If you’ve made the difficult decision to divorce, you likely don’t want to drag it out.
The fastest divorce cases take about a month, but this is rare.
Yours will probably take at least several months.
Here are some ways you can ensure that your divorce finalizes as quickly as possible.
Reach agreements with your spouse if you want to divorce soon
Agree with your spouse on all the issues in your divorce as soon as you can — ideally, before you even open a divorce case with your local court.
This way, when you’re ready, you can file for an uncontested divorce and skip cumbersome steps. In some places, you and your spouse can file the case together for added simplicity.
You’ll need to agree on these issues:
- Division of debt
- Division of property
- Child custody if you have minor children together
- Spousal maintenance and child support
- Anything else relevant to your case
The two of you might be able to reach agreements by speaking directly to each other, but many people turn to a professional like a mediator. If your disagreements are complex or deep-rooted, you might use collaborative law, which involves a lawyer for each parent and a neutral mediator.
Make sure your agreement is detailed, complies with the law, and looks professional. It will need to be approved by a judge, so you want to put your best foot forward. If you write your own agreement, you can use a template or app for guidance.
Be aware of waiting periods, residency requirements, and other local rules
Every court and jurisdiction has its own rules for divorces. Many people want to divorce “as quickly as possible,” but the possible timing depends on where you live.
Most require spouses to wait a certain period of time before finalizing a divorce (unless an urgent issue like domestic violence is involved). In some places, the clock begins when you separate. In others, it begins when you open your case.
- In British Columbia, the court can’t finalize your divorce until you’ve been separated for at least a year.
- In Quebec, you must be separated for at least a year before you apply for divorce.
- In Alabama, the court can’t finalize your divorce until at least 31 days into your case.
- In Colorado, the court can’t finalize your divorce until at least 91 days into your case.
- In Minnesota, there’s no waiting period for divorce.
You also need to meet residency requirements. Generally, you or your spouse must have lived in an area for several months before you can open a case there. To divorce as quickly as possible, plan ahead.
Work with a lawyer
A lawyer can help you with the two points above: negotiating an agreement and understanding local rules. Their advice will help you avoid mistakes that would hold up your case.
If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, you may qualify for free representation through a legal aid society. Otherwise, look for a lawyer who charges a relatively low fee, at least to check your paperwork for errors.
How to divorce as slowly as possible
If you can’t agree, your case will have to go to trial, and you’ll be looking at more than a year in court. Throw in mistakes from not following the local rules or from not consulting a professional, and you could spend two years trying to divorce.
No one wants to spend years in court. Do yourself a favor and prepare thoroughly so your divorce can proceed as painlessly as possible.