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How Long Does a Divorce Take?

One of the first questions many clients ask of a divorce lawyer is “how long is this going to take?” This is typically a major concern – many clients fear a long, drawn out process. No lawyer can tell you exactly how long your divorce will take, but he or she can reasonably respond to your inquiry by first asking you the following:

Are you and your partner in agreement on most if not all issues?

If you have children, have you decided on custody and visitation?

How much marital property is there and what is its value?

How long have you been married?

{Do you both have sources of income? Are both of you employed?

Did you or your partner give up your career or schooling so that the other could advance in his or her career?

What is your current relationship to each other? Are you friendly, civil, or barely talking?

Are there allegations of domestic abuse, sexual violence, neglect, harassment or threats of imminent physical harm?

If your children are old enough, with whom would they like to live most of the time?

Is there a prenuptial agreement?

These and other issues can significantly affect how long the divorce process can take. If there is considerable animosity between the parties, and inflexibility regarding the distribution of assets, obligations, and the custody and welfare of the children, then a divorce can take years before it is resolved or goes to trial.

The Uncontested Divorce

Not all divorces involve constant battles, refusals to compromise, and the trading of barbs and allegations. Many couples simply decide to end their relationship amicably and have no issues regarding their assets or where the children, if any, will live. If the matter is uncontested, the parties can typically get divorced within a week or two. The attorney can prepare all the necessary documents, including a Marital Settlement.

In a case such as this, a Petition for Dissolution must be filed, and the other party can sign the Answer to the Petition along with the Waiver of Summons, and Service and Request for a Copy of Final Judgment. You and your spouse must sign the Marital Settlement Agreement. All of which are filed with the court and a hearing time is requested in order to formalize the divorce.
If the non-filing party agrees to everything, but is not cooperative, then the Summons and Petition must be served on that person, which can delay the process.
The non-filing party can choose not to answer the Petition and settle for a default. Although, before the default can be entered, you must wait at least 20 days from the date the Petition was served. If the party cannot be located, or is out of state, this will also delay the process, since the serving party has to serve the other by publication. The missing spouse has 28 days to respond to a service by publication before a default can be entered.

The party who was served can also file and serve Standard Family Interrogatories, which essentially asks for more financial information from the other party. The answering party has 30 days to provide this information. If all is disclosed, and the parties agree on the issues involved, then a final hearing can be scheduled.
There are a number of documents that must be completed and filed in these cases. You may wish to consider having a divorce attorney confirm that you have all the relevant forms to ensure that you are in compliance with all Florida family law requirements.

The Contested Divorce

Obviously, if you and your spouse disagree on the major issues in your marriage that must be resolved before the divorce is granted. A divorce like this can take many months, if not years in some cases. If the status of the children, support payments, and property is in dispute, the court will require you to go to mediation in effort to work out a parenting plan (visitation schedule, support payments) that will indicate with whom the child spends the majority of time. About 95% of divorce cases are settled at mediation, which can drastically shorten the time for your divorce to become final.

Otherwise, there are a multitude of issues that can complicate a divorce to the point where years go by before resolution. You can also expect protracted negotiations in trying to work out a settlement. If no settlement is reached, then you will eventually get to trial where a judge will decide all aspects of your case.

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