A common question we receive is “how long will my divorce take”. The answer, of course, is it depends!
In order to figure out how long your divorce will take, you first need to understand the divorce process.
Divorce should always be a last resort. It’s not easy, nor is it a decision to be made lightly. Marriage counseling, couples therapy, and individual counseling should be explored before initiating a divorce.
If the marriage is “irretrievably broken” with no hope of reconciliation, or if other legal grounds for divorce are met, then planning for a divorce should begin. But, before you file for divorce, be sure to do these five things first.
Divorce Begins With Services of Process
Serving your spouse with divorce papers is a required first step in the divorce process. There are three main ways to do this:
If served via sheriff or special process server, your spouse has 30 days to respond. If served via acknowledgement, your spouse has 45 days to respond. Some Courts require you to use the sheriff or obtain a special Order Appointing a Special Process Server;. A special process server typically charges around $100-$150. The process is quick, and you can specify an exact time and place for the service to occur. Serving via the sheriff is typically cheaper. However, the sheriff will serve the papers on their own time, which can take weeks or even longer. There is no cost for an acknowledgement of service, except for the document preparation cost, but there is also no deadline or requirement that it be signed.
Once divorce papers have been served, the discovery phase begins. Discovery is the formal information-gathering phase. Parties can engage in discovery for six months, or longer if the marital estate is complicated. For less complex cases, discovery can be as short as 30 days.
Discovery includes requests for documents from one spouse to another as well as subpoenas to banks and employers. You and your spouse may be asked to answer questions under oath, and witnesses may be involved. Discovery can be expensive, so be sure to consult with a qualified divorce attorney about what elements might be appropriate for your case. Each case’s discovery period should be tailored so that the process can be efficient from both time and money perspectives.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Options
After discovery, spouses have several alternative dispute resolution options at their disposal to avoid litigation. They can exchange settlement proposals and attempt to negotiate a resolution through back-and-forth correspondence. If this fails, they will attend mediation to try to resolve their divorce. Compared to litigation, mediation is extremely cost-effective and is a great opportunity to iron out any hot-button issues. Throughout my fifteen years doing divorces, almost 75% of cases are resolved during mediation.
If alternative dispute resolution options are unsuccessful, then your case will be prepared for trial. Litigation involves a judge or jury and a formal presentation of your case. This process may include testimonies from each spouse, experts, and other witnesses. Relevant documents and other evidence may also be presented to resolve financial or custodial issues. Be forewarned: Not only are divorce trials expensive, they are also emotionally exhausting.
The End of the Divorce Process
A divorce case lasts about six months, on average, but it depends on the process outlined above. Cases that settle at mediation are shorter than cases that go to trial. Cases with long discovery phases are longer than those with less complicated issues. Some divorces can take years to finalize. It just depends!
SPEAK WITH A QUALIFIED DIVORCE ATTORNEY
Divorce is a complicated process. It’s critical that you understand your options. The Marietta family law attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott are happy to answer any questions you have about your divorce. Please, do not hesitate to contact us or call 404-793-6530 to speak with one of our highly qualified attorneys!