Once people finally get going with their divorces, invariably at some point during the case I will get the question, “Why is my divorce taking so long?” or “How long does it take to get a divorce?”
Because the divorce process is so painful, and because most people take a long time making the decision to divorce, once you move forward, you just want it over. The time while the case is pending – that time while you are limbo – can seem more like purgatory than anything else.
The reasons cases can drag out are many, but most cases have the same elements to them, and so the timing of a case can hinge on a reliable set of factors.
4 Factors That Affect How Long a Divorce Takes
1. Whether the case is contested or uncontested.
Translation – do you and your soon-to-be ex agree on your settlement in all areas, or do you not? If you are fighting, it will take longer. The harder you guys fight on things, the more you clash on things like property division, spousal support or child custody issues, the longer it will take and the more expensive it is likely to be.
2. How cooperative both parties are in exchanging financial information.
Once the case is filed, then it immediately goes into what is called the “discovery phase.” During this time the parties have to produce to each other any documents that pertain to his or her finances, marital and non-marital. If one or both parties are playing coy, and hiding the ball, then that takes longer. That means to force the person to give them up, you might have to file a motion with the court asking the court to make the other person do what they are supposed to do. Then you or your lawyer will have to set that motion for hearing, then go to the hearing, then wait for the judge to rule on that hearing. All of the above takes lots of time and lots of money.
3. Whether forensic work needs to be done.
Also part of the discovery phase is potential forensic work. This might mean a forensic business valuation, lifestyle analysis for an alimony claim, or finding hidden money. It might also mean doing an analysis on what someone’s true income is if that person is self-employed or has multiple streams of complicated revenue. There are also forensic custody evaluators – these are psychologists who are trained to dig into what the history of the family dynamic has been, interview the parents, other witnesses and can even administer tests, all for the purpose of creating a report that recommends a specific parenting plan. All of these types of forensic evaluations take lots and lots of time.
4. Lastly, we have the court system itself.
Sometimes part of what takes so long is that you and/or your lawyers are just waiting to get in front of the judge for your hearing, or case management conference, or whatever the proceeding may be. Courts across the country all suffer from the plague of way too many family law cases, and being way understaffed and underfunded. This translates to judges who have way too many cases to handle at all, let alone in a timely manner.
Before you ask, “How long does it take to get a divorce?”, here’s the bottom line: the more you and your spouse can work out between yourselves, the faster you will get to the finish line.
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