The 17-Year Divorce Case

When a San Diego couple first considers getting a divorce one of the most common questions is: “How long will it take to be divorced?” Experienced family law attorney’s typically respond that there is no way to estimate the length of any given divorce case with any certainty. The length of time it takes to complete the divorce process is dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • The attitude of the parties
  • The parties’ tolerance for litigation
  • The attorneys (if any) hired by the clients
  • The court’s availability
  • The number and complexity of issues in the case

At a minimum, the parties must wait six months before they can officially terminate their marital status per the mandatory waiting period imposed by California Family Code 2339(a). However, this does not mean that the parties cannot settle all issues in their case and submit their final paperwork pending the conclusion of the six month waiting period.For two Ohio law professors, their divorce and other related disputes has lasted 17 years…so far. The shocking length of this controversy is even more surprising considering the divorce has lasted 7 years longer than the 10 year marriage. This incredibly litigious divorce has resulted in over 1400 entries in the former couple’s divorce file.

Most of the litigation began as a dispute over child custody and visitation. The parties have two children together who are currently ages 17 and 20. Now that one of the children is an adult and the other is nearly an adult, the parties will now turn the focus of their disputes on monetary issues still to be litigated.

Considering the legal background of the parties, most commentators are surprised that they were unable to resolve the majority of their disputes informally. In fact, the two attorneys were chastised by the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeal which wrote, “The parties, who are both law professors and ought to know better, engaged in thoroughly inappropriate behavior that was detrimental to the resolution of their case and to the welfare of their children for which both claimed to be primarily concerned.”

The Ohio District Court of Appeal went as far as to say both professors should be admonished by the Ohio State Bar.

In California, a spouse can be sanctioned for engaging in conduct which frustrates the public policy to promote settlement in litigation. This is because in domestic cases it is generally in the best interest of both parties to resolve their differences out of court – especially when children are involved. This case is a good teaching tool which stands for the proposition that not all battles that can be won should be fought. In family law, there are rarely “winners” and “losers” in a case. Both parties tend to suffer through litigation both emotionally and financially. Most battles are not worth the time, effort, and money necessary to win in court.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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