A common question when a person is considering a divorce is how long the process will take. While a lawyer’s answer will generally be something along the lines of “it depends”, there are some factors, especially in California, that can help narrow down the timeline.
In California, the state has a mandatory 6 month waiting period from the date the Petition for Dissolution is served before a final divorce judgment can be entered. This means that you cannot be deemed legally single for 6 months and one day from the date the Petition was served. While this may seem like a long time to wait from start to finish, most divorces actually take much longer than this depending on the different issues that need to be settled or determined by the court before a judgment can be entered. Further, this does not mean that you can’t settle all of your issues, such as property division, support and custody during this time. You can in theory have an entire agreement completed and filed, you will just have to wait until the six months have passed in order to be legally “single” again.
When parties cannot agree on the outstanding issues in any given matter, the divorce process tends to take much longer. This is because to the extent parties cannot agree, the court will have to make decisions. This leaves the parties at the mercy of the court system, and its calendar and schedules.
There are generally three topics that come up during a divorce case: Property Division (including any reimbursements), Child Custody and Visitation, and Child and Spousal Support.
Before property division and support can be addressed, each party must complete and serve the other with Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures. These must be served within 60 days of service of the Petition, for the Petitioner, and 60 days of service of the Response, for the Respondent. These forms provide each party with full and complete information regarding the assets and debts that exist, as well as the income and expenses of the other party, so that discussions surrounding property division and support can occur. If the parties are able to agree on these issues, they may enter into a written agreement and never have to go to court. If the parties are unable to agree, however, there are various means to continue to work towards settlement, through the court. Ultimately, a trial will have to be held, in order to make orders, if the parties do not agree. In this case, the proceedings can drag out for months, or even years.
Another facet of the divorce process that can be quite litigious is that of child custody and visitation. If custody and visitation are contested, in Santa Clara County, the parties must attend Mediation with Family Court Services, before the court will make any orders. If the parties cannot agree at Mediation, the court will set a Post Mediation Hearing to make orders. There are also other options for determining custody and visitation, such as Emergency Screenings and Custody Evaluations, which may be ordered depending on the facts of any given case.
These are just a few issues which may arise in a divorce case which can affect the timeline. Life Change Index Scale recently did a study which found that most divorces take about a year to complete. However, ultimately the timing of a specific case will vary depending on the unique factors of the individual case.
At Argyris Mah, LLP, we are dedicated to helping our clients obtain finality in their divorce, no matter what stage of litigation they find themselves in. If you are interested in learning more about the divorce process and your own timeline, contact us for a free consultation at 408-214-6366 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org