Approximately 31% of marriages end in divorce. Baby boomers born between 1957-1964 have a higher divorce rate than the average. Of those boomers married by age 46, 45% have been divorced at least once.
Second marriages have a 67% divorce rate, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
Divorce is a difficult decision, and the longer the divorce the harder it is to move forward. How long does a divorce take? That is the most frequent question after the decision has been made to file. The answer: That depends.
Making the Decision to File for Divorce
Once the decision has been made it must be determined whether you are going to use an attorney or file on your own. Unless you have been married short-term, have no assets and no children, this divorce lawyer is the best choice.
The divorce lawyer will negotiate the best settlement possible. They know the law and your rights. They work on getting you a settlement that preserves your portion of the assets.
What are the Steps to File for Divorce?
These steps must be properly completed by either you or your attorney. If representing yourself ignorance of the law is not an excuse for failing to follow the state law and court requirements. A divorce lawyer knows the steps and will keep your divorce moving forward.
- Complete complaint for divorce and summons. If you are filing without an attorney, the court has forms you can fill out to complete this step. If you hire an attorney, they will prepare a professional complaint.
- The spouse against whom the divorce is filed must be served. Service of the summons and complaint must be done by either personal service by a court officer or person who is not a party to the divorce, or by certified mail restricted delivery.
- File a Proof of Service with the court. This advises the court of the date the other party received service and establishes the deadline for when that spouse needs to file their answer. They must answer within 21 days of service if personally served and within 28 days if service was completed by certified mail.
After Complaint has been Served
- The responding party needs to prepare and file an Answer to Complaint for Divorce. If working without an attorney the court has forms that can be used to complete this step. If the spouse hires an attorney, then their attorney will prepare a formal answer. This is also the time when the responding spouse may file a Counter Complaint for Divorce.
- If a Counter Complaint for Divorce was filed, then an Answer to Counter Complaint for Divorce should be prepared, filed with the Court and served upon the other party. That party will then answer the counter-complaint.
The Discovery Process
- The discovery process is where both parties will be required to provide information on their assets and debt and obtain appraisals if needed. This information must be provided to the other party. This disclosure of all assets is needed to obtain a fair and equitable settlement. If the parties have lawyers, the two lawyers will handle the exchange of information and negotiate a settlement.
- The court will schedule hearings required for divorce during the course of the above events. The number of hearings may vary depending on what state you are in. In some states, you will have a pre-trial, settlement conference, and trial.
- If a settlement is reached prior to the trial, then a Pro-Confesso hearing may be scheduled. This is where the divorce is placed upon the record, the judge awards the divorce, and a Judgment of Divorce is prepared and filed with the court.
Can We Stay in the Same House While Divorcing?
That depends on your state law. Some states allow the parties to remain in the same home throughout the proceeding. The date of separation is based on when the parties stopped living as husband and wife.
Other states require the parties to be separated for a specific period of time before the divorce can be filed or completed. Some states require the parties to have separate homes for a specific period of time. South Carolina requires the parties to live separately with no sex for one year before filing.
How Long Does a Divorce Take?
There are numerous factors that affect how long your entire divorce will take. Most states have waiting periods. This is a time between when the divorce is filed and when it can be completed. It is designed to allow couples to reconsider the divorce before proceeding.
The waiting period varies by state. Louisiana and Virginia have a 6-month period with no kids, a 12-month period with kids. Michigan requires a 2-month wait with no kids, 6-months with kids. Nevada’s waiting period is 14-28 days.
The discovery period may take longer if the family has valuable assets, a business, collectible items, multiple homes, or any other possessions that require appraisals to determine their value.
If there are minor children time will be required to obtain recommendations on custody, parenting time, and child support.
If it is an amicable divorce, the settlement is usually reached easily and the divorce moves forward at a quick pace. If the parties are not agreeable on the division of assets, reaching a settlement will take longer and may require a trial.
It is always preferable to reach a settlement rather than have a judge decide how your belongings will be divided.
The judge’s docket will be a determining factor in how fast you get into court. Hearings may be delayed due to the court having a heavy caseload, requiring a longer waiting period for your court date.
If You are Thinking of Divorce or Have Been Served with Divorce Papers
Divorce is an emotional experience. You need to make sure you receive an equitable settlement. Meeting the requirements of court deadlines, negotiating a settlement, establishing child custody, support, and parenting time, and determining whether spousal support should be awarded requires time and legal knowledge.
These things need to be handled quickly and effectively. You need a legal professional who can negotiate on your behalf. After discussing your specific situation, a divorce lawyer can provide a good estimation of the question of how long does a divorce take. Protect your assets and the best interests of your children. Hire an attorney for your divorce.