Divorce is a complex process that can prove emotionally demanding, meaning that many couples simply want to complete the process as expediently as possible. However, some divorces can prove lengthier than others, even if you and your spouse seem to agree on divorce terms at first. If you and your spouse can reach mutually agreeable divorce terms in a short time, how long does a divorce typically take in California?
The fact is, every divorce is unique—some couples make the decision to divorce abruptly due to very specific issues that arise in their marriages while others reach this decision after months or years of their relationship deteriorating. Each of these situations—as well as issues that arise during the divorce process—can affect the length of time necessary to complete your divorce. Of course, no matter what your divorce case entails, it is natural to wonder about the timeline you and your spouse potentially face when it comes to ending your marriage.
If you want a reasonable estimate regarding how your divorce is likely to unfold, it is important to learn about the elements of a California divorce case, the laws that are likely to affect your divorce, and your options for streamlining the divorce process. There are several ways to handle your divorce and learning about these options before starting the process is crucial if you want to minimize your legal costs and reach a conclusion to your case as quickly as possible.
California Divorce Statutes That Will Influence Your Case
It is extremely important to remember that California enforces a mandatory six-month waiting period for a divorce. No matter what your divorce entails or how agreeable you and your spouse are regarding the terms of your divorce, the absolute minimum amount of time before a California court can finalize your divorce is six months from the date you filed your divorce petition. Even if you and your spouse file an uncontested divorce, you must complete the six-month waiting period.
For many California residents, legal proceedings for complex divorce cases and divorce litigation require longer than six months to complete. For that reason, it is possible for this mandatory waiting period to expire while you are still navigating the initial stages of your divorce case. However, it is also possible to complete a mutually agreeable divorce settlement much sooner than six months. Keep in mind that if you and your spouse have a simplified divorce and reach a settlement prior to the six-month waiting period’s expiration, you will still need to complete the waiting period before obtaining your divorce decree.
The other California statute that is likely to influence the timeline for your divorce is the state’s rigid community property law. California is one of nine US states that enforces community property law to dictate property division in divorce. The community property law of California states that all marital property must be equally divided in divorce, no matter the types of assets and properties a married couple owns. The actual process of dividing community property can be a lengthy affair, especially for high net worth couples and couples who own complex investments, business assets, and stock portfolios.
How You Choose to Divorce Matters
Even though California enforces strict legal statutes concerning divorce, there are some ways for a divorcing couple to speed their divorce proceedings. The best way to accomplish a swift divorce in California is by taking advantage of alternative dispute resolution. When most people imagine the divorce process they think of emotionally tense court battles, but litigation is only necessary when married spouses are unwilling to compromise and need a judge to settle their divorce terms.
Most divorcing couples in the US today choose divorce mediation in lieu of litigation. Even when a couple has difficulty agreeing on divorce terms, mediation allows them to reach mutually agreeable divorce terms in a fraction of the time usually required for litigation. During mediation, the divorcing spouses meet privately with a neutral, third-party mediator who will help them draft their divorce settlement. This mediator cannot provide either spouse with direct legal advice, so both spouses utilize their own attorneys throughout the mediation process. The mediator answers general legal questions and guides negotiations until the divorcing spouses reach mutually agreeable terms.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation
There are several reasons mediation has become so popular in the United States:
- Divorce mediation is private. When you litigate a divorce in court, everything said becomes public record, meaning that virtually anyone can look up public court transcripts without much trouble. Since divorce often entails discussion of very personal and sensitive issues, many couples would prefer to leave these discussions out of the public view. Mediation sessions, on the other hand, are entirely confidential. Everything said in mediation remains in mediation. The record of your divorce decree will become public record, but your negotiations and discussions during mediation sessions remain entirely confidential. This level of privacy is often enough to encourage divorcing couples to choose mediation.
- Mediation offers more control over the outcome of a divorce. When you litigate your divorce in court, the judge has the final say regarding every aspect of your divorce agreement. No matter how compelling your own personal resolution may be, there is simply no way to be sure the judge will agree if you litigate. Mediation, on the other hand, allows a divorcing couple to maintain much more control over the outcome of their divorce when it comes to property division, spousal support, and most other aspects of divorce. They can reach a more personalized agreement that suits their needs and goals more closely that what a judge could offer.
- Divorce mediation can significantly reduce the time required for divorce. Litigation can take several months or even more than a year to complete depending on the complexity of the divorce case. By comparison, it is possible to complete divorce mediation within a few weeks, especially if the couple is efficient in their negotiations. It is not uncommon for couples who choose mediation to finalize their divorce agreements before the six-month waiting period for divorce in California expires. This also translates to lower legal costs—since the mediation process unfolds more quickly than litigation, the spouses’ respective attorneys will not need to spend as much time working on the case.
Divorce mediation offers more privacy, lower financial costs, less time investment, and greater control over the outcome than standard divorce litigation. If you are searching for ways to complete your divorce as quickly as possible, choosing alternative dispute resolution is one of the best available options.
Tips for Streamlining Your Divorce
If you are dreading the divorce proceedings you face and want to get the process over with as quickly as possible, it is natural to feel a bit uncertain. Many divorcing individuals want to avoid rushing the process and ending up with a divorce agreement that does not suit their interests. Without the proper care and consideration during your divorce, you may risk needing to return to court later to have your divorce order modified, incurring further legal costs and more time investment. For that reason, while it is understandable to want to complete your divorce as quickly as possible, you should take care not to speed divorce to your own detriment.
Instead of rushing through the process, keep the following tips in mind to streamline your divorce process efficiently and responsibly:
- Collaborate with your spouse prior to filing a divorce petition. The divorce process does not formally begin until you or your spouse files a divorce petition. However, it informally begins once the two of you decide to end your marriage. While some may find the process challenging, it is worth sitting down and having an open and honest discussion regarding your goals and expectations for your divorce. If you and your spouse can manage civil discussions about the framework of your divorce, you may significantly reduce the time required for divorce negotiations.
- Take full advantage of alternative dispute resolution. Perhaps the most important thing you can do to reduce the time required to complete your divorce is to take advantage of alternative dispute resolution options, including mediation. Most couples can complete mediation in a fraction of the time required for divorce litigation.
- Hire the right attorney. One of the best things you can do to reduce the fiscal impact of your divorce and complete the process as quickly and effectively as possible is to hire a reliable attorney to represent you. A good attorney will help you take full advantage of your available options for streamlining divorce proceedings and allow you to approach the situation with greater confidence.
These tips may allow you to have a more positive experience with your divorce proceedings and reach a conclusion faster than you originally anticipated. Remember, every divorce has its own unique details, and some may require lengthier proceedings than others. Hiring a reliable and experienced attorney is the best way to approach these difficult situations with peace of mind.
If you are preparing to end your marriage in California it is natural to feel uneasy as you anticipate the process. However, you can make the most of the situation and streamline your divorce proceedings by choosing an experienced divorce attorney to represent you. The Khalaf Law Group has the experience and resources you need to handle the most complex divorce cases in a timely fashion. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team and learn how we can help you reach a reasonable divorce agreement as quickly as possible.