How Long Does A Divorce Take in California?

Making the choice to get a divorce takes a lot of courage and bravery. It’s not easy to come to terms with your marriage ending, and some couples may want to get through the process as quickly as possible. A California divorce attorney can help you and your spouse determine the right method for a divorce that most effectively serves your family’s needs.

A divorce in California will take a least six months from the date you filed for divorce and informed your spouse about the filing. However, in some instances, the process can take longer, up to a year or several years.

The amount of time it takes to finalize a divorce in California varies by situation. There are factors that can prolong the process, like:

You may also have to meet a few other conditions, such as residency requirements. If you are seeking a summary dissolution for a quick divorce, there are some additional stipulations. Read on to learn more about the summary dissolution process.

Understanding California’s Waiting Period

California requires that all divorcing couples wait six months from filing the initial divorce petition to the finalization of the separation agreement. This mandatory waiting period also applies to registered domestic partners who are dissolving the partnership.

This waiting period exists to give divorcing or separating couples time to consider the decision. In some cases, divorce or dissolution is a heated or rash decision, so there is a waiting period to help couples who may decide that they do not want to continue the process. California has one of the longest waiting periods.

Even if you and your spouse or partner have been separated for some time, this waiting period still exists. The six-month period is mandatory, and it cannot be waived, even in uncontested divorces. For couples who meet the residency requirements, it is necessary to file the divorce petition as soon as possible to begin the countdown on the waiting period.

Factors That Influence the Length of a Divorce

Although the six-month minimum means that some couples can finalize their divorce in that time, this is not always when a divorce will end. There are many issues or circumstances that will impact how long it takes you to file a final separation agreement and finalize the divorce. These include:

Willingness of Each Spouse

Amicable divorces are usually resolved much more quickly than contentious ones. Both types of divorces could be handled outside of court, but disagreements between spouses will significantly lengthen the amount of time spent negotiating the terms of the separation agreement.

Although amicable spouses will not always agree on everything, the willingness to work together, compromise, and cooperate will go far in speeding up the process. This may also limit the stress and costs involved.

Complex Property Division

Property division is an important part of all divorces. Couples must either agree on how to divide marital property outside of court, or the court will divide it according to community property laws. If a couple has complex or high-value assets, it will take much longer to value, negotiate, and split the assets. A complex property division will also likely require the services of financial professionals. Property division is more likely to be complex the longer spouses have been married.

If one spouse hides assets, this will complicate and lengthen the process, and it may require the case to be litigated.

Decisions Regarding Children

When a divorcing couple has children, it complicates the divorce process. It also disqualifies them from using the process of summary dissolution. Even when spouses are working together to support their children, it can be a highly emotional undertaking and very stressful. Negotiating custody, support, and parenting time requires solving many practical concerns, and this can take time.

Method of Divorce

How a couple achieves a divorce will impact how long the divorce takes. A no-fault and uncontested divorce will take less time than a contested divorce. If a couple uses alternative dispute resolution, such as divorce mediation or collaborative divorce, the divorce will be much faster than if they take the case to court.

Litigating your divorce will significantly lengthen the time it takes to finalize. Not only does it place you and your spouse as adversaries, and take the finalized divorce agreement out of your control, but it relies on the availability and schedule of the court. Depending on how busy the court is, this could draw the process out for many years. Uncontested divorces must also rely on the court’s schedule to finalize the divorce, but this is typically only one hearing.

Summary Dissolution

If you have been married for five years or less, you can file for a summary dissolution. Summary Dissolution is a way to fast-track a divorce for couples who haven’t been married longer than five years. There are several requirements you must meet before you can file your dissolution:

  • You’ve been married for less than five years.
  • Having a contested and contentious divorce.
  • You don’t have children together that were born or adopted during the marriage.
  • You don’t own or rent any land or buildings, excluding where you live.
  • Don’t owe more than $6,000 in debt since you’ve been married, excluding car loans.

You can find out if you qualify for a dissolution of marriage by exploring your options with an attorney.

California Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce, ensure that you and your spouse have lived in California for at least six months. You should also make sure that you have lived in the county you’re going to file for divorce in for at least three months. Because of the residency requirements, it may take 9 to 12 months to fully finalize your divorce.

It’s acceptable to file for a divorce in two different counties if you and your spouse have lived in separate counties for at least 3 months and if you have lived in California for at least 6 months.


Q: How Long Does a Divorce Take From Start to Finish in California?

A: The absolute minimum amount of time a divorce takes to finalize in California is 6 months from the date the petition of divorce is filed until finalization. However, most divorces take longer. Spouses who agree on the terms of their separation agreement may be able to create and negotiate their agreement during these six months. In many cases, legal issues or complex decisions about child custody or property division lengthen the amount of time it takes couples to divorce, and the timeframe may extend past these six months.

Q: How Long Is the Waiting Period for Divorce in California?

A: California law requires a six-month waiting period from the date a couple files a divorce petition to the date the separation agreement and divorce is finalized. This period exists to give both spouses time to reconsider the decision to get a divorce, and it also enables each party to come to terms with the changes taking place in their lives. This waiting period also applies to summary dissolution and registered domestic partners dissolving their partnership.

Q: How Can I Speed Up My Divorce in California?

A: A divorce can be secured more quickly when spouses are amicable or are at least willing to work together. An uncontested divorce occurs when spouses agree on or are willing to negotiate the terms of a separation agreement. A divorce can be resolved much more quickly by this method than when couples go through the family court system to resolve their divorce. If couples qualify for a summary dissolution, this may also enable a faster divorce.

Q: Can Someone Drag Out a Divorce in California?

A: Yes, a spouse may be able to prolong a divorce by refusing to compromise and dragging out negotiations. However, if the divorce is being handled in litigation by the family court, the court will eventually reach a decision for the final divorce order.

This is one situation where a contested and in-court divorce may be the right choice for a couple. If one spouse wants to drag out a divorce that is being handled through alternative methods, they could theoretically drag it out indefinitely. This is because the resolution relies on both spouses agreeing.

Contact Our California Divorce Attorneys Today

One of the most effective ways to speed up a divorce is securing the support of a qualified divorce attorney. Whether you are obtaining a divorce outside of court or navigating litigation, an attorney can help you do so efficiently. If you’ve decided you want to get a divorce or separation, our Roseville, CA, divorce attorneys at Creative Family Solutions, Cianci Law, PC, are available to provide advice and handle your case with care through this difficult time.

Give us a call at (916) 797-1575 to schedule a consultation today.

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