Mandatory Waiting Periods for Divorces

by Beverly Bird
You might have to wait a few months before your divorce is official.

You might have to wait a few months before your divorce is official.

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When you're looking forward to putting your divorce behind you, finding out that you must wait a statutory period of time before it is officially over can be frustrating. Not all states have mandatory waiting periods, so you might avoid this inconvenience depending on where you live. If your state has waiting periods, you can take heart in knowing that it won't last forever – although it might seem like it.

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Reasons for Waiting Periods

The idea behind mandatory waiting periods is that you might not move ahead with your divorce if you're given time to really think about it. Legislatures don't want to make it too easy for you to impulsively end your marriage. And, if your spouse doesn't pay child support as ordered, you could end up receiving public assistance. Research groups insist that divorce creates problems for children, and your government doesn't want to see this happen either. Sometimes, mandatory waiting period laws result from lobbying by religious and similar groups who are morally opposed to divorce.

Average Wait Times

In some states, such as Arkansas, the waiting period is over almost before the ink dries on your settlement agreement – it's only 30 days for an uncontested divorce. Then there are states like North Carolina, where the rule isn't actually called a waiting period, but it requires you to wait all the same. You must be separated for a year in this state to divorce. California's wait time is something of a middle ground between extremes -- six months. You can file for divorce at any time, but your case can't be finalized until six months have passed.