How Long Could the Divorce Process Take?

Divorce is a frustrating experience, though actually having a divorce granted is often a great relief. But not every divorce is the same. Some are based on faults, some are based on irreconcilable differences, and others yet are hard-fought battles in order to achieve freedom.

If you are considering a divorce, then you already know that you are going to be going through a rough experience. But what you might not know already is how long it will take. That’s a question that’s a little harder to answer than you might have thought.

The reason it’s hard to answer is that it depends on the circumstances of the divorce itself. To get a sense of how long your divorce may take, we’ll look at the different kinds of divorce there are. We’ll see how long it takes when there is no fault, how long it takes when there is fault, and how long it takes when the divorce is contested; that way, you can have a sense of how long yours will take.

How Long Does a No-Fault Divorce Take?

A no-fault divorce can be one of the quicker ways to achieve a divorce. The idea of a no-fault divorce is that nobody involved was at fault, the relationship between the spouses has hit some irreconcilable differences, and therefore the only way to move forward is separately.

Because nobody is at fault, these divorces can often move forward rather quickly. However, it’s important to note that the divorce could be contested and this, in turn, would greatly lengthen the process. However, we will be discussing contested divorce in more depth below, so for the purposes of this discussion on no-fault divorce, we will assume that it is uncontested.

There are two ways to get a no-fault divorce, and they take vastly different amounts of time. The first way, which is the shortest, is for you and your spouse to both consent to the divorce. When this is the case, you could have the divorce finalized 90 days after filing. This is the mandatory waiting period in Pennsylvania and so you won’t be able to speed that up.

The other way to get a no-fault divorce requires that you and your spouse be separated for at least two years. This would mean then that this approach could get a divorce finalized two years and three months later. Clearly, the faster route is to both agree to a no-fault divorce, otherwise you’ll have to wait.

How Long Does a Fault Divorce Take?

A fault divorce is different in that it is directly stating that one of the spouses is at fault for the divorce. Legally this means that the at fault individual is guilty of:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment (for at least a year)
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Bigamy
  • Or they were convicted of a crime that would see them behind bars for two years or more

Divorces of this nature can be long and costly. You can’t just say that your spouse is guilty of one of these, you need to prove it. While this is easiest when they are convicted of a crime, it can be much harder to prove extreme cruelty or adultery. It takes time to gather evidence and build a case that will prove the allegations.

Thankfully, though, if your particular case is easy to prove then it could move quite quickly. A fault divorce is not subject to the three month waiting period discussed above. This means that if you already have enough evidence, this type of divorce should, in theory, be faster. 

How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?

A contested divorce can take a very, very long time to resolve in some cases. A contested divorce is simply a divorce wherein the two parties disagree on different parts of the divorce agreement. So it could be a loveless marriage that both individuals want out of, but because of a disagreement on the divorce agreement it could be dragged out for years.

Disputes typically arise in regards to the distribution of assets of the marriage, as well as child-related issues such as the amount of child support or the custody of the children. These fights can become quite intense.

One thing that often helps to speed up the process is to work with an attorney as a mediator. A mediator acts as a neutral third party to engage the fighting parties in a structured resolution-focused discussion in order to try to come to agreeable terms. A mediator isn’t a couple’s therapist; they aren’t going to try to make you like each other. Their goal is to bring the conflict to an end.

This is often the best way to bring a contested divorce to a close. If issues continue to long, and especially if they are negatively impacting the children of the marriage, then the courts may make decisions for the couple in order to bring an end to the ordeal. This may resolve any conflicts that were still open, but it removes control from the parties involved. This means that the resolution isn’t necessarily going to be agreeable to either individual.

The reason that we mention children of the marriage specifically is that the courts really do pay special attention to how the process is affecting them. They also want to ensure that the decisions the couple makes or outcomes they fight for are appropriate. So one parent trying to gain sole custody only to deprive the other of their children would be looked at negatively by the court and almost certainly never get the request granted. But a spouse seeking sole custody to protect the children from an abusive parent would be a whole different story.

Is There Any Way to Speed Up My Divorce?

If you are looking to get divorced, then one thing that could help speed up the process is to attain the services of a qualified and experienced divorce attorney. They can file paperwork on your behalf to start the divorce process, or they can help you to build a case for a fault divorce prior to filing.

Should the divorce go forward smoothly, then you won’t need their services for very long. But if your spouse contests the divorce, then your attorney is in the right position to get a quick start on whatever legal challenge comes your way.