One of the first questions that people who may be considering a divorce, or whose spouse is considering divorce, often ask is exactly how long the divorce process takes in California. Divorce is often a stressful and even painful process and can involve a lot of uncertainty about the future and even delayed goals. Tied up with the question of how long the divorce process lasts are questions such as:

  • How long until I receive permanent spousal support or child support?
  • How long until I know what support I will owe?
  • How long until the division of property between my spouse and I becomes clear?
  • How long until I am free to remarry again?

A divorce is not finalized until a California family law court judge signs off on it, but some issues and questions may be able to be resolved prior to that with point with the help of an experienced family law attorney.

California’s Six-Month Waiting Period

California does impose a minimum six-month waiting period for a divorce before it can be finalized. This is unlike some other states where divorces may be obtained much more quickly. The six-month period begins the day that the initial divorce papers are served on the other spouse. Thus, the minimum amount of time that a divorce could take in California is six months and one day, assuming the initial papers are filed and served on the same day.

Why a Contested Divorce Can Take Longer

During the divorce process, both parties will have to disclose to one another and file with the court a full disclosure of their assets (including both community and separate assets) as well as income and expense declarations. As part of the divorce, determinations will have to be made regarding the division of all property held by the spouses, as well as any determinations relating to temporary and/or permanent spousal support, child custody (including physical custody and legal custody), and child support.

If the spouses are able to reach an agreement on all of these issues through negotiation (or have already agreed to them at the outset), then the entire process can be completed within the minimum six-month-and-a-day period. But if the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding any issues, then they will have to go to court to have the judge make judgments on these issues (although the parties remain free to reach an agreement at any point in the judicial process which can then be submitted to the judge). At that point, the schedule of the divorce will be based on the judge’s rulings and the backlog of the particular court, and could potentially go beyond a year.

Relief on Some Issues May Be Available Before Your Divorce is Finalized

Parties may be able to reach at least temporary solutions on some of their issues prior to the finalization of the divorce. For example, temporary spousal support may be able to be obtained early on in the divorce proceedings. Also, speaking with an attorney who understands how family courts typically rule on certain matters such as property division, custody, and support can give you an informed idea of how a court might rule on those issues in your situation.

If you have any questions on the divorce process, please contact one of the family law attorneys at the Access Lawyers Group today to schedule a consultation.