This article details how to speed up the divorce process. There are any number of reasons why a divorce drags on. In some cases, one or both spouses dig in their heels and do what they can to delay the process. Other times, the case is just complicated. As a family lawyer, one of the most common question that I’m asked is, “How long will a divorce take?” Unfortunately, the answer usually is “Too long.”
Generally speaking, uncomplicated divorces can take as little as a couple months. Meanwhile, divorces involving large community estates or child custody issues can drag on for years. While there may be options to get the divorce process moving faster, it will first be necessary to identify what the hold up is. Figuring out the roadblocks is the hardest part.
Keep reading to learn about some of the different roadblocks to a speedy divorce, and how to power through these roadblocks. If you have further questions, contact our office for more information.
Roadblock #1 – You Are the Problem
Don’t take this personally. If this question doesn’t describe your situation, move on to the next section. But, if there’s a voice in the back of your head that’s groaning at the mention of this question, maybe it’s time to pause and reevaluate your situation. Is it possible that you face a lengthy divorce, or are in the middle of one because you are holding out for something that you could just as easily let go? Are you able to honestly say that your desire to finalize your divorce is outweighing your desire to win?
Do you still harbor strong negative emotions toward your former spouse? If so, it might be time to look at your priorities, let certain things go, and negotiate in earnest.
Roadblock #2 – Difficult Spouse
A difficult spouse is a common reason why divorce proceedings drag. When money, property, or children are at issue, things become exponentially complex. Most people don’t have prenuptial agreements in place and the mess of marriage and parenting must get sorted out.
If there is a large community estate that needs to be divided, an already difficult task will be made harder by an intransigent former spouse. Is he or she perhaps concealing property or income that you know should have been included in the mandatory disclosures?
Or perhaps you’re dealing with a former spouse that’s making extreme demands when it comes to child custody. These demands might either not be in the child’s best interest, or might be in conflict with the family code, which seeks to maintain frequent and lasting contact between the children and both parents.
In some cases, the problem isn’t so much the ex as it is the ex’s lawyer. Sadly, there is no shortage of lawyers out there willing to take advantage of a client’s limited understanding of the law to rack up billable hours. In some cases, the problem is both the ex spouse and the lawyer. This type of dynamic might involve an unreasonable spouse whose bad behavior is encouraged by a greedy, unethical attorney.
If any of the aforementioned scenarios describe your situation, you should know that the law provides a powerful tool for dealing with such bad behavior. As a matter of policy, the law encourages divorcing couples to settle whenever possible. California Family Code § 271 provides recourse for persons who have to deal with an unreasonable ex spouse or attorney. This law allows a party in a divorce proceeding to recover attorney’s fees from the opposing party if that party frustrates the state’s policy of encouraging settlement. The law states:
“An award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to this section is in the nature of a sanction. In making an award pursuant to this section, the court shall take into consideration all evidence concerning the parties’ incomes, assets, and liabilities.”
Roadblock #3 – Your Lawyer is the Problem
Just as your spouse might have fallen prey to a shiftless attorney willing to take a client for a ride, you might be dealing with a bad actor yourself. Or it’s possible that you hired an attorney who isn’t a right fit for family law, or has too many cases to give yours the proper attention, or is dealing with a personal crisis, and as a result, his or her head isn’t in the game.
If any of these scenarios describe your situation, it might be time for you to focus on how you communicate with your lawyer. This will require you to be more goal oriented and willing to convey your expectations firmly to your attorney. Set a reasonable timeline with obtainable goals – but you also need to trust your attorney.
This might also be the time to examine your own motives. If your attorney has suggested options for moving forward, this could be the moment for you to be more decisive. However, if you believe that your attorney is simply taking you for a ride, and dragging things out in order to collect more fees, it might be time to find a better attorney to represent your interests.
You Need a Good Attorney
Whatever you situation, whether you are just beginning the divorce process, or are in the middle of an extended divorce quagmire, you need a qualified family attorney to help you get to the finish line. A good family lawyer will have excellent negotiation skills and will be capable of moving the situation along as expeditiously as possible. If you’re struggling with your current attorney or are dealing with a divorce on your own, consider scheduling an appointment with our office to learn how we can help.