If you and your spouse can reach a settlement agreement, it can significantly reduce the time necessary to finalize the divorce. A settlement agreement typically includes all the terms of the divorce, such as property division, alimony and child custody arrangements. If you fail to come to an agreement with your spouse, the court might require you both to attend mediation to sort through your differences. If you fail to reach an agreement in mediation -- and your spouse continues to contest the terms of the divorce, or contests the grounds for divorce -- your divorce case might go to trial, which can take anywhere from six months to more than a year.
Joint Petition for Divorce
Some states, including Ohio and Oregon, allow couples to file a joint petition for divorce, which speeds up the divorce process. In states that allow it, you can file a joint petition when both you and your spouse agree on all the terms of the divorce or are close to reaching an agreement. By jointly filing, you do not need to follow the time-consuming steps of serving the divorce complaint on your spouse and waiting for him to file an answer. However, just because you file jointly does not mean you can obtain your divorce in two months. For example, in Ohio, even when you file jointly, it can still take up to 90 days for the court to finalize your divorce.
Some states, including Florida and California, allow couples to file for a summary or simplified divorce. Like a joint petition, a summary dissolution allows the couple to avoid many of the procedures involved with traditional divorce proceedings, including a trial. However, states generally have strict qualifying criteria, disallowing many couples the option of filing for a simplified divorce. Simplified divorces are typically available to couples who do not have children, do not want alimony, do not have a lot of assets, and agree on how they will divide property.
Waiting periods before a court will finalize the divorce are common -- even in cases of summary divorce or when couples agree to the terms of the divorce -- but vary among states. For example, in California, even if you file for a summary divorce and agree on property division, the court will not finalize your divorce until six months after the filing date. Similarly, Oregon has a three-month waiting period, even if the parties file a joint petition. However, in Florida, there is only a 20-day waiting period from the date of filing for all types of divorce. Furthermore, a Florida judge can waive the 20-day waiting period under certain circumstances, such as when the parties have a marital settlement agreement that includes a clause waiving the waiting period. Another state in which you can obtain a divorce quickly is Nevada, which has no waiting period. To obtain a divorce in Nevada, one party must reside in the state for six weeks -- and if the parties agree to all terms of the divorce, the divorce may be finalized in as little as two to three weeks.
Even with uncontested divorces, many states require that the couple -- or at least one party -- attend a final hearing. During the final hearing, the court reviews the settlement agreement to ensure that it is fair to both spouses. Depending on the schedule of the court, waiting for the final hearing might extend the divorce process past any required waiting period.