Of course every divorce case has its own facts and therefore there’s no one-size-fits-all time frame, but here are three things you should keep in mind when considering the timeline of your own divorce case.
Mandatory Waiting Period
The State of Utah used to mandate a 90-day waiting period, beginning from the date the petition of divorce was filed, before a couple could actually get their signed documents back from a judge. Recently, that law was changed to a 30-day waiting period.
Most divorces don’t resolve at the 30-day mark described above. “Uncontested” divorces, or divorces where spouses agree on all of the final terms they wish to be included in their divorce, can resolve within 30 days, but more typically are finalized between 60-90 days. These types of divorces are resolved much more quickly because there’s no need for hearings, no need for litigation, and fewer documents need to be filed. One common scenario we run into quite frequently is divorcing couples who think they’ve resolved all of their issues until we start drafting the final paperwork. Sometimes things come up they haven’t considered yet, like division of retirement accounts, what we call the “right of first refusal” in regards to parent-time, who gets the kids on various holidays, what summer parent-time looks like, etc. Failure to consider all the issues at play in a divorce can delay a final settlement.
“Contested” divorces, or divorces where spouses disagree on what the final terms of the divorce should be, can carry on for a long time. We’ve litigated divorce cases for longer than 2 years! The length of time from beginning to end depends on several things, including (1) how many issues are disputed between the spouses; (2) how many hearings need to be scheduled with the court; (3) whether you need to hire experts, like custody evaluators or forensic accountants; (4) whether spouses have the money to fund the divorce (paying attorney fees, hiring experts, etc.) or whether there are delays while spouses come up with more money; (5) whether the case settles in mediation; among other things. On average, it’s probably fair to say that most contested divorces resolve between about 8 – 12 months. However, if a case goes to trial, which is a very small percentage of cases, it can certainly last longer than that.