Have you and your spouse decided that you want to go your separate ways? If so, it’s not something you’re going to be able to do in a legal sense right away.
While you and your spouse are free to start living in different houses if you want, you’ll have to go through the divorce process before your split is official. And this process is something that can take some time to play out.
So, how long does a divorce take? The truth is that it all depends on a number of different factors.
Everything from the state in which you and your spouse live to whether or not you and your spouse have kids can affect the answer to the question, “How long do divorces take?” More often than not, the divorce process will be over within a year—but even that could be wishful thinking in some cases.
Here is how you can expect things to go once the divorce process begins.
You Begin the Process by Deciding You Want a Divorce
The first step that you’re going to have to take as part of the divorce process is deciding that you want to cut ties with your spouse. This is sometimes the hardest step for people to take, even when they’re not happy in their marriages.
There are about 800,000 couples that get divorced each year. But in recent years, the divorce rate has gone down as more couples seem to be trying to stick things out.
You should think long and hard before deciding to divorce your spouse. Once you kickstart the process and get a divorce lawyer involved, it’s going to be difficult to reverse course. Make sure you’re committed to moving forward with a divorce before you get things going.
You Have a Lawyer Draw Up a Divorce Petition
If you decide that you are, in fact, going to divorce your spouse, you need to do more than just let them know about it in an unofficial capacity. You also need to give them a heads up about it through a divorce lawyer.
Speak with a lawyer about your desire to ask your spouse for a divorce, and they’ll draw up a divorce petition to you. You can then either give your spouse this petition on your own or hire someone to do it for you if you suspect your spouse might be unwilling to accept the petition from you.
Your Spouse Is Served With Divorce Papers and Given Time to Respond
After your lawyer is finished drawing up a divorce petition, your spouse will be given the divorce papers. They will then have some time to mull over your decision and to think about what they want to do next.
Every state operates a little bit differently when it comes to giving people time to respond to a divorce petition. It’s why it’s so tough to answer the question, “How long is the divorce process?”
But generally speaking, your spouse will often have about a month to respond and let your local courts know whether they’re going to agree to a divorce or not.
You can, of course, still divorce your spouse if they don’t agree with your decision to do it. But it’s going to take a little more work on your part if that ends up being the case.
Your Lawyer and Your Spouse’s Lawyer Attempt to Come to Terms on Your Divorce
Once you reach this point, the best course of action is for your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer to sit down and try to come to some kind of agreement on the terms of your divorce. This can help you avoid having to go through a lengthy court process to hammer out the details of your divorce.
There are all kinds of things that can make it hard, if not impossible, for spouses to agree on the terms of a divorce. You may run into complications if:
- You and your spouse have kids and can’t agree on custodial terms and/or child support
- You and your spouse have a bunch of assets and can’t work out a way to split them up
- You and/or your spouse are unwilling to accept divorce as a viable option and refuse to participate in any divorce-related negotiations
In a perfect world, you and your spouse will agree on most things during your divorce proceedings and have what’s called an “uncontested” divorce. This will make things simpler for both of you and cut down on the amount of time you spend in divorce court.
But if you have a “contested” divorce, that’s when things can get messy. That’s also when you could end up spending well over a year seeking a divorce.
Learn more about how to have an amicable divorce so that you can skip all the fighting in court.
A Judge Oversees Your Divorce Case and Signs Off on It
Regardless of whether you go through a contested or uncontested divorce, a judge is going to be appointed to your case. They’ll review the agreement that you and your spouse came with up out of court or hear your case in court and help work out the details of your divorce.
Either way, the divorce process is going to end with a judge signing off on the terms of your divorce. But that’s the portion of the process that could take the longest time and leave you wondering, “How long does a divorce take?”
Many judges are so busy and backed up with cases that it takes them weeks, if not months, to get around to signing off on divorces. In the meantime, you’ll just have to sit back and wait for them to get around to making a final decision on your case.
How Long Does a Divorce Take? It Could Take a Long Time
Before you begin the divorce process, it’s a good idea for you to consider if you’re ready for it. The process could drag out over many months and make your life more stressful than it should be.
Meet with a lawyer and have them answer the question, “How long does a divorce take?”, after reviewing your situation. They should be able to give you a better idea of how long it’s going to take for you and your spouse to officially call it quits.
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