More often than not, one of the first questions our office receives when someone is inquiring about a divorce is “how long will my divorce take?” This question, like so many other legal questions, often depends on the circumstances of the case. While it is our hope to get you through this process as swiftly as possible, there are certain obstacles that must be passed before your judgment is entered and your divorce is finalized.
First, in California, no divorce can be finalized before six months. This is due to Family Code section 2339, which states in part, “…no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance by the respondent, whichever occurs first.” This six-month waiting period is because California’s public policy is to promote and support marriages. For those couples who may have filed prematurely, this cooling off period allows couples to re-consider whether divorce is the best option for them. Having this waiting period also allows some of the pressure to be lifted and for couples to continue to work on their relationship.
Next, the California court system itself could be a reason why your divorce takes longer than six months. California courts are over utilized, understaffed, and underfunded. Due to this, there are significant delays in obtaining a hearing date and/or processing paperwork. For example, say you and your spouse cannot agree on a child custody and visitation plan. One party must file a motion so that this issue can be heard and decided by a judge. Depending on the courtroom, a hearing may not be set until several months later (often at least 3 months.) Therefore, even if this was the last issue to be ironed out in your case, you must wait several months for a hearing date.
Lastly, the unique nature of family law could be a reason why your divorce lingers on. Often there are emotional and financial issues that have been happening over the course of the marriage. These issues often must be fleshed out in order to determine the most fair and equitable result for both parties. Sometimes, for any number of reasons, one party stalls or slows down the process, resulting in a lengthier divorce than others.
Although a party cannot finalize their divorce before six months, there is nothing stopping the couple from coming to a full settlement agreement before the six-month period ends. This is ideally what happens because it helps the parties move on with their lives sooner. It is important to have a family law attorney who recognizes the challenges with getting a divorce over the finish line.
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