possible is by keeping focused on what is most important for you. If you and your ex can both agree that a short divorce is in both of your best interests (i.e. less legal fees!!!), you might be able to keep focused on resolving the issue as quickly as possible.
If the two of you can manage to cooperate things will go quicker. For instance, the exchange of family law disclosures is an area where things can move more quickly, depending on the level of cooperation. Disclosures happen early in the separation process and involve both parties declaring an inventory of community property. The section of law requiring these disclosures is found in California Family Code § 2100.
This section of the law was designed to protect community assets at the date of separation so as to avoid dissipation of the community estate before distribution. It was also designed to ensure fair and sufficient child and spousal support awards. If you want to know about automatic temporary restraining orders, read this page here.
In order for the law to provide this protection, spouses are required to provide a full and accurate disclosure of all assets and liabilities in the early stage of a divorce proceeding.
If one or both spouses fails to make an accurate accounting of community property in accord with state law, or it appears as if one spouse is attempting to conceal community property, this can lead to complications as attorneys and the court attempt to account for everything to be negotiated upon. Complications mean a prolonged divorce.
However, once disclosures have been made, and both sides are comfortable that no assets or funds are being hidden, making a settlement offer is a good early step to take. This can happen by your lawyer simply reaching out to your spouse’s lawyer or in a divorce mediation.
A settlement offer should be made based on the facts of your specific case. For instance, if you are requesting spousal support (a.k.a. alimony), you’ll want to consider if your request in line with the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed during the marriage. You’ll also want to consider if you have marketable skills and whether or not they can serve you in the current job market.
These are questions you will have to explore with your attorney in an effort to make the most consistent settlement offer possible. Once a settlement offer is made, your spouse’s attorney will be required to respond. If the response is in the spirit of cooperation, the process can move forward and negotiations can begin. If your spouse decides to be uncooperative, you’ve at least acted in accord with the law.
Remember, California’s Family Code seeks to encourage settlement. Spouses who hinder the settlement process can be slapped with attorney’s fees, which brings us to the next step.
Follow Up With an Attorney Fee Motion
The law that allows spouses to recoup attorney’s fees in a divorce proceeding can be found in California Family Code § 271. It states:
“The court may base an award of attorney’s fees and costs on the extent to which the conduct of each party or attorney furthers or frustrates the policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation, and, where possible, to reduce the cost of litigation by encouraging cooperation between the parties and attorneys. An award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to this section is in the nature of a sanction.”
So what happens if you make a fair settlement offer, and your spouse decides to dig in and be difficult? Maybe he or she failed to disclose property that you know is in their possession. Or perhaps there are some stocks or mutual funds that have been unaccounted for. Or perhaps your spouse is trying to avoid agreeing to a fair spousal or child support agreement.
If necessary, your lawyer may file an attorney’s fee motion. In some cases, this type of motion can have the effect of moving the other side toward settlement.
We’re Going to Trial, See You in Court
If settlement is not possible, the separating couple will have to go to family court to have a divorce trial in order to determine spousal support, the division of property, child support, and other contested issues. While it’s preferable to avoid a costly and stressful divorce trial, sometimes it’s the only way to settle the differences between the divorcing spouses.
How Long Will it Take?
As mentioned earlier, the length of time it takes to finalize a divorce will depend on the cooperation between the separating couple. If for instance, the divorce is uncontested, the divorce process can take a few months. Contested cases that go to court meanwhile, can take two years or more. That is why we said at the beginning of the post that,
it all depends….”
To get a better idea of how long your particular situation might take, contact our awesome lawyer to schedule a consultation.