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How Long Does a Divorce Take in California

While it may feel like a divorce drags on forever, in California, most couples don’t have to wait quite that long until their divorce is finalized. However, there are four major stages to get through, as well as a built in waiting period.

After your divorce attorney has a good idea of what will be involved in your case, your legal advisor should be able to give you a reasonable estimate of the time your divorce will take to conclude. Factors that will impact the length of the process include the degree of conflict involved, the complexity of assets to be divided, the number of complicating issues to be addressed (such as custody, child support and alimony), the need to fulfill residency requirements, and the degree to which each spouse is organized in producing and sharing financial data and other information.

Four Stages to Complete

Couples who are divorcing in California, as well as those who are ending a domestic partnership and obtaining a legal separation, must complete four stages as part of the divorce process. These four stages do not include pre-divorce counseling, which is an excellent way for a spouse to understand what to expect and get a jump start on preparation.

  • Initiating the Process

One spouse starts the divorce process by preparing a Petition for Divorce and other required paperwork and filing the documents with the court in the county where they have lived for at least three months. Then that spouse has the Summons legally served on the other spouse, and the other spouse will have 30 days to file a response. Either spouse may ask the court for a temporary order addressing issues such as alimony and custody.

  • Sharing Financial Information:

In the next stage, both spouses are expected to compile information about what they earn, how much they spend, how much debt they have, and how much property they own. Some spouses are ready to provide this information quickly while others drag their feet either due to lack of organization or because they want to make the process difficult. Sometimes, spouses attempt to hide assets or unrealistically inflate their expenses, particularly if they own their own business. If this is a potential concern, it is important to work with an attorney who understands how to use forensic accounting and other techniques to discern hidden property.

Initial disclosures are supposed to be due within 60 days of filing the petition and response, but parties may request an extension and may also need to prepare another declaration later.

  • Reaching Decisions

Once each spouse has information, then they need to make decisions about issues such as how property is classified and divided, parenting plans for custody and visitation, whether one spouse will pay alimony, amounts of child support, and other matters. Couples can negotiate their own arrangements through various processes with the help of an attorney.

When a couple cannot agree on some or all issues involved in the divorce, they will need to take the issues to trial and have the judge make the decision. This makes the process take considerably longer.

  • Finalizing the Divorce

At the end, all the agreements reached, earlier court orders, and other documents are submitted to the court. A judge will review all the paperwork to ensure it is legally acceptable. If there are no problems, the judge will sign a judgment that specifies the date the marriage will come to an end.

Six Months is the Minimum

Even if everything proceeds with lightning speed, a divorce in California will take at least six months because there is a six month waiting period after the filing of the divorce petition. This waiting period cannot be waived. (There is no waiting period for a legal separation, which is why some couples choose this option instead.)

During the six-month waiting period, the spouses can work through the process of sharing information and settling the terms of the divorce so that they are ready to file final paperwork at the time the waiting period is up. As a practical matter, the process rarely concludes this quickly. The average time to complete a no-fault divorce is approximately 15 months. When issues are hotly contested and the court must make most of the decisions, the process can last for years.

The Right Divorce Attorney Can Help You Streamline the Divorce Process

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we protect our clients’ interests and keep mindful of their priorities all throughout the divorce process. If your goal is to conclude the process without delay, we can ensure that you are prepared to complete each step and employ strategies to keep your former partner on schedule as well. Our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates know where the process can be maximized to keep your waiting to a minimum. To learn more about how we can help you streamline your divorce, schedule a consultation with our team today.

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