How Long Will It Take?

Published March 14, 2019

How long will the divorce process last?  I get asked this question all the time in consultations.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer because there are so many variables that impact the duration of the legal divorce process.  What are some of these variables?

1. Conflict and attitude.

Spouses with a reasonable outlook and a desire to be civil tend to move through the process quicker.  On the other hand, spouses who are locked in conflict and spewing with hatred for each other may not be able to agree on necessary details which causes delay in the legal proceeding.

2. Legal requirements.

Some states, including Washington where I practice, have mandatory or statutory waiting periods for divorces.  In Washington, spouses must wait 90 days from the date the divorce petition is filed and served to the other spouse before they can obtain a final judgment.  It is important to understand if your state or jurisdiction has any legal waiting period. 

3. Issues involved.

The more complicated the issues in a divorce, the longer it may take to get through the process.  Significant assets, closely-held businesses or child custody and visitation issues can take time to resolve or obtain sufficient information in order to resolve them.

4. Representation.

Attorneys can help or hinder the divorce process.  Therefore, it is important to select an attorney who respects your objectives for the divorce process if you want to get through it within a reasonable timeframe.  Moreover, make sure the attorney you retain has the capacity to take your case and do not be afraid to ask him or her if they do.  Any hemming or hawing in answering this question is your answer. 

4. Process option chosen.

Just because you are going through a divorce does not mean that you are in a courthouse or a judge is making decisions for you.  You have options for resolving your divorce that do not involve a court or judge.  When you work towards settlement either on your own, with the help of your attorneys or through mediation or Collaborative Divorce, the likelihood that you will resolve your  divorce soon rather than later increases.  Check out my blog for more information on process options – Divorce? You’ve Got Options.

Most people have heard a horror story or two about the length of time it took someone to get through their divorce.  I’ve been involved in cases that have lasted years before a final judgment was entered.  However, divorces don’t have to take years to resolve.  Spouses who are civil with each other and motivated to settle from the outset can wrap up a divorce relatively quickly.  Similarly, divorcing spouses who choose a divorce  process option like mediation or Collaborative Divorce can control the pacing of the process which may result in them crossing the divorce finish line sooner.