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How Long Does a Divorce Take

How Long Does a Divorce Take: A Quick Overview for the Curious

Your Complete Guide to How Long Does a Divorce Take

Imagine standing at the start of a marathon, unsure of the path or the distance to the finish line. That’s how many feel when facing the uncertainty of a divorce timeline.

The journey to a new beginning is often shrouded in questions: How long will this take? What obstacles lie ahead?

In the intricate dance of legal procedures, emotional upheavals, and life adjustments, the duration of a divorce can seem like a mystery waiting to be unraveled.”

how long does a divorce take

In this guide, we’re going to clear up one big question: How long does a divorce take? We’ll talk about things like how long you need to wait in different states, and what can speed up or slow down a divorce.

Whether you’re starting a divorce or just thinking about it, this article will help you understand the time it might take. Keep reading to find out more about the steps in a divorce and what you can expect along the way.

Table of Contents

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce?

State Requirements that Delay Divorce

Each state has its own laws and regulations affecting the divorce process. Factors that can delay a divorce include:

  • Residency requirements: The time a spouse must live in a state before filing for divorce.
  • Waiting periods: Also known as “cooling off” periods, these are mandatory timeframes between filing and finalizing a divorce.
  • Mandatory separation periods: Some states require spouses to live separately for a specific amount of time before filing for divorce.

Residency Requirements

Residency requirements vary by state. For example, in California, one spouse must live in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce. Residency requirements can affect the overall timeframe of the divorce process.

Waiting Period or Cooling Off Period

Many states have mandatory waiting or cooling off periods between filing and finalizing a divorce. These periods allow couples time to reconsider their decision before the divorce is finalized. For instance, in Texas, there is a 61-day waiting period after filing the divorce petition.

Mandatory Separation Period

Some states require a mandatory separation period before spouses can file for divorce. This period requires spouses to live apart for a certain amount of time, usually months or even years, before they can proceed with the divorce process. The length and specifics of the separation period vary by state.

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

Impact on Divorce Timelines

In a fault divorce, one spouse claims that the other’s actions led to the marriage’s breakdown. Because there’s no required waiting period, fault divorces can be granted more quickly than no-fault ones. However, proving fault might take time, which could lengthen the process.

On the other hand, a no-fault divorce doesn’t require proving blame. Most states permit this type of divorce on grounds like irreconcilable differences or the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

  • Fault divorces: Faster if fault is proven, but potentially longer if proving fault takes time
  • No-fault divorces: Generally slower due to waiting periods, but no need to prove fault

In true no-fault divorce states, only the no-fault option is available, making legal requirements more consistent. As of 2023, 17 states and the District of Columbia fall into this category. In other states, both fault and no-fault divorces are recognized, with specific legal requirements for each.

Here are some notable legal differences:

  1. Grounds: Fault divorces require proving that a spouse’s actions led to the marriage’s breakdown, while no-fault divorces don’t need such proof.
  2. Residency: Most states need you to be a resident for 3-6 months before filing for divorce (excluding Alaska, South Carolina, and Washington).
  3. Waiting periods: Some states require a separation period for no-fault divorces, while fault divorces don’t have waiting periods.

Divorce laws are complex and vary among states. Working with legal professionals can help ensure that you understand and meet the requirements specific to your situation.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

How Contention Influences Duration

When considering a divorce, it’s important to understand the differences between contested and uncontested divorce. The level of contention between the two parties can significantly influence the duration and cost of the divorce process.

Here are some key differences:

  • Uncontested Divorce: In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all major issues, including property division, child custody, and financial matters. This makes the process smoother and quicker, as there is no need for courtroom battles or extensive negotiations.
  • Contested Divorce: If spouses don’t agree on key issues, the divorce becomes contested. This means they rely on the court to determine the final outcome. Contested divorces usually take longer and are more expensive due to the involvement of attorneys, the discovery process, and the likelihood of a trial.

Let’s examine how these factors affect the duration of divorce proceedings:

  1. Time: Uncontested divorces generally take less time to complete. With all issues settled, parties can move forward more quickly with the legal process. Contested divorces, on the other hand, often involve lengthy legal battles, taking more time to resolve.
  2. Cost: Uncontested divorces are typically more affordable because there is no need for extensive attorney involvement or other additional expenses. Contested divorces can range from $20,000 to $100,000 due to lawyer fees, realtor costs, and potential therapy expenses for children involved.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are legal documents that couples sign before or after getting married. These agreements outline how assets and liabilities will be divided in case of a divorce. They can play a significant role in streamlining the divorce process.

Role in Streamlining the Divorce Process

  • Clarity in Asset Division: Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements specify how the couple’s assets and liabilities will be divided in the event of a divorce. This makes the division process more straightforward and less time-consuming.
  • Spousal Support: Both agreements can also address alimony or spousal support, providing a clear understanding of each partner’s financial responsibilities.
  • Reduced Conflict: Having a legally binding agreement in place reduces the likelihood of disputes and lengthy negotiations during the divorce process. Couples with prenuptial or postnuptial agreements typically spend less time resolving financial issues.

Factors that Impact Your Timeline

Problems Serving Your Spouse

The divorce process starts with filing a petition and serving your spouse with the papers. If your spouse is difficult to locate or refuses to accept the papers, the divorce timeline can be extended. You may need the services of a process server or pursue alternative methods to serve the papers, such as publication.

Complexity of Issues

The more complex the issues in a divorce, the longer it tends to take to resolve. Some factors that may add complexity include:

  • Division of property
  • Child custody and support
  • Alimony or spousal support

Resolving these issues may require extensive negotiation, mediation, or even multiple court hearings.

Level of Conflict

A high level of conflict between the parties often prolongs the divorce process. If both parties can agree on key issues and maintain open communication, they can expedite the divorce timeline.

Domestic Violence Considerations

When domestic violence or abuse is a factor in the divorce, there may be additional legal steps involved, such as obtaining restraining or protective orders. These measures can lengthen the divorce timeline but are crucial for ensuring safety.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, please seek help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is available 24/7. Their number is 800-799-7233.

Hidden Assets

Uncovering hidden assets is a common obstacle during the divorce process. One spouse might hide income, property, or other valuable assets to limit what must be divided. Discovering these hidden assets can take time, involving expert assistance, such as forensic accountants.

Court Calendars

Courts have varying schedules and available dates for hearing cases. Busy court calendars can cause delays in scheduling hearings or trials, impacting the overall divorce timeline. Each court manages its docket differently, so the waiting time will vary depending on the jurisdiction and unique circumstances.

How to Speed Up Your Divorce

Use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

To reduce the time it takes to finalize a divorce, consider using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods, like mediation or arbitration. These methods can help you and your spouse to:

  • Reach agreements faster
  • Avoid lengthy court battles
  • Save money on legal fees

Both options involve a neutral third party—the mediator for mediation or the arbitrator for arbitration—who will help facilitate negotiations between you and your spouse. Keep in mind that:

  1. Mediators can’t make decisions for both parties; they merely help facilitate communication and negotiations.
  2. An arbitrator can make binding decisions, which can expedite the process further.

Try to Work Together

Cooperation plays a crucial role in speeding up your divorce. Here are some tips to improve collaboration:

  • Communicate effectively: Maintain an open line of communication with your spouse, even if it’s difficult. Be honest and respectful when discussing sensitive topics like property division, child custody, and visitation schedules.
  • Focus on the bigger picture: Prioritize the well-being of any children involved and strive to make decisions that are in their best interest. Try not to get caught up in minor disputes that could prolong the divorce process.
  • Stay organized: Keep track of important documents and be prepared to share them with your spouse or their legal representation. This can prevent delays caused by searching for missing information.

By combining ADR methods and fostering a cooperative environment, couples can substantially reduce the time it takes to get a divorce. Remember, rushing the process may lead to less-than-ideal outcomes, so be patient and prioritize effective negotiation.

What Type of Divorce Is Generally Quickest?

When considering the time it takes to finalize a divorce, there are several factors at play. However, some types of divorces are known to be faster than others.

In this section, we’ll discuss the quickest type of divorce and briefly compare it to other common divorce types.

Comparing Different Divorce Types

  • Uncontested Divorce: This is often the quickest type of divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all aspects of the separation, including property division, child custody, and support payments. With no disputes to resolve, the legal process can move forward swiftly, in some cases taking only a few months.
  • Default Divorce: A default divorce occurs when one spouse does not respond to the divorce petition within a specified time frame. In cases where the non-responsive spouse cannot be located, a default divorce can be granted relatively quickly. However, it may take longer if the court requires proof that the petition was properly served.
  • Mediated Divorce: In a mediated divorce, the couple works with a neutral mediator to resolve their disputes. Mediated divorces can be faster than contested divorces, but they still require more time than uncontested divorces, as the couple needs to reach agreements on all issues with the help of the mediator.
  • Contested Divorce: Contested divorces take the longest because spouses disagree on one or more issues, leading to court intervention. Resolution times can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the case, with some lasting several months to years.

Divorce Proceedings Involving Children

Additional Filings and Considerations

When it comes to divorce proceedings involving children, various aspects need to be taken into account. Some key considerations include:

  • Child support arrangements, ensuring that both parents contribute to their children’s financial needs.
  • Child custody decisions, determining who the children live with and who makes essential decisions about their lives.
  • A parenting plan that outlines how the parents will cooperate and share responsibilities for raising their children.

The presence of children in a divorce can extend the process, as matters related to them have to be sorted out. On average, divorces with at least one child-related dispute take 15 months to finalize, whereas divorces without children tend to take only 11 months.

Parenting Time and Custody Issues

One of the fundamental aspects of a divorce involving children is deciding on parenting time and custody arrangements. There are various types of custody to be considered:

  1. Physical custody: Determines where the children live.
  2. Legal custody: Indicates who makes essential decisions for the children.

These custody arrangements can be further divided into:

  • Sole custody: One parent has full responsibility for the children.
  • Joint custody: Both parents share the responsibility of raising the children.

In some cases, the court may grant temporary child custody during the divorce proceedings to ensure the children’s welfare. Arranging parenting time and custody can be a complex element of the divorce process and may involve mediation or even court hearings to reach a fair conclusion.

How Long Does a Divorce Take: Quick Guide to Timeline Expectations

Average Time for DIY Divorce

Understanding the Self-Service Approach

When you decide to file for divorce on your own, it’s essential to understand the self-service approach. A do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce can save you thousands of dollars on attorney fees and help you avoid the stress that comes with hiring lawyers and attending court hearings. However, it’s crucial to know what this process entails.

First, you need to be aware of your rights and responsibilities in a divorce. If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, make sure to revisit it to understand the terms you and your spouse agreed upon.

Here are some key steps in a DIY divorce process:

  1. Filing the paperwork: Prepare and file your divorce petition with the appropriate court. You might have to pay a filing fee.
  2. Serving the papers: Notify your spouse by hiring a process server or using another approved method.
  3. Negotiating terms: Discuss the division of assets, debts, and other decisions with your spouse, and try to reach an agreement.
  4. Waiting period: States typically have a waiting or “cooling off” period, which can range from a few weeks to several months.
  5. Finalizing the divorce: Submit your agreed-upon terms to the judge. If there are no issues, the judge will sign the divorce decree, and your marriage will be legally dissolved.

Now, let’s discuss the average time it takes to complete a DIY divorce. Many factors can impact the timeline, such as:

  • The complexity of your case
  • State-specific waiting periods or divorce laws
  • Abandonment or refusal by one spouse to participate in the process

It’s worth noting that the average length of an uncontested DIY divorce is around eight months. However, keep in mind that the timeline can vary depending on your specific situation.

For instance, in Texas, the waiting period is 61 days after filing, but the overall process may still take several months or years to complete.

Overall, a DIY divorce can be a more affordable and less stressful option if you and your spouse can agree on major decisions. Just remember that the process will require your time and effort to ensure a satisfactory outcome.

Average Time for Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is a simpler, faster, and more affordable way to end a marriage. This type of divorce occurs when both spouses agree on various aspects such as child support, spousal support, custody, division of property, and other settlement issues.

When a couple can reach a mutual agreement, they can avoid the lengthy legal process usually associated with a divorce.

The time it takes to finalize an uncontested divorce can vary depending on the state and individual circumstances. However, most uncontested divorces take about a few months to a year to complete. Some, depending on the state may only take a few weeks. This is significantly faster compared to contested divorces, which sometimes drag on for years.

Benefits of Mutual Agreement

The shorter duration of an uncontested divorce offers several benefits, including:

  • Cost Savings: The cost of an uncontested divorce is typically much lower than a contested divorce. With less need for lawyers and court appearances, you can save thousands of dollars.
  • Less Stress: An amicable divorce process can significantly reduce stress and emotional strain on both spouses and any children involved.
  • Privacy: Uncontested divorces can often be settled without the need for court hearings. This means fewer details of your private life are made public.
  • Control: Both spouses have more control over the terms of their settlement, rather than leaving decisions up to the judge.
  • Faster Resolution: The abbreviated process of an uncontested divorce allows both parties to move on with their lives in a more timely fashion.

NOTE: Uncontested divorce may not be suitable in cases involving domestic violence or abuse, or when there are hidden assets. In such situations, it’s necessary to acquire legal assistance and follow the appropriate legal process.

However, when both parties are cooperative and communication channels remain open, uncontested divorce offers a beneficial and efficient alternative to traditional divorce proceedings.

Average Time for Contested Divorce

Contested divorces can be a lengthy process because of the various factors involved. The time it takes for a contested divorce to be finalized depends on the complexity of the case.

Challenges and Extended Timelines

When you’re dealing with a contested divorce, there are many issues that can prolong the process:

  • Children: If you have children, custody and child support agreements need to be determined.
  • Spousal support: Determining the appropriate amount of spousal support can be a contentious issue that extends the timeline.
  • Assets and debts: Dividing assets and debts fairly requires thorough documentation and negotiation.
  • Motions: It’s not uncommon for spouses to file multiple motions during the divorce process, leading to further delays.
  • Parenting arrangements: Disagreements over parenting time and decision-making responsibilities can cause delays.
  • Domestic violence: If there are allegations of domestic violence, additional legal processes are required to address safety concerns.
  • Evidence gathering: Collecting and presenting evidence to support your claims can be time-consuming, especially if you need expert testimonies.
  • Mandatory waiting period: Some states have a mandatory waiting period after filing for divorce before a judge can finalize it.

Regarding the timeframe, uncontested divorces can be completed in a matter of weeks, whereas contested divorces can take months or even years to be finalized, depending on the state and complexity of the case.

Average Time for Collaborative Divorce

The Role of Collaborative Approaches

When getting a divorce, the time it takes can largely depend on the approach you choose. In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse work together in a more amicable and cooperative manner, which can help reduce the duration of the process.

Collaborative teams often include professionals like attorneys, financial advisors, and mental health experts, who guide you through a series of mediation sessions, discussions, and negotiations.

Unlike traditional divorce, which may average 6 months to 1 year, collaborative divorce can be relatively faster, as parties can identify common goals and exchange information more effectively.

However, the speed varies from case to case, and can range from just a few sessions to weeks or months. Remember, collaborative divorce isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, as factors like child custody, support, and agreements can influence the time it takes to finalize the divorce.

In the collaborative process, waiting periods and court time are typically reduced due to the more cooperative nature of the approach. These are a few factors that can impact the duration of a collaborative divorce:

  • Uncontested vs. contested divorce: Uncontested divorces, where both parties agree on issues like property division and child custody, can be resolved more quickly. In contrast, contested divorces require more negotiation, which may prolong the collaborative process.
  • Complexity of your case: The more complicated your divorce, the longer it may take. Factors such as shared assets, businesses, or child custody arrangements can contribute to increased complexity.
  • State laws and waiting periods: Laws vary by state, and so do waiting periods. For instance, California requires a 6-month waiting period before a divorce is finalized, even in collaborative divorce situations.

Overall, while collaborative divorce has the potential to be faster and less stressful compared to traditional divorce, the specific amount of time it takes depends on your unique circumstances. By being proactive and open to communication, you can help ensure a smoother and more efficient divorce process.

Average Time for Divorce Mediation

Mediation as a Time-Saving Option

When you’re going through a divorce, mediation can be a quicker and more efficient alternative to a traditional divorce process. In general, mediation can help you save both time and money. Let’s take a closer look at how long divorce mediation may take:

  • Traditional divorce can take at least a year, or even longer in some cases.
  • As for divorce mediation, the length can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors.

Some factors that can influence how long your divorce mediation will take include:

  • The complexity of your case
  • The willingness of both parties to cooperate and work together
  • The mediator’s schedule and availability

Keep in mind that each case is unique, so the time it takes for your divorce mediation to complete can differ from others. However, compared to traditional divorces, mediation generally takes less time and can provide a smoother, less contentious experience for both parties involved.

To make the most of your mediation, consider these tips:

  1. Prepare ahead of time and research possible mediation options.
  2. Be open and honest about your needs and concerns.
  3. Work together with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

Remember, the goal of mediation is to come to a fair and reasonable resolution to your divorce matters. By working collaboratively and efficiently, you can help your divorce mediation process go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Trial and Appeals in Divorce

Understanding the Court Process

During a divorce trial, the judge will make decisions on issues including, but not limited to, the division of assets, child custody, visitation, and support. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on the terms, and the process is usually quicker. However, a contested divorce takes longer due to disagreements on one or more key issues. To prepare for a divorce trial, you should:

  • Hire a family law attorney or divorce attorney
  • Gather relevant evidence (financial documents, texts, etc.)
  • Follow your state’s divorce requirements and laws

The actual trial length varies, but it might take several months or even years, depending on the complexity of your case and the court’s schedule.

Possible Delays and Appeal Procedures

Unfortunately, several factors can prolong the divorce process:

  • Packed court calendars
  • Lengthy discovery phase
  • Multiple arbitration sessions
  • Disputes over assets like a shared business

After the trial, if you disagree with the judge’s ruling, you can file an appeal. Appeals generally must be done within 30 to 45 days of the ruling. However, keep in mind that:

  • The appeals process can be expensive
  • You may need to wait a year or longer for the appellate court’s final ruling
  • The appellate court can uphold, modify, or overturn the original decision

Overall, the best approach is to understand the divorce process, work closely with your attorney, and be prepared for potential setbacks.

Need Help To File A Divorce?

When considering filing for divorce, it’s essential to understand the different options available for legal assistance. This section will discuss legal assistance options and the pros and cons of self-representation versus hiring a lawyer.

There are various legal assistance options available for individuals navigating the divorce process. Some of the most common options include:

  • Divorce attorney: A lawyer specialized in handling divorce cases, guiding clients through the legal process, and representing their interests in court.
  • Family law attorney: A legal professional who focuses on family legal matters, including divorce, child custody, and support.
  • Family lawyer: Similar to a family law attorney, this professional can provide comprehensive legal advice and representation in all aspects of family law, including divorce.

To find the best fit for your needs, consider researching different attorneys, reading reviews, and conducting interviews to ensure the professional can meet your requirements and expectations.

Self-Representation vs. Hiring a Lawyer

Deciding whether to represent yourself or to hire a legal professional has its pros and cons. Here are some factors to consider:


  • Pros:
    • Cost savings: Representing yourself can save on legal fees associated with hiring an attorney.
    • Control: Having direct control over your case might be appealing.
  • Cons:
    • Complexity: Navigating the legal system without experience can be challenging and time-consuming.
    • Lack of expert knowledge: Not having legal expertise can put you at a disadvantage in negotiations and court proceedings.

Hiring a lawyer

  • Pros:
    • Expertise: An attorney brings valuable legal know-how, experience, and resources to your case.
    • Objectivity: A lawyer can provide objective advice and support, helping to prevent emotionally-driven decisions.
    • Time and effort: An attorney handles the paperwork, research, and court appearances, freeing up your time.
  • Cons:
    • Cost: Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, with fees varying depending on the complexity of the case and the attorney’s experience.

How Long Does Divorce Take By State?





























New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

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Rhode Island

South Carolina

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Washington D.C.

West Virginia



Wrapping It Up

Divorce is a legal process that varies in duration depending on factors such as the state where it’s filed, case complexity, and the cooperation of both parties. Generally, most divorces take about a year to complete. Some states have waiting periods after the divorce petition is filed, which could be six months or more.

Key factors influencing the duration of a divorce process are:

  • State regulations: Different states have different laws and residency requirements.
  • Fault or no-fault basis: Uncontested divorces, where both parties agree on the terms, take less time than contested ones.
  • Court’s workload: Delays might occur due to the caseload in the county court where the divorce case is filed.

In summary, the duration of a divorce process is influenced by several factors. The parties involved to be aware of their state’s specific regulations and work towards a cooperative resolution whenever possible for a smoother and quicker divorce process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long after filing papers is the divorce finalized?

Most divorces take around six months to a year from the time the papers are filed to when the divorce is finalized. This timeline can vary depending on factors like the state’s waiting period and the couple’s ability to reach a settlement.

What’s the duration of a divorce in New York?

In New York, a divorce can take anywhere from six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the case and whether it is contested or uncontested. The state does not have a specific waiting period.

How long does an uncontested divorce usually take?

An uncontested divorce generally takes less time than a contested one. If both parties agree on all issues, it can take as little as three months to finalize the divorce. The timeline will also depend on the state’s waiting period, if applicable.

Time taken for a divorce with children involved?

When children are involved, a divorce can take longer due to issues surrounding custody and support. It might take anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the state and the complexity of the case.

Duration of divorce process in Texas?

In Texas, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period from the time the divorce is filed until it can be granted. After that, the duration of the process will depend on factors such as the couple’s willingness to reach an agreement and the complexity of the case.

How quickly can a divorce be granted in Florida?

In Florida, an uncontested divorce can be finalized in as little as 20 days if both parties agree on all terms. However, a contested divorce can take several months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the case.