How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in California?
If you file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) today, how long until you are officially divorced?
If you conduct a Google search on “How long does a divorce take in California?” nearly every search result will assure you that you can be divorced within 6 months! Technically, that is true. That isn’t the whole story, however. The truth is that your divorce takes as long as you want it to!
Quick Divorce in California
With this mind, what can you do to make the process go faster? Agree to what the other spouse wants.
Once the divorce petition has been filed, California law dictates that the filing party must wait at least six months from the date the other spouse is served with the paperwork before the divorce can be finalized.
That doesn’t mean that the parties are stuck in limbo for 6 months though. If spouses have a full agreement on all issues (i.e. child custody, division of assets and debts, spousal and child support), then a stipulated judgment for an uncontested divorce can be drafted and submitted to the court by a divorce lawyer at any time after the responding party is served with the petition.
Status may not officially terminate until the 6 month after service of the petition date, but the parties are always fully free to resolve all other issues in their case at any time.
Any divorce that is resolved without disagreement (contest) is referred to as an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, either both parties agree to the terms of the divorce or the respondent fails to respond to the petition (which will result in a default judgment). These cases may involve court appearances. However, working with an attorney to complete the paperwork, and handle communications with the courthouse via mail, can save time and energy.
Many divorces start out as uncontested and later become contested for various reasons. Some spouses start feeling like they aren’t getting a fair shake when all of the facts are laid out in front of them. The process of disclosing all of the assets and debts of the community can result in one spouse’s disillusionment if they were not totally aware of the community’s finances beforehand.
Minimizing the risk of an uncontested divorce turning into a contested divorce is important to prevent the accrual of unnecessary costs and wasted time to the parties. This can be done by effectively negotiating a settlement that is fair and equitable.
For qualifying couples, California also offers a simplified procedure for a “quickie” divorce. The Summary Dissolution process allows spouses to jointly file a divorce petition under certain circumstances. The process will ultimately still take six months, but involves a simplified process.
To qualify for a summary dissolution of marriage, the couple must:
- Have been married for less than 5 years (from the date of marriage to the date of separation);
- Have no children together, born or adopted, before or during the marriage (and you are not expecting a child now);
- Do not own any part of land or buildings (meaning you can’t own a house);
- Do not rent any land or buildings (except for where you now live, as long as you do not have a 1-year lease or option to buy);
- Do not owe more than $6,000 in community debts (not including car loans);
- Have less than $45,000 worth of community property (not including cars);
- Not have separate property worth more than $45,000 (not including cars);
- Agree that neither spouse will ever get spousal support; AND
- Have signed an agreement that divides all community property (including cars) and community debts.
Couples seeking a summary dissolution will need to complete the following forms together: FL-800, FL-825, FL-150, FL-140, and FL-142 or FL-160.
Issues That Make The California Divorce Process Take Longer
If California divorces can be completed in 6 months, then why do some of them take years? At the beginning of this article, I said that a divorce takes as long as the parties want it to. If you are in the throws of a drawn-out divorce, that statement may have you balking. All too often, spouses in such divorces point the finger at the other spouse, certain everything has dragged on so long solely because of the unreasonable demands and actions of the opposing party. That is rarely the case, however.
The truth is that many spouses enter the divorce process without a clear understanding of what they may or may not be entitled to in a divorce, so their expectations are not reasonable, leading to increased litigation.
This is not always the case, as some divorces are simply more complex and demand more time and expertise than others.
Common issues that can cause a divorce to drag on are as follows:
Navigating the legal process can be complicated and daunting without the right family law attorney. If you have questions regarding the topic discussed in this article, it is advisable to contact a California divorce lawyer for a free consultation to find out what your options are.