In California, a party cannot be divorced any sooner than six months and one day after the other party is served with the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
That does not mean that a party is automatically divorced on that magical date. It merely reflects a “waiting period” that dictates that the final divorce cannot be accomplished any sooner than that date.
Many other factors dictate how long or how short the divorce can take from beginning to end. Assuming both parties can agree on terms and meet other procedural requirements, the divorce could theoretically be final after that initial waiting period. However, it often takes longer due to the lack of cooperation by either party in providing mandatory Declarations of Disclosure regarding the parties’ assets, liabilities, income, and expenses.
The level of contentiousness can also serve to delay the conclusion of the divorce. If family law litigants can cooperate and agree on the issues in their matter, then it will take less time to complete the divorce. Being organized and producing documents and information in a timely manner will also aid in reducing the time it takes to conclude the divorce.
In California, it is possible to “bifurcate” the issue of marital status from the remaining issues in the case and to obtain a divorce before the other issues such as support, custody, and property division are resolved. This, too, requires that Declarations of Disclosure have been exchanged. The parties may stipulate to the termination of marital status, or one party may file a motion with the Court; such motions are routinely granted. However, it is wise to consider two of the primary effects of terminating marital status: the inability to file joint tax returns and the impact on health insurance, once the parties are no longer legally married. A party should consult with his or her attorney if considering an early termination of marital status.