How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California?
How long does the divorce process take in California? The answer is, "It depends." Several factors impact the length of time it takes from the date you file papers to the date your marriage is officially over. Let's look at each one.
What do you need to do to get divorced in California?
Meet state and county residency requirements
At least one of you must have been a California resident for the last six months and a resident of the county where you file for the last three months. So, if you want to divorce quickly, avoid moving before filing. California is one of the few states with a fairly long waiting period. You must file your paperwork and serve the other party at least six months before the divorce can be finalized.
Reach a settlement agreement
The court expects you and your spouse to use this time to arrive at any property and custody agreements. You can also use this time to make sure divorce is what you really want. If you and your spouse cannot agree on custody arrangements, the court requires you to attend mediation before your hearing.
If you and your spouse are ready to divorce but have not finalized all issues, California has a funny legal device called a "bifurcation." This means the court will terminate your marital status at the six-month mark (or whenever you requested it after the six-month mark). All other issues are left open for you and your ex to continue negotiating.
Is there a way to speed things up and get a "quick divorce?"
While there isn't really a "fast track" option for divorce in California (everyone needs to go through the 6-month waiting period), if you and your spouse communicate well, behave reasonably, and quickly come to an agreement you could be finished with your divorce relatively close to the 6-month timeframe. Keep in mind that most California divorces, especially those where the exes find their way to an agreement or have their divorce attorneys fighting it out, take an average of 12 to 18 months to complete.
Another option is a summary dissolution. If your marriage lasted less than five years, no children are involved, you don't own real estate, and your assets and debts are small, you may qualify. Major perk: A summary dissolution often avoids a hearing. You and your spouse must still exchange financial information, agree on property and debt division, and file everything with the court. The six-month waiting period still applies, too. However, you can file everything in one go. This means avoiding the additional fees and time off work entailed by multiple court dates.
Get a summary dissolution with Hello Divorce for only $1,500 total for both of you. Learn more here.
What if my divorce is taking a long time?
If your divorce involves a lot of property, complex business transactions, or a heated custody battle, it may take much longer. Chances are it will also cost more, given the price of additional filings, lawyer's fees, and the potential need to hire experts.
If you and your spouse fail to effectively communicate, lawyers must do it for you. And, you must pay for each phone call and email they make to the other side. Further, they will likely need to conduct a discovery. This includes depositions and requests for documents and other evidence that could be used to help or defend each party's case. Compiling, analyzing, copying, and sending these documents costs money. To minimize costs, each party should cooperate with transparency.
How long will your divorce will take in California?
Divorce can take anywhere from six months to multiple years to complete. A lot depends on how well you and your spouse get along. If children are involved, a protracted divorce will only harm the family. If just property is involved, lawyers often walk away with a huge share of the community estate.
Being unreasonable or acting with a vengeful vendetta undermines the divorce process. Yes, the court system is inherently adversarial. But parties and their lawyers should aim to cooperate and be as reasonable as possible to preserve family harmony and the value of the estate.