How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce?
Before divorce proceedings even begin most people want to know when the process will be over. Commonly, the first question asked of a divorce attorney isn’t about strategy or procedures, but simply, “How long until my divorce is final?” It’s a reasonable question, but the answer varies from case to case. In Oregon and Washington, similar to other states, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to one year to finalize a divorce.
The reason for this indefinite and varying timeframe is the sheer number of factors that can affect your divorce and the legal process. In Oregon the average divorce takes between 45 and 60 days, while Washington divorces are an average 90 days in length. For example, uncontested divorces are shorter than those that involve a dispute, or if a couple has children, then the divorce is typically longer than spouses who don’t.
Disagreements Increase the Time Commitment
A shorter divorce is beneficial for emotional and mental reasons, but it is also a positive for your bank account. You will save on court costs, filing fees, traveling expenses, and legal fees. The best way to shorten your divorce proceedings is by compromising and negotiating with your partner.
The more you and your spouse disagree, the longer your divorce will take. No matter where you live or what other factors are involved, arguments and disputes are the root cause of a lengthy divorce. If you and your spouse align on every issue, then your divorce will be finalized in the shortest amount of time. As well, spouses that can work together to finalize a divorce are able to participate in a collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorces are often shorter than formal court proceedings.
If a divorce is contested, which means you or your spouse disagrees with a proposed term of the divorce, such as the child custody arrangement, then mediation is an alternative to court proceedings. Through mediation, spouses are encouraged to make some concessions, in return for the other party doing the same. When the contentious issues are settled, the couple’s attorneys prepare a written settlement agreement, which is incorporated into the divorce decree or decision. Just as collaborative divorce can shorten divorce proceedings, mediation does as well.
Making Decisions that Affect Minor Children
Couples without children have a number of hurdles to overcome before a divorce is finalized. There could be deep dispute over spousal support or division of assets. It is common for people to argue over who keeps the marital home or a specific vehicle. However, these financial and accommodation questions are, frequently, more easily solved than questions of custody and shared parenting.
Parenting issues are a major point of contention between the parties, which is common, then the paperwork, negotiations, court involvement, and judicial determinations all substantially increase. This all takes time. Plus, the courts and dissolution of marriage laws take a particular interest in protecting and providing for children in a divorce. The court wants to ensure a child’s preference, well-being, and safety are all taken into consideration. However, this can be difficult to ascertain outside the parents’ influence and bias.
To overcome the obstacle of parental preference and give minor children a voice in the divorce process in Oregon and Washington, children are often appointed a guardian ad litem. This individual is unrelated to the family and tasked with solely representing the interests of the child or children in the divorce process. Of course, when contested, the final determination regarding parenting and custody falls to the court.
Other Factors that Affect Duration of Divorce
Disputes and children are just two of several aspects that could shorten or lengthen your divorce proceedings (legally called dissolution of marriage in Oregon and Washington). High asset divorces typically take longer than others because there are more complicated financial questions to consider. As well, if one spouse is a business owner or beneficiary of a trust, it also impacts timing.
Distance of the parties, from each other and the court, can be a major obstacle for mediation and court dates, and lack of communication from one party, or both, will make for a longer divorce.
At Gearing Rackner & McGrath, our family law attorneys are invested in finding the best path to speedy and efficient divorce proceedings. We want to see our clients finalize a divorce, and successfully move onto the next phase of their lives. Learn more about our legal services for divorce representation, or in other areas of family law, such as legal separations or paternity proceedings.