How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce?
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California?
A Judgment of Dissolution often called a divorce decree, is required in most states to end a marriage or a registered domestic partnership. In California, marriages and domestic partnerships are treated the same in the court system, so any mention of divorce in this article will apply to both.
The divorce process starts with filing a divorce petition in family court. The filing spouse is the Petitioner, and the one who must answer the divorce proceedings is the Respondent.
What Do I Need To Prove To End My Marriage?
California law makes all divorces in California no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce just means that no one has to prove wrongdoing to file for divorce.
Many people in California have heard about having to meet certain requirements before a divorce is granted. That is because some states only allow at-fault divorce. In those states, one spouse has to prove bad behavior to the other, such as showing there was abandonment, infidelity, or domestic violence.
That is not the case in California. There is no advantage to either spouse if one was, for example, unfaithful to the other. Most divorces in California cite “irreconcilable differences,” which simply means the relationship cannot be saved.
In very rare cases where a person is medically or mentally incapacitated, the grounds for divorce can be permanent legal incapacity. If you think that you may qualify for this as grounds for divorce, you should seek legal advice to be sure.
There are other rare cases that would end a marriage, not through a divorce, but because there was never a legal marriage in the first place. A marriage can be made void in various ways. Again, if you believe that your marriage is void or could be voided, it is best to speak with an experienced family law attorney to guide you through your options.
Residency Requirements For Filing Divorce in California
The state’s residency requirements are that one spouse must be a California resident for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. You or your spouse only need to live in the county you file for divorce in for three months.
If you do not meet the residency requirements for divorce, you can opt to file for legal separation as soon as you arrive in California and then start the divorce process after meeting the residency requirements. There are no waiting periods to have a judgment of legal separation entered.
Filing and Serving Divorce Papers on Your Spouse
Divorce cases must be filed in the family law department of the Superior Court in the county where one or both spouses reside. Normally there is a filing fee to file for divorce, but there are fee waivers available for low-income parties.
Once the Petition is filed, an adult (not the filing spouse) over 18 must hand the documents to the other spouse. This is called personal service, which is often done by a professional process server.
Is There a Waiting Period For Divorcing Couples in California?
Yes. The divorce cannot be made final until the mandatory waiting period has run. The court cannot legally end your marriage any earlier than six months after the divorce petition has been served on the Respondent in the case. The day the other party is handed the divorce paperwork, the “cooling off period” of six months begins.
Does The Divorce Method Affect How Long it Takes to Conclude?
The short answer is no.
There are several types of divorce. The simplest type of divorce is called a Summary Dissolution, which can be filed if you and your spouse agree to divorce and you meet the following criteria: 1. You have been married or in a domestic partnership for less than 5 five years, 2) You and your spouse have no children in common, and 3) You and your spouse own no real estate together. Although the paperwork is processed quickly, and the final decree may be entered right away, the divorce itself is not final until the six-month period is over.
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse may reach an agreement in every area and agree to settle the issues involved. This means that the couple will usually create a written settlement agreement that will become a part of their divorce judgment. Issues that might be addressed in a settlement agreement are child custody, child support, spousal support, marital assets, community debts,
If the parties agree to all the divorce issues and submit all the correct paperwork, the judge signs the uncontested divorce. This process may take less than the mandatory waiting periods, so, in that case, the judgment would be filed, and the agreements would become an enforceable court order. However, the divorce would not be final until the waiting period ended and would be a future date on your divorce decree.
A collaborative divorce is one where both parties each have a family lawyer and a divorce coach. A divorce coach is a mental health professional who helps spouses focus on the important task of dividing their assets and separating their families. They work with a neutral financial expert to help determine support and division of assets. If child custody is an issue, family therapists work with the parents to help facilitate an agreement. Collaborative divorce is not common but can be a very successful means to get a divorce.
In a contested divorce, the cooling-off period remains the same, but it often takes much longer than six months when there are spousal support disputes, major issues with property division, a spouse’s position about community property, or separate property conflicts with the other spouse.
Does My Partner’s Failure to Respond to the Divorce Papers Derail the Process?
If one spouse asks for a divorce and the other does not respond or participate, it can be frustrating. However, there is a method to end your marriage without the other party. The legal process is called “default.”
The divorce papers you file with the family law court include a Summons, which tells the other party that a divorce case has been filed and that they must respond within 30 days. If it has been more than 30 days since the Respondent has been served, the court clerk can enter a default against the other party. In that case, the other party loses their right to participate in the divorce process, and they do not have to file anything to complete the divorce.
Even if a default has been entered, the marriage is not automatically ended. The divorce process requires that financial disclosures be completed. The Petitioner still has to complete financial disclosures and serve them on the other party.
Once the default has been entered, and disclosures have been done, the court can enter a Judgment. A judgment must be submitted that shows the court that all community property was evenly divided. Before it is granted, a judge will review the paperwork and confirm that all assets and debts are equally divided. If not, the judgment can be rejected and delay the process.
Related: Responding To Divorce Papers
What if my Spouse Objects to the divorce?
To end a legal marriage, only one spouse has to believe that there are irreconcilable differences to obtain a divorce in California. The court will not force one person to remain married because the other objects to the divorce.
There are ways that one person can attempt to delay the process, but if the person seeking a divorce follows the steps necessary, they can obtain a divorce with minimal delay. Of course, the waiting period will still apply.
In a case where a spouse uses fighting over property or the children to avoid having a divorce entered, the issue of the divorce can be “bifurcated” – that means ending the marriage can be split off from the other issues, and just the divorce can be granted.
Factors that Impact Your Timeline
When the other party responds to the initial paperwork, financial information has to be exchanged by both spouses. If one spouse files their financial disclosures with the court and the other does not, the divorce cannot be granted.
There is a process that can force the other party to provide their financial information. A motion must be filed in court, and the court will have to order the other party to prepare their financial disclosures. The non-compliant party can be sanctioned, meaning they have to pay a fine for not following the rules about exchanging financial information. In rare cases, the court can waive that requirement, and the non-compliant party cannot submit any evidence that should have been in their paperwork during court hearings or trials.
How to Speed Up Your Divorce
Uncontested divorces can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to finish all the issues surrounding property division, child custody issues, and spousal and child support matters, but the question of, “How long does it take to get a divorce?” will always be determined by the cooling off period of six months.
Whether a contested divorce or uncontested divorce, if you are concerned about ensuring that you can finalize your divorce quickly and that your marriage is ended as soon as the waiting period allows, an experienced family lawyer can help guide you through the process.