It’s no secret that divorce is often a messy, complex process. One of the reasons that the process is so difficult is because it can take a long time – sometimes months or years – in order for a divorce to be finalized. In California, while there isn’t much data available on the length of divorce proceedings, 15 months is often cited as the average; however, it’s important to note that there are many different factors that could affect the length of your divorce in California.
If you’re considering getting a divorce, or if you have already been served with papers or are already in the beginning stages of the process, even having a general idea of what to expect can help set your mind at ease. While only a lawyer will be able to set specific expectations based on your unique circumstances, here are 10 factors to be aware of that may prolong a resolution (or speed one up!).
- California’s Mandatory Waiting Period
The state of California has a mandatory 6 month waiting period, which means that when anyone files for divorce, they have to wait for 6 months after the divorce petition has been submitted for it to be accepted and finalized. So, your divorce will take at least 6 months, and there is nothing that you or your spouse can do to avoid this wait.
- The Amount & Value Of Assets You Have
The more assets you have, the more time it will take to go through them and divide them equitably. The higher value those assets are, the more time it will likely take to agree on what will happen to them or how they will be split. This is one of the biggest reasons why sometimes celebrity or high net worth divorces can drag on for years!
- The Complexity Of Assets You Have
Another factor that can affect the length of your divorce in California is how complex the assets that you acquired during the marriage, joined during the marriage, or brought into the marriage are. For example, if you started a business with your spouse, or if you acquired significant investments, then these will be more complex to divide, and it will take longer to do so.
- Whether Your Divorce Is Contested Or Not
Fighting makes things take longer. Lots of conflict = more time spent resolving it! Formally, you have the option to choose a contested or an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can agree to be civil, collaborate, and work together to come up with the terms of your divorce, you can present a joint agreement to the court that will likely be accepted quickly. This is an uncontested divorce. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have lawyers, or mediators, but it does mean that you will save time arguing in court.
- Whether You Have Children Or Not
Having kids always adds time to a divorce because developing a parenting plan can be complex and contentious, even if the split between you and your spouse is amicable. You have to work out who they will live with and when, who will be able to make decisions about their education/religious upbriging/healthcare and what those decisions may be, who they will spend holidays and special occasions with, who will provide for their financial needs, and more. Generally, both parents will be as involved as possible in their lives, but especially when you and the other parent don’t get along, this can add months to your case.
- How Equal Your Incomes Are
Spousal support, or alimony, is an amount of money that the court may order one spouse to pay to the other if one spouse makes significantly more money than the other, or if there are unequal assets. Sometimes this is temporary, and sometimes it is for a longer term (it just depends on the situation). It is designed to make sure the divorce is fair. For example, if one spouse is a stay at home parent, the other spouse will likely be required to pay something in alimony. Alimony tends to be an issue over which there is much haggling and dispute over; both sides want to get the best deal. If you are both relatively equal earners, spousal support may not play a factor in your divorce, in which case you could move along faster.
- Whether Or Not You Had A Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements are contracts, entered into before a marriage begins, that lay out how major issues will be handled in the event of divorce. Most prenups deal with things like how assets will be divided, what amount of spousal support (if any) will be paid and by whom, etc. The benefit to having a prenup is that if you and your spouse find yourselves facing divorce, you already have a roadmap of sorts to guide you through it; you don’t have to spend time arguing and sorting through the details with a fine-tooth comb because they’ve already been decided, for the most part. A prenuptial agreement cannot resolve any details related to custody, visitation, parenting plans, or anything involving children, however.
- Where You Live
In California, before you can file for divorce, either you or your spouse has to have lived in California for the past 6 months, and either you or your spouse has to have lived in your current California county for the past 3 months. If you or your spouse has moved recently, this may cause a delay.
Also, the length of your divorce in California is heavily dependent on the speed at which the court works. If the courts are overwhelmed with cases, or have a slower processing time, your divorce may take longer to finalize.
- What Dispute Resolution Methods You Can Use
Even if you and your spouse cannot seem to stop fighting, if you attempt mediation or another type of collaborative divorce process, your divorce will likely be resolved much more quickly than a traditional litigated divorce that requires court appearances and scheduling.
- The Level Of Legal Representation You Have On Your Side
If you retain an experienced, knowledgeable, communicative attorney from the very beginning, they can give you valuable advice and trustworthy guidance that will make a huge difference in the length of your divorce in California. They can handle all of the paperwork for you, saving you time and stress. They can inform you of potential “shortcuts” and other things you can do to reach a quicker and more cost-efficient resolution. You shouldn’t have to go through divorce alone; with a guide who knows the way forward, you’ll get to the end of your journey before you know it!
Call Equal Justice Law Group
At Equal Justice Law Group, our experienced divorce team has served over 7,000 clients in California. We’ve been practicing for 21 years, and we treat our clients and their futures like our top priority! To us, every client is a partner – that means we invite you into the process and empower you to make the right choices. If you’re getting divorced, we can review your specific circumstances and give you an idea of what we can do to help your case move along faster. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation and discover your next steps!