How long does the divorce process take?

Filed in Divorce support: How long does it take to file and complete a divorce case? (last updated in 2014)
So you are about to file for divorce and you want to know a few preliminary things like how much of your life and time will be wrapped up in this experience? How long will it take? As a NYC Divorce lawyer, I cannot count the number of times I have been asked this question. Getting divorced does tend to take a lot longer than getting married (marriage and divorce are polar opposites, as we’ve said a million times on this divorce blog). But exactly how long does it take? The answer is, it depends. On a lot of things. Like, the nature of the divorce; the parties; the county where you file your divorce papers; the judge; the state; and so many variables. If you are in an international divorce situation, this could take longer than a divorce in your own country when both parties reside in the same place, for example.
These days, for example, many people are going the mediation route. This tends to shorten the divorce time by months and even years. Recently we interviewed a couple of divorce experts about divorce mediation. Two have talk shows in the works based on this concept of divorce mediation. This one guy even created this interesting concept called the Divorce Hotel where couples check in for the weekend married, and leave 2.5 days later divorced. This is based in the Netherlands but it is coming soon to a reality tv on Fox near you and Americans can also check into the hotel. Even so, it really ends up taking a lot more than just 2 days because there is the whole vetting process and pre-selection for the hotel which could take weeks or months and then, to go from divorce settlement agreement to when the judge actually signs the judgment of divorce, this could likewise take up to six months in some instances.
Usually, if the divorce is uncontested it will take less time than if it is contested just about anywhere that the case is heard – mediation or not.  However, even with an uncontested divorce the time it takes will vary depending on the Court and the judge and even the nature of the action and even the state or country in which you reside. In some countries, divorce actions routinely take years to be finalised. I have heard that France takes a particularly long time, for example.
I’ve seen uncontested divorces take up to six months from the date of filing to be finalized in New York. The contesteds? Look, it if possible it could take a decade to be TOTALLY finished – depending once again on the specifics of the case. This has nothing to do with the divorce lawyers usually. It is really about the judge and how crowded the judge’s calendar is, for one thing; but also it dépends on the litigants. There are some divorces that are hugely complex from a financial standpoint – but this is more likely to happen in high networth divorce cases. The lesson being that the less money you have, the easier your divorce will tend to be and the quicker it will be adjudicated – usually. There are always exceptions to the general rule of course.
If there are children involved, significant assets and property or other issues, even if the parties agree on everything, it may take longer not only to complete the paperwork (the attorneys) but for the judge to review the papers to make sure they comply with the applicable divorce laws and to make sure that the best interest of the children of the divorce are provided for, and thus sign off on the final judgment.
So, how long does the divorce process take – start to finish? On average I would say an uncontested divorce takes about 3 months and a contested divorce takes about 9 months to a year – in New York. Again, I said on average. The duration of different cases differ for different reasons. Some cases have taken up to five years before a judgment of divorce is signed, or even a decade as I said. And I’ve seen uncontested cases take as little as six weeks. In places like Nevada you can get a “quickie divorce” in about that time. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are also quickie divorce havens.
Now, if you are contemplating divorce, remember that divorce can cost a lot more than you suspect. And you should always consider the hidden costs of divorce before you make a final decision. Read about the hidden costs of divorce before you go to the next post.

The hidden costs of divorce: You’ll never suspect how much you really pay for a divorce

Original version published November 13, 2006
Last updated in 2014
Last updated March 2017