How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?

By Beverly Bird

Uncontested divorce is an often misunderstood concept of law. By definition, it simply means that you and your spouse have reached an agreement and you don’t require a judge to make any decisions regarding your children or your property. The road to that agreement can be short or long. After you’ve reached an agreement, you can generally be divorced in a relatively short period of time.

Reaching an Agreement

The simplest and speediest of uncontested divorces occur when spouses have a signed marital settlement agreement before even filing for divorce. They’ve ironed out their differences ahead of time, and they can note this in the divorce petition. In such situations, you can usually be divorced immediately, as soon as you’ve met your state’s waiting requirement. Other spouses file for divorce and then attempt to begin hammering out an agreement. This process of negotiating can take several months to a year or more, depending on how contentious your matter is. You may have to engage in a period of discovery, exchanging financial documentation, or require custody evaluations and property appraisals. Even if you settle at the eleventh hour, just before trial, your divorce is considered uncontested if a judge doesn't have to rule on your issues.

Waiting Periods

Some states impose waiting periods after the filing of a complaint or petition for divorce and before the court can grant a final decree. Even if you have a settlement agreement going in, you usually must wait out this time. The courts want to make sure you really do want to be divorced, and the waiting periods allow you time to reflect and change your mind. Often, spouses will use these waiting periods to negotiate a settlement if they don't have one going in. Once you have an agreement, you can possibly receive a divorce the day after the waiting period expires. This can be as quickly as 20 days in Florida and 30 days in Georgia, to as long as 18 months in some states.

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Divorce by Default

If you serve your spouse with a complaint for divorce and he doesn’t respond by filing an answer with the court within a statutory period of time, usually 20 to 35 days, you can ask the court to enter default against him. This also means your divorce is uncontested, just as if you had reached an agreement, because your spouse is not forcing a judge to make decisions for you. You’ll have to wait out the time he has in which to respond, then wait for the court to schedule a default hearing to finalize your matter. This can take anywhere from one to three months.

Final Hearing

Some states allow you to simply submit your written and signed settlement agreement to the court, and a judge will sign off on it and include it in a divorce decree. Other states require one or both spouses to appear in court to formally end their marriage. In either case, receiving a final decree can take four to six weeks after you submit your agreement to the court. If you reached the agreement before you even filed, and if your state has no waiting period or only a minimal waiting period, you could conceivably reach this point and finalize everything within a couple of months.

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How Long to Get a Divorce in Illinois?
 

References

Related articles

Define Contested Divorce

If you can’t reach an agreement with your spouse regarding how to end your marriage, your divorce is contested. Contested means that you’re in a position where you must let a judge decide one or more issues between you because you can’t do it on your own. However, a contested divorce is not necessarily an absolute and permanent condition. Many divorces begin as contested matters but never go to trial because spouses settle and eventually reach an agreement.

In Arizona, What Happens After the Waiting Period in Your Divorce?

Many states, including Arizona, have built time periods into their divorce legislation, during which a case cannot move forward. In Arizona, this waiting period is 60 days, and it allows spouses time to reconsider before their divorce is finalized. Under the best of circumstances, the soonest you can be divorced in this state is 61 days after you have your spouse served with your paperwork.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in Missouri?

The duration of a divorce almost always depends on how much you want to fight. If you and your spouse agree on how to resolve issues between you, the process can move relatively quickly. If you can’t agree and need the court to make decisions for you, the process will draw out. Missouri’s Supreme Court likes to see divorces resolved within eight months, but that’s not an iron-clad law. Depending on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, it can take anywhere from one month to two years or more.

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