How Long Does A Divorce in California Take?

California divorces follow a general timeline but each divorce is unique.

January 29, 2024

Divorce can be a long, tedious process, and every case is different. To get an idea of how long the process might take, consulting with an Orange County divorce attorney gives you more insight.

If you’re researching all the steps necessary to complete the process, you might be wondering how long it will take for your divorce to be finalized.

To give you an idea of the process, here are some of the factors that affect how long it will take for your divorce to be final.

How Soon Can Your Divorce be Finalized?

The absolute soonest a divorce in California can be finalized is in six months after divorce papers are served.

There’s a mandatory six month waiting period after you first file for divorce, even if both spouses are able to reach an agreement quickly. In practice, though, divorce often takes longer than the minimum amount of time.

To get a divorce in California, you also need to have lived in the state for more than six months. State law requires you to wait until you meet the residency requirements before you can file for divorce in local courts.

What Factors Could Make My Divorce Take Longer in California?

Before a divorce can be finalized, spouses will need to agree on how things will proceed after the divorce. Some of the biggest points of contention can be child custody, child support, division of property and debt, and spousal support. All of these issues need to be addressed in your written agreement.

You’ll need your spouse to file a response, and the two of you will need to complete a written agreement. How your spouse decides to respond, or not respond, will determine how you move forward, and how long it will likely take to make your divorce final.

If your local court is overwhelmed by cases, it may take a while before a judge can sign your divorce papers. Waiting for a judge to get to your case can lengthen the process by a few months.

Types of Divorce Cases in California

Looking at different kinds of divorce cases can give you a sense of how long it will be before you can expect to have your divorce finalized.

Every divorce case in California will take at least six months, but court proceedings can lengthen the process by several months.

If you want to keep the process running as smoothly as possible, hire an Orange County divorce attorney to guide you through it.

Uncontested Case

This is the best-case scenario that results in the fastest path to a finalized divorce. To have an uncontested case, your spouse will have to respond to your summons and petition.

Then, the two of you will have to decide on a written agreement that covers the division of property, child custody, and spousal support.

Aside from the written agreement, you’ll also need to complete and file the final forms. If all your papers are in order, a judge will sign them and neither of you will have to go to court.

If there’s an issue with your papers, you might need to correct a mistake before a judge will sign them. If there’s a larger problem, you might need to appear in court, which will add time to your divorce case.

Contested Case

If your spouse files a response to your petition for divorce, but the two of you don’t have a written agreement completed, that’s considered a contested case. When dealing with a contested case, you can expect to spend months appearing in court.

In this situation, you can ask for a separate trial that specifically covers your marital status. You might ask for this if the rest of the case will take a long time to resolve, but you both have good reason to request that the court make a decision regarding your divorce.

Courts will usually only approve a separate trial like this if you present a strong case for it. They prefer to neatly resolve all issues around your marriage in one trial. If you do ask for a bifurcation, the trial regarding the end of your marriage will come before the other trial.

Default Case

A case is considered default if your spouse doesn’t file a response to your petition within 30 days.

If your default case includes a written agreement, you can move forward with making a final draft and getting it notarized. It’s highly recommended that you get help from an Orange County divorce attorney before you sign any agreement, to make sure the terms don’t put you at a disadvantage.

After the written agreement, you’ll need to fill out the relevant final forms. If you want to avoid having to re-submit forms, it’s best to have a lawyer review these for mistakes, too.

True Default

true default case comes about when you don’t get a response from your spouse within 30 days of serving the divorce papers.

When a spouse defaults, the divorce will still move forward within a normal timeframe. Since there won’t be a trial involved, this kind of case can move forward quickly.

You can decide whether to proceed with a default divorce case based on the advice of an Orange County divorce attorney.

The spouse who has defaulted won’t be involved in the decisions around child custody, division of assets, or any of the other potentially contentious aspects of a divorce. Instead, the petitioner will fill out the final forms alone and file them with the local court.

If the papers are all filled out correctly, the judge will sign them without either spouse having to appear in court. If there’s a simple mistake, you’ll need to fix the papers and submit them again. If there are larger problems, a court appearance might be necessary.

It’s important to note that a spouse who has defaulted can request to have a default divorce judgment overturned. A successful request would mean the divorce proceedings would need to start all over again from the beginning.

However, there are only certain specific legal circumstances in which a person can make this request.

Work with the Right Divorce Attorney

Are you making plans to get your divorce finalized as quickly as possible? Share your thoughts in the comments. Consider hiring a skilled Orange County divorce attorney to keep everything on schedule.

Work with a client-focused divorce attorney to help you go through the stressful and painful process of divorce.

Contact our team at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin today.

Call today to speak with Hollie A. Lemkin to discuss your questions & issues!


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