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What Factors Affect the Length of Divorce Proceedings?

Posted by Lee Zavatsky | Feb 27, 2023

Every California divorce is unique as they have specific challenges. We are often asked how long their divorce will take. The correct answer is that various factors can impact divorce proceedings' length.

First, California has a mandatory six-month minimum rule.  Another primary issue is a divorce with complex financial matters, such as a high-asset divorce.

What Factors Affect the Length of Divorce Proceedings?
Several different factors can potentially impact the length of California divorce proceedings.

Most couples would instead get their divorce over quickly so they can start a new life, but it will take some time and even longer if it's a contested divorce. So let's start with a quick and simple review of the California divorce process.

To start the divorce proceedings, the spouse seeking a divorce (petitioner) has to file papers with the court. They are forms asking for basic information, facts about the marriage, and their preferred outcome for issues such as child custody.

After filing forms, the petitioner has to serve the papers on their spouse (respondent). A process server typically completes this step. It's notifying your spouse that there are now involved in a legal proceeding, and they will have the opportunity to respond to the divorce petition.

Their response is another standard form. Once served, the respondent has 30 days to file a response to the petition. After the response, court hearings will occur for temporary support and restraining orders. Then, if necessary, the case will proceed into a discovery phase.

If you and your spouse are not on good terms, then some will have the mentality of winning at all costs. However, this only complicates issues and makes you divorce much longer.

The process will likely go faster when both spouses come to the negotiating table willing to make sacrifices and compromises. Some of the primary factors affecting the length of divorce proceedings include the following:

  • Inability to compromise;
  • Child custody decisions;
  • Complex property division;
  • Length of the discovery phase;
  • Relationship between the spouses,
  • Financial disclosures;
  • High-asset divorce.

Issues Involving Child Custody

If you have children, your divorce will likely take longer than average if you cannot resolve an often complex issue of child custody.

Child Custody in California
Complex issues over child custody are common.

For example, perhaps a child is still an infant or has special needs.

California courts determine custody based on the child's best interest, and there is no favoritism to one parent. It's about the child, not the parent.

Courts review several factors, such as the financial situation and living environment. The courts might consider their preference if the child is a little older. Child custody occurs in two forms:

  • Physical custody is where the child will live and which parent will be responsible for their daily well-being. It can be sole or joint custody.
  • Legal custody refers to those who can make significant decisions regarding their welfare, such as religion, school, and healthcare.

California uses the child support guidelines to determine child support payments. When the issues over child custody are complex or litigated in court, this will impact the length of the divorce proceedings.

Financial Disclosures

Another major factor that can affect the length of California divorce proceedings is related to financial disclosures.

After the respondent files their paperwork, there might be some preliminary conferences to set up procedures, and the financial disclosures and discovery will begin.

The financial disclosures must be filed with the court at most 60 days after the divorce petition. These forms list the following:

  • Marital assets and debts,
  • Spousal income,
  • Other relevant financial information.

After a review of the disclosures, the family law attorneys can request further discovery, which involves interrogatories, depositions, and requests for document production:

  • An interrogatory is written questions prepared by one attorney and sent to the other party for answers;
  • A deposition is an interview that a lawyer conducts with the other side or potential witnesses;
  • A request for document production allows a family law attorney to compel the other side to produce documents, such as tax returns.

As you can see, all these steps can take some time. But, yes, both spouses can settle to avoid court.

Just to let you know, even if the spouses settle, the divorce can only be granted six months from when the petition and summons were sent. Further, even if spouses submit a divorce judgment to the court, it can take several months before the judge signs it.

Suppose one spouse is acting in bad faith and attempting to hide assets. In that case, it will most likely slow down the proceedings.

When couples are engaged in a high-asset divorce or involve high net worth, dividing assets will get complex, especially if a prenuptial agreement is not in place.

Inability to Compromise

When spouses are involved in a high-conflict divorce, it impacts the length of finalizing a divorce in California.

Inability to Compromise in a Divorce
Fighting couples will only make the process longer.

This often occurs when marriages end on less-than-good or ugly terms, and spouses are motivated to fight for what they believe they are entitled to receive in the divorce. In some severe cases, spouses are so emotional that they fight over everything.

Simply put, failing to compromise or equally divide assets and property will complicate the issues and can cause the divorce to take longer than it needs to.

If you have unresolved issues but are seeking to expedite the divorce process, contact our law firm by phone or through the contact form for a free case evaluation. We can talk about your needs and how we can help you.

At Furman & Zavatsky, our Los Angeles family law attorneys know that once you decide to get a divorce, you would instead get through the proceedings as quickly as possible to move on with your life.

About the Author

Lee Zavatsky

Lee Zavatsky is a partner at Furman & Zavatsky, a law firm dedicated to the practice of Family Law. Mr. Zavatsky has been selected as one of the Top 40 Under 40 by The National Trial Lawyers, a professional organization composed of the top trial lawyers from each state or region who are under the...

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