If there is one question that those embarking on a divorce are sure to ask their lawyer, you can bet the question is: How long does it take to get a divorce? Understandably, parties going through a divorce are always concerned about how long their case will last for many reasons, whether it be because of the impact on their children, the cost of the process, or planning the potential move from a residence.
When asked how long does it take to get a divorce, I always explain that unfortunately there is not a clear and concise answer I can give. Divorce can be over and done in a week and divorces can go on for many years. It all depends on the situation at hand and every case is different. What I can tell my clients is that there are numerous factors that will impact the time your divorce will take.
Factors effecting how long divorce takes:
1. Child custody issues. If the parties to a divorce are entangled in a dispute regarding the custody of their children, the divorce is likely to take longer than the typical case. Custody battles often involve experts (child psychologists, therapists, etc.), the appointment of an attorney for the children by the court, and custody evaluations. Custody evaluations, performed by experts appointed by the court, will usually take several months and can typically cause cases to go on longer than your average divorce. Additionally, if one party does not like the recommendations of the expert from the initial custody evaluation, courts will often allow the litigant to retain another expert to complete an entirely new custody evaluation, further prolonging the process.
2. A business needs to be valued. When the parties to a divorce have a marital business, the company often will need to be valued so a dollar amount can be established for the business. Businesses are typically valued by experts who specialize in assigning a value to a business. Without valuing the company, family law attorneys and the parties themselves would be left to guess or estimate the value of the company and this is not advisable unless the parties can stipulate or agree on the the value of the company. The need to value a business can often prolong the case not just because of the initial valuation of the business, which is often sought by the party not involved in the running of the company. Once this spouse has the company valued, the figure reached for the value of the company will often be much higher than the other party expected. In response, an additional valuation of the company will be necessary to combat the figure reached by the initial appraisal of the company. As you can see, the back and forth of employing experts for business valuations and conducting the valuations themselves will always serve to delay the resolution of a divorce.
3. An unreasonable lawyer or party is involved. It takes two to tango. Or in the case of a divorce, possibly four. As you are aware, it takes the agreement of 2 spouses to reach an agreement. In the realm of divorce, you will also likely need the agreement of the divorce attorneys involved as well, as parties are typically reliant on the advice of their lawyers in reaching a settlement. Often times, one will endure an unreasonable party/spouse which prevents the divorce from settling and being resolved within a reasonable amount of time. For whatever the reason, maybe the spouse doesn’t want to get divorce, maybe the spouse wants to prolong the marriage for financial reasons, or even just to make their spouse miserable one last time, some people just act unreasonably and this leads to the delay of a resolution of their case. On top of that, there are divorce lawyers out there who provide their clients with unreasonable expectations when it comes to settlement and resolution of their case and this serves to drag out the proceedings or take the case to trial in times where that is simply not necessary. Whether it be an unreasonable party or an unreasonable attorney, both can lead to prolonging the divorce process.
4. Complicated finances. This would appear to be pretty obvious, but the more complex the finances of the divorcing couple, the longer the case is likely to take. Those whose finances involve the valuation of a business (which we just addressed), complex compensation structures, real estate, securities, investments, and the valuation of other marital or non-marital assets will typically have to wait longer before getting their divorces finalized. The more complex the finances, the more information that must be sought and analyzed by the attorneys and experts, and the longer the process. When the marital estate is simple, less discovery process will be required and the case will typically be resolved sooner.
The above four reasons are just a few of the factors in determining how long divorce takes. Every case is different and involves different people in different situations. At the end of the day, if a couple approaches the divorce process with logic and the ability to look at the “big picture” their case will typically take a reasonable amount of time, leaving both parties satisfied at the end.