How Long Does a Divorce Take?
One of the most common questions I get as a divorce mediator is “How long does a divorce take?” For some, they want to rush through it as fast as possible, while others want to take their time. Ultimately, the length of divorce is dependent on the needs of the couple, but there are a few factors to consider.
Legally, most states have what is called a “waiting period.” A waiting period is basically an amount of time the court wants you to “wait” and consider if you actually want a divorce. This is similar to states that require you get your marriage license with a certain amount of advance time prior to your wedding, to prevent shot-gun weddings. A divorce waiting period is just typically much longer than the waiting period for a wedding license. Here in Arizona, our waiting period is 60 days, while in California it is 6 months. That means that your divorce cannot be completed in less than the waiting period time, regardless of what process you use.
Typically, the process you choose will also control how long your divorce takes. In Arizona, for example, divorce in litigation (going to court with attorneys) on average takes 1 year in length, although it can be much longer depending on your case. Mediation, on the other hand, is typically about 2 - 5 months, depending on how quickly the couple wants to move through the process. In mediation, you control your timeline (other than the waiting period we discussed) while in court, you are controlled by the court’s calendar. Additionally, mediation allows you to take the time you need if you want a longer process. I worked with a couple who were dividing complicated assets and debts, including their business. In their situation, it made sense to extend their process to over a year long, and we were able to accommodate because the clients control the timeline in mediation.
Often, you and your spouse are going to be at different places emotionally when going through a divorce. Commonly, the spouse who says they want a divorce has already had time to begin to work through the emotions of the divorce long before the other spouse even knew it was happening. This means you are always going to be at different places emotionally throughout your process and that is completely normal. It is important to remember though that a divorce is a process you both are going through and you need to find a balance in your timeline. By moving faster than one person is ready to move or slower than the other is comfortable with, conflict will inevitably ensue.
Talk with your divorce professional about your ideal timeline and ask questions to understand what a realistic timeline may look like in your circumstances. This will help you have a better understanding and expectation of what is to come from the very beginning.