How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced? The Process Explained

Despite what some pundits may claim about the sanctity of marriage going downhill, people seem to be staying married more than they once were. The often-quoted 50% divorce rate statistic (itself the result of bad methodology) has contracted in recent years, down to about 14.9 divorces per 1000 marriages. However, if you and your spouse have decided to call it splits, navigating what lies ahead can be tricky.

How long does it take to get divorced? What can you expect during the divorce process? These questions and more will be answered below.

How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced?

The simple answer to this question is, “It depends.” The more complicated answer is that varies depending on many different factors. These factors include, but are not limited to:

Where You Live

The state in which you and your spouse live has a drastic effect on how long it takes for you to get divorced. Paternity involves the legal proceeding to establish a father’s rights, as The Sanders Firm, P.A. explains

Many states have periods of mandatory separation or a “cooling off” period before you can submit your petition for the dissolution of your marriage. Some states may not even allow you to file for divorce until you’ve been separated for at least a year. You’ll need to speak with a local lawyer to determine your state’s particular regulations.

Additionally, once the case is in the system, your family court’s workload will have a major impact on how long it takes for the divorce process to finalize. If there’s a massive backlog of cases at your city’s family court, you may end up waiting for several months before you can end your marriage legally.

If It’s Contested or Uncontested

In general, uncontested divorces will go more quickly and smoothly than contested ones. In an uncontested divorce, both parties reach an agreement without the need for a trial. In such cases, you and your ex-spouse sign off on the relevant paperwork and wait for the judge to glance over it, making sure it’s in order before it gets approved.

If the divorce is a contested one, things get complicated fast. In a contested divorce, parties cannot reach a suitable agreement or settlement out of court, and the only way to settle their differences is to bring the matter before a judge. Sadly, in an acrimonious divorce, this is the more likely scenario.

Who’s At Fault, If Anyone

Here’s the thing about filing for a fault-based divorce: it slows things down to a glacial pace. Establishing grounds for a fault-based divorce (e.g. adultery, cruelty, inhuman treatment, etc.) takes far longer for the system to process than a no-fault divorce. For sheer convenience, even when grounds for a fault-based divorce exist, many who get divorced opt for no-fault so that the process ends more quickly.

What Resources Are At Play

The answer to the question, “How long does it take to get divorced?”, may well depend on the amount of money or other resources at play. If either party sees an opportunity to make a large paycheck at the expense of the other, they may call for divorce appraisals on the ex-spouse’s property. Additionally, if custody is at issue, the courtroom battle may necessitate family therapy or even a criminal investigation.

So, What Does a Standard Divorce Timeline Look Like?

With so many factors affecting the waiting periods, it’s hard to pin down an exact divorce timeline. However, our guide below will give you a decent estimate on how long it will take when it’s time to get a divorce.

Serving the Papers

This part will likely take the longest, as it is the most beholden to states’ requirements. Depending on your state’s waiting period and mandatory separation requirements, it can take anywhere from ninety days to a full year before you can file your petition for the dissolution of your marriage. Once that petition is filed, alongside any restraining orders if need be, the divorce timeline begins.

How long it takes to start the next phase depends on the response and wait time for serving the papers to the court and your ex-spouse. If the spouse refuses to respond to the served paperwork, it can slow things down. However, after three weeks of silence, it’s presumed that the ex-spouse agrees to the terms, and the next step begins.

Temporary Arrangements

Once both spouses have filed or responded to the appropriate paperwork, it’s time to make temporary arrangements. This includes managing how money and child custody will be divided while the divorce trial is ongoing. Typically this process will take one to two months from the initial petition filing but can last longer if the other spouse is unwilling to negotiate.


After the initial wait to file papers, this phase lasts the longest at around six months. During this time, both you and your ex will research each other’s finances and other resources to decide on financial terms. This period is also when any investigation pursuant to child custody or fault-based divorce will take place.


Once you have all the information in hand to attempt drafting an agreement between the two of you, it’s time to meet for mediation. During this period, you and your lawyers will negotiate to see if there’s any chance of settling this matter outside of court. This period can take anywhere from one to two months.

Final Trial Preparation

If there’s no way to reach an agreement, then it’s time to organize all the information you’ve gathered in preparation for the trial. This period also usually takes one to two months.

See You In Court

You and your ex-spouse will report to your local family court on the date requested by your judge. There, you will both present your case, the matter will be decided, and your marriage will end. This usually lasts a day or two but can drag on for as much as two weeks if the divorce proves complex.

Looking for More Legal Info?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “How long does it take to get divorced?”, you may have more legal and lifestyle questions. No worries. Check out the Lifestyle section of our blog today for more articles like this one to answer all your questions!

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