How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in California?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in California?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

The length of time it takes to get a divorce in California depends on several variables, including whether or not you have children, own property, and how many assets you both own. Other considerations include the relationship you currently have with your spouse and if a pre nuptial agreement existed when you entered into the marriage.

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Residency Requirements and Waiting Period

First, for most couples, in order to get a divorce in California, at least one party must reside in the state for a minimum of six months. Further, there is a six-month waiting period between filing for divorce and the divorce being decreed. There are two ways to start the clock:

  • If the Couple Agrees and Files Jointly: When a couple agrees to get a divorce, under certain circumstances they can file for a summary dissolution. In this case, the couple files for divorce together. The waiting period starts upon the filing of the paperwork.
  • If One Person Files for Divorce: Where a couple does not file for divorce together, the six-month clock does not start until the divorce papers have been filed and the filing party serves the other party. Typically, service only takes a few days. However, cases where the other party's whereabouts are unknown or the party is actively attempting to avoid service can result in a delay of weeks to months.

Coming to an Agreement

If the parties agree on all issues, they can write a joint agreement and file it with the court. The parties can submit their agreement at the time of filing or later if they need some time to resolve all aspects of their divorce. Parties often meet with a mediator to resolve their issues. If a couple submits an agreement, the judge usually signs it into a decree of divorce when the waiting period ends.

When the parties cannot agree, a court must decide the issues through a trial. As such, how quickly one can get a divorce becomes dependent on how quickly a trial court can schedule a hearing when all relevant parties and witnesses are available. The court then takes testimony on the issues, which may require one or more days. Then the court takes the case under advisement and considers the issues before issuing a ruling.

Bifurcating a Divorce

Sometimes, the parties can agree on some, but not all, of the relevant issues. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the parties may qualify for a bifurcated divorce. In a bifurcated divorce, the court first addresses the issue of ending the marriage and waits to address the contested issues later.

Courts do not grant requests for bifurcated divorces in every case. However, sometimes the circumstances merit this approach. Issues in a bifurcated divorce can include:

  • Permanent custody of the children
  • Visitation
  • The date of the separation of the parties
  • Whether a prenuptial agreement is valid

Sometimes, the resolution of one issue results in the resolution of all issues. For example, in California, the division of assets is based on the assets acquired during the marriage. As such, the date of separation can be an issue, because this date may determine whether a piece of property belongs to one party alone or both parties together. When a court determines the legal date of separation, the issue of property division may also resolve.

The length of time it takes to get a divorce in California depends on the couple's residency prior to filing for divorce, the ease of locating and serving the other party, the ability of the couple to resolve their issues, the court's calendar and availability, and, in some cases, the willingness or unwillingness of the court to bifurcate the issues involved in the divorce.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.