It's a reality that every divorce is different, so it's not easy to say how long your divorce will take. However, there is a timeline that most divorces follow. This timeline can give you a better idea about how long a divorce can take and the order of events that needs to happen to get your final decree.
The first step of any divorce is deciding to get one. Once you know that you're getting a divorce, decide which attorney you're going to work with. From there, the process begins.
1. At your first consultation
At your first consultation with your attorney, you will be able to obtain a petition for divorce. This is also known as a complaint and begins the divorce process in the court. This document states why you want a divorce and how you would prefer to settle your financial, custody and related marital issues.
From there, your attorney files the petition with the court and makes sure that your spouse receives the petition with a summons.
2. Handling a summons
Once your attorney sends a summons to your spouse, your spouse has to answer the summons within three weeks (approximately). Your spouse can agree or disagree with your complaint. If your spouse doesn't respond, the court assumes that he or she has agreed to your terms. In the summons, your spouse may respond to how you want to settle your divorce issues with how he or she would prefer to do so.
3. Exchanging information
At this stage, you exchange information and documents about your income and property. You also need to decide how to arrange child custody or alimony. You may prefer to settle this outside court through mediation or arbitration.
4. Informal hearings
If you can settle your marital issues outside court, then a judge can hear your case at an informal hearing. If the judge approves your agreements, then you will obtain a divorce decree. If not, you will need to go to trial.
You or your spouse have a right to appeal any judge's decision, but it is not common to have a decision overturned. For this reason, it's the best plan to settle your financial and custody agreements between yourselves, so you don't allow a judge to make those decisions for you.
The length of time it takes to get through this process varies based on how well you and your spouse work together. By being able to negotiate well, it will take less time overall.