If you are considering a divorce, the top question on your mind might be “how long does a divorce take?”

The divorce process in California can be long and complicated, depending on the circumstances of the case. 

If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all major issues, such as child custody and property division, the process may be shorter. However, if you cannot agree on these issues, the process may take much longer. 

In this blog post, we will explore how long the divorce process may take in California. We will discuss some of the factors that can influence the length of the process.  But first, let’s take a closer look at the grounds for divorce and the divorce process in California.

Is California a no-fault divorce state?

California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that either spouse can file for divorce without having to prove fault on the part of the other spouse. However, there are still some required steps before a divorce can be finalized. 

The grounds for divorce in California are of two types:

  • Irreconcilable differences -Right from adultery to abuse, all marital issues (other than illnesses) are clubbed under “irreconcilable differences.”
  • Legal incapacity to make decisions – this is where one spouse has been determined by a doctor to be “legally incapacitated” to make decisions. This could be due to a psychological issue, illness, or traumatic injury.

California divorce process

While every divorce is unique, there are general steps that must be followed in order for the divorce to be finalized.

The first step in the California divorce process is filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. This document starts the legal process and must be served on the other spouse. Once this occurs, the other spouse has 30 days to file a response.

If both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, they can sign a settlement agreement which will be filed with the court. Once approved by the court, this will finalize the divorce.

If there are disputed issues, such as child custody or property division, these will need to be negotiated and resolved before the divorce is finalized.

This process can take some time and may require mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Once an agreement is reached, it will again need to be submitted to the court for approval before the divorce can be finalized.

As you can see, even if there are no disputed issues, the California divorce process can take several months from start to finish. If there are disputed issues that need to be resolved, it can take even longer. 

Irrespective of whether there are disputes or not, there is a mandatory waiting period in California for a divorce.

Mandatory waiting period 

In California, the mandatory waiting period for a divorce is six months. This waiting period is required in order to give couples time to reconcile their differences and decide if they really want to go through with the divorce. 

Once the six-month waiting period has passed, the divorce will be final.

The waiting period is applicable even if you have been separated legally from your spouse for longer than six months or years. Note that there is no requirement for couples to be separated before filing for divorce in California.

What factors impact the time it takes to get a divorce in California?

The answer to how long your particular divorce will take is not always easy to predict. 

Here are some factors that can impact the time it takes to finalize a divorce in California:

Residency requirement

To file for divorce in California, either spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months. In addition, they must have resided in the county where they intend to file for at least three months.

If you and your spouse do not meet these requirements, the court will not consider your divorce petition, which can delay your divorce.

Contested versus uncontested divorce

In California, the process can be quicker if the couple has no children, property, or other assets to divide. 

If any of these factors are present and there is no agreement on these matters, it will likely take longer for the divorce to be finalized.

Couples with minor children must wait six months before they can file for divorce in California. This waiting period is in place so that parents have time to consider mediation or counseling as an alternative to divorce. If there are issues that can’t be resolved between the parents, such as child custody and visitation, the divorce may take longer.

If the couple has significant assets or property, it will take longer to reach a settlement agreement. The same is true if there are disagreements about spousal support or child support. These types of issues often require negotiation and sometimes court intervention to resolve.

In general, it can take a minimum period of six months to finalize a simple and uncontested California divorce. 

Contested divorces in California can take anywhere from a year to several years, depending on the complexity of the case and the number of issues that need to be resolved. 

If the parties can agree on all issues, the divorce can be finalized relatively quickly. However, if there are disputed issues, such as child custody or the division of assets, it can take much longer to reach a resolution. In some cases, contested divorces may even go to trial.

Financial disclosures

It is important to note that California is a community property state. This means that all property and debt acquired during the marriage belongs to both spouses equally. 

This includes income from wages, investments, and even gifts or inheritances received during the marriage. As such, it is important to be as honest and forthcoming as possible when disclosing your finances during a divorce in California.

Each spouse must exchange documentation of their respective incomes, debts, and assets no later than 45 days after the initial divorce papers are served.

However, there are some circumstances in which one spouse may be entitled to an extension of this deadline.

If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement about financial disclosure, either of you can request that the court order one. The court will then set a deadline for disclosure and may impose sanctions if the required information is not provided by that date.

Are there quicker ways to divorce in California?

There are two options for those looking to speed up their divorce in California. These are by filing for a summary dissolution of marriage or a bifurcation of divorce.

What is a summary dissolution of marriage?

A summary dissolution of marriage is a type of divorce that is available to couples who meet certain eligibility requirements. 

This type of divorce is typically quicker and easier than a traditional divorce, as it does not require a formal hearing or trial.  You can file for a summary dissolution if:

  • You and your spouse agree to end the marriage due to your irreconcilable differences
  • Either spouse is a resident of California for six months and three months in the county where you are filing for divorce
  • There are no adoptions or children in the marriage
  • You have not been married for more than 5 years 
  • The debts or assets you or your spouse have acquired are not more than $25,000 in value
  • Neither you nor your spouse owns real estate
  • Both parties have agreed to waive spousal support

What is a bifurcation of divorce?

Bifurcation of divorce is the legal process of splitting a single divorce proceeding into two separate cases. The first case deals with the dissolution of marriage, and the second case deals with issues related to child custody, visitation, and support.

Bifurcation can be beneficial for couples who want to end their marriage but need to resolve child-related issues separately. It can also help couples move on with their lives more quickly by allowing them to finalize their divorce without waiting for a resolution on other matters.

Here are some of the reasons to request bifurcation of divorce:

  • Either spouse wants to marry another person  
  • The divorce case is going on for a significant amount of time without any resolution on spousal support, child custody, property division, and other matters.
  • Either spouse is looking to file their income taxes as ‘head of household’ or ‘single’ instead of as a married person.
  • One spouse can request a bifurcation of divorce if the other is refusing to compromise on issues deliberately to delay the divorce or the other spouse’s remarriage.
  • Either spouse has filed for bankruptcy 

In California, bifurcation is only allowed in limited circumstances. The court must find that there is good cause to grant a bifurcated divorce and that it is in the best interest of all parties concerned.

Other factors

The length of time it takes to finalize a divorce case can also depend on many other factors, including the 

  • County in which the case is filed
  • Hidden assets that are not disclosed (such as having offshore accounts, overpaying taxes, or under reporting income)
  • Pregnancy – In California, a divorce may not be finalized until after the delivery of the child
  • Domestic abuse
  • Custody of special-needs children
  • High net-worth divorce

If you are considering filing for divorce in California, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Every divorce case is unique, and the amount of time it takes to reach a resolution will vary depending on the specific circumstances involved.  

couple getting divorce in California

When is a divorce considered final in California?

A divorce is considered “final” in California when the court enters a judgment of dissolution of marriage. This can happen either by agreement of the parties (an “uncontested divorce”) or after a trial on the merits of the case (a “contested divorce”).

The vast majority of divorces in California are uncontested, meaning that the parties were able to reach an agreement on all issues relating to their divorce, including:

  • child custody and visitation
  • child support
  • spousal support
  • division of property and debts 

Once the parties have reached an agreement, they will submit it to the court in the form of a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).

If the court finds that the MSA is fair and equitable to both parties, it will approve the agreement and issue a judgment of dissolution of marriage. Once this happens, the divorce is final and both parties are free to remarry.

In a contested divorce, the parties are not able to reach an agreement on all issues relating to their divorce. This means that they will have to go to trial, where a judge will make decisions on these issues. Once the judge has made all of his or her rulings, a judgment of dissolution of marriage will be issued and the divorce will be final.

How can a family law attorney help you with divorce in California?

When you are going through a divorce, you want to make sure that you have all the help that you can get. This is where a family law attorney can help you out. They will be able to guide you through the entire process and make sure that everything is done correctly.

A family law attorney will first sit down with you and go over all of the paperwork that is involved in a divorce. They will then help you fill out all of the necessary paperwork correctly so that it can be filed with the court. 

In case of a contested divorce, they will represent you in court and make sure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process.

As an experienced and skilled Riverside divorce attorney, Heath L. Baker is well-versed in facilitating mediated divorce and negotiating any settlement agreements between you and your spouse. This is important because it can help keep the cost of your divorce down, speed up your divorce, and make sure that everything is fair for both parties involved.Get in touch with us today to know more about our family law services.