Amount of Time Between a Magistrate's Recommendation and Divorce

By Beverly Bird

Not all states use magistrates to assist in the divorce process. Among those states that do, magistrates are often limited to deciding child support or post-divorce issues. Florida and Colorado restrict the roles of magistrates. However, in Maine, they can decide divorces in some jurisdictions, if both spouses consent. Courts that employ magistrates generally do so because their dockets are crowded with more family law cases than the district’s judges can handle on their own.

Not all states use magistrates to assist in the divorce process. Among those states that do, magistrates are often limited to deciding child support or post-divorce issues. Florida and Colorado restrict the roles of magistrates. However, in Maine, they can decide divorces in some jurisdictions, if both spouses consent. Courts that employ magistrates generally do so because their dockets are crowded with more family law cases than the district’s judges can handle on their own.

Magistrate’s Duties

In most jurisdictions, magistrates are attorneys with considerable family law experience. Courts appoint a magistrate to take testimony from litigants and to establish the details of cases. In legal terms, these are “findings of fact” which the magistrate submits in written form to the judge, spouses and their attorneys, if they have any. If no one objects to the magistrate’s report, the judge signs it into a court order. Ultimately, it is the judge's signature that makes the order or decree binding.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Uncontested Matters

Magistrates do not possess the authority to decide issues such as custody, property distribution or spousal support so they're rarely involved in contested divorce trials. If you’ve submitted your case to a magistrate, this usually means you and your spouse are not disputing the grounds for divorce and have agreed on how you’re going to settle the issues between you. You’ve come up with a custody arrangement and parenting plan on your own. You can submit the details of your agreement to the magistrate for approval, rather than go through a divorce trial or appear for a hearing before a judge. Some states, such as Ohio, require you to bring witnesses with you to the magistrate’s hearing, even if you and your spouse have reached an agreement. Your witnesses testify about your trustworthiness and confirm you’ve met the legal requirements of your no-fault grounds. The magistrate will create a written transcript of your testimony and submit his decision to grant your divorce to a judge for approval.

Objection Period

The wait between the magistrate’s decision and your final divorce decree depends on the time period your state allows for objections to his decision. When the magistrate submits his decision to the judge, you and your spouse have a limited time to review your copy and make sure everything in it is correct. In Ohio, for instance, you have two weeks to object so a judge won’t review and sign the decision into a decree until this time has passed. Maine gives you three weeks. Because you either have to object during this time or accept your final decree as-is, check with the court in your state to determine exactly how much time you have.

Final Order

Depending on how busy your court’s docket and your judge’s caseload are, he may or may not sign your decree immediately after your time to object expires. At a minimum, your divorce will take as long as your objection period, normally two to three weeks. You should then wait a reasonable amount of time for the judge to sign the magistrate’s decision into a decree which is likely to add another week or two, at most.

Lawyer Vs. No Lawyer

Unless you or your spouse used an attorney, the court staff usually takes care of preparing your decree for the judge’s signature. However, when an attorney is involved, the court will often ask him to prepare the decree instead, based on the magistrate’s report. Depending on how busy your lawyer is and when he does this, the process can take a little more time. He must then mail the finished decree to the court for the judge’s signature. However, you should be divorced within five to six weeks.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Order of Referral to Magistrate in the Dissolution of a Marriage

References

Related articles

How Long Is the Divorce Process in Alabama?

Some states are wary of letting couples divorce too easily or too quickly, and Alabama is one of them. The state has built provisions into its legislation to slow the process down a little. In reality, the waiting period is so short that it often has little or no effect, however. How long a divorce takes really depends on whether you and your spouse are fighting over myriad issues or can reach an amicable settlement.

The Time Between the Preliminary Hearing & the Final Hearing for Divorce in South Carolina

The divorce process in South Carolina can range anywhere from six to 18 months, from start to finish. No two cases are alike; therefore, the time frame of your case will depend on your particular set of circumstances. If your case is uncontested and you and your spouse have signed an agreement, your divorce will move through the divorce process much faster than a contested case.

Family Mediation Agreement

When it comes to dissolving a marriage and providing for the children involved, courts generally prefer that parents reach their own agreement rather than resort to litigation. Mediation is a means toward this end. It allows you to decide the terms of your divorce on your own, rather than have a judge – who doesn't intimately know your family – make orders for you in family court.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Happens if I Refuse to Sign a Separation Agreement in Virginia?

Virginia is one of a handful of states that does not recognize the phrase “legal separation,” but this ...

What to Expect at a Dissolution Hearing

By the time you've worked your way through the divorce process and it's almost over, you probably feel like an old pro. ...

What to Expect in Your Final Divorce Hearing on Your Trial Day in South Carolina

South Carolina encourages spouses to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce, such as property division and ...

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take After the Deposition in Virginia?

Your depositions -- formal statements, either oral or written, that carry the same importance as testimony in court -- ...

Browse by category