When a couple mutually agrees to divorce and can reach a joint settlement outside of court, divorce can be a quick process. On the other hand, if a couple has unresolved disputes, anger or property disagreements, these issues can prolong the divorce. Although the time frames for divorce and the process of handling legal disputes varies among states, in many cases, complex joint holdings and unresolved disagreements will prolong the divorce process.
The anger, sadness, and other negative feelings that come with divorce can do more than just create stress; these emotions may also stretch out the divorce process. In some instances, couples’ strong feelings can make it difficult for them to think rationally and negotiate settlements. When a couple cannot reach a mutually agreeable settlement because of hard feelings, the case may have to go to trial, which makes the divorce process significantly longer.
Lack of Cooperation
In some instances, one spouse wants to divorce while her partner does not. In these situations, the partner who does not want the divorce may try to stall the proceedings deliberately by not responding to official paperwork, refusing to comply with requests for documents or hiding income and assets. A noncompliant spouse might try to prolong a divorce by filing frivolous motions or other unnecessary paperwork, although the court might levy sanctions or other legal penalties for actions like that. This frivolous litigation can prolong the process of divorce.
If a couple cannot reach agreement on issues such as child custody, property division, child support and alimony, then then a judge will need to adjudicate these issues, explains the American Bar Association. In child custody disputes, the court may also need to employ a third-party custody evaluator to determine what arrangement is in the child's best interest. Even if the couple cannot reach a mutually agreeable arrangement on one just issue, this will often mean that the court will need to hold a hearing or trial and make a determination for the couple.
When a couple has retirement benefits, real estate holdings or business assets, the court or the parties’ attorneys may require appraisals and careful assessment of holdings. For example, if a couple or one spouse owns a business, the court will need to assess the value of both tangible and intangible property and revenue. This appraisal and assessment process can be time consuming.