On behalf of Law Offices of Kathleen G. Alvarado on Monday, July 30, 2018.

If you and your spouse have been having problems for a while now, you might think divorce is your best option. But divorce can take a long time and you might not know what you are in for. How long is the divorce process?

The process

Divorce has many steps, with smaller tasks at each step. Here is a basic overview of the process:

  1. Petition – First, a petition needs to be written, usually by a lawyer, that states why one spouse wants a divorce. The petition must also state how disputes will be settled. The petition should then be filed with a court.
  2. Answer – After the petition is filed, the other spouse has to be served the petition. This spouse will then have to provide an answer to the petition, stating if they agree with it and whether or not they agree with how the first spouse wants to settle the disputes.
  3. Exchange of information – Then, the couple has to provide information to each other and their lawyers about their property and income in order to come to an agreement about how to divide their assets.
  4. Settlement – This is where decisions are made regarding asset division and child custody, for example. This process can happen a few different ways including using mediation, arbitration or litigation. During this process, the couple will have to discuss how they want to divide their finances and other property. Child custody and child support or alimony can also be decided during this process. Regardless of how it is determined, the couple has to reach a settlement regarding these elements.
  5. Agreement – When the couple reaches a settlement, they have to present the agreement to a judge at a hearing, prior to signing the agreement.
  6. Decree – Finally, if a judge approves the agreement, a divorce decree is issued that outlines the agreement.

Additional steps

The previous process is a generalized best-case scenario. In some situations you will need to add a trial and potential appeal to the list of steps, if the judge does not approve of the settlement and agreement. Litigation can also take much longer than some people might expect in creating a settlement.

There are also various waiting periods that you may have to factor into your timeline. In California, this waiting period is six months.

All things considered, a divorce can take anywhere from the minimum of six months to a few years to finalize. However, all cases are different and there is no set rule-of-thumb for how divorce is settled or finalized. If you think you and your spouse should split, keep this timeline in mind and consider whether or not the divorce process, and length, is best for you.