Length of Divorce Proceedings

by Victoria McGrath
Couples without children or marital property may qualify for a simplified divorce.

Couples without children or marital property may qualify for a simplified divorce.

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Couples who refuse to communicate with each other or negotiate a settlement agreement often face a long, drawn-out battle in court. Complicated divorces with child custody issues and property disputes can take years to resolve. Even simple divorces with no children and limited assets might take several months to finalize. In some cases, you can expedite the process by completing your legal forms online.

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Uncontested Divorce Without Children

For a fast and least expensive divorce, some states offer a simplified divorce. Simplified divorces generally require you and your spouse to agree on the divorce, have minimal property, no outstanding financial obligations and no minor children.The general requirements and name for a simplified divorce vary from state to state. In Florida, a couple without children together must submit a written agreement to divide their property and reach a marital settlement agreement regarding all other matters. After you and you spouse appear in person to file the divorce petition, the court can schedule a final hearing in approximately 30 days. In Texas, you must file your return receipt with the court at least 12 days before your final hearing and then wait 61 days before your divorce is finalized. A simple divorce may take a month, a few months or several months.

Uncontested Divorce With Children

If you and your spouse agree on an uncontested divorce and want to submit a marital settlement agreement, this can expedite the divorce process even if you have minor children. You save time on serving the documents by having your spouse sign a waiver of service. You can include child custody and child support issues in your marital settlement agreement, but the court may still require court-ordered mediation. If the judge approves your marital settlement agreement and attaches it to your court order for a divorce, you can avoid a lengthy trial. Some states establish a mandatory waiting period for your divorce to be finalized, such as 60 days or six months.

Contested Divorce With or Without Children

If you cannot settle issues including property division, child custody, amount of child support or spousal maintenance, your divorce proceeds as a contested divorce. Contested divorces can take several months or years to finalize. If you file for divorce, you must serve a copy of the divorce complaint or petition for dissolution on your spouse. If you cannot locate your spouse or your spouse intentionally evades service, the divorce proceedings can be delayed by 30 to 40 days. Once you serve your spouse, your spouse must reply within the legal time frame. If your spouse files an answer with the court, but disagrees with information in your divorce complaint, your divorce case typically proceeds to court. Some contested divorce cases involve a preliminary hearing, case management conference, pretrial hearing and divorce trial, which are scheduled over several months or even years.

Lengthy Divorce Cases

In some states, it can take more than a year before you even reach your trial date. For example, in North Carolina, you must be separated for at least one year before you can file your divorce complaint. Once you file your complaint, you must serve your spouse within five days, and your spouse has 30 days to respond to your complaint with an answer. If you raise a claim for custody in your complaint, your spouse can file a counterclaim for custody. You have 30 days to reply to the counterclaim or request a 30-day extension. In this instance, you might file after a year separation, take five days to serve your spouse, wait 30 days for an answer and reply within 30 days to the counterclaim. This example shows that it can take 430 days to initiate the divorce proceedings, before you even attend a preliminary hearing.