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How Long Can a Divorce Take?

Every client I’ve ever worked with going through a divorce wants to know: How long can a divorce take?

It’s a great question because people going through divorce are seeking the finality of their divorce in order to begin to move forward. Given that there is so much uneasiness and change surrounding a divorce, it makes perfect sense that you would ask. I also hear related questions like: When will this be over? When will my life go back to normal? When will my kids be all right? When will the money hemorrhaging stop?

And my answer is always the same: It depends.

I know that is a dissatisfying answer, but I assure you it isn’t meant to be vague. Now, I could give you ranges. In my experience the average divorce case is finalized in 6 to 12 months and an average divorce case that is contentious and heads towards trial can last well over a year. I’ve handled some that go quicker than that and I’ve handled a couple that for particular reasons ended up taking closer to 2 years. But I’m not sure that answer is any more satisfying because after just meeting you or talking with you I don’t have enough information to tell you where you are likely to fall in that wide range.

This might be a better question: When will my case settle?

Why is that better? Statistically speaking, your case will settle. At some point, the overwhelming odds are that your case will settle and not go to trial. Phrasing the question this way can really have an impact of the way you view the work that we do during your divorce. And when you focus on settlement, you will be more open to exchanging information, evaluating options, and coming up with solutions that that you both can agree on. When this happens, your case will certainly move quicker and be less costly.

Look at your divorce as a problem that needs to be solved by finding mutual agreements. Settlement is a process. Having a structured process like divorce mediation or collaborative divorce keeps that focus on track.

Divorces settle when each side has enough information to make a reasonably informed decision. Think about this. If your spouse makes an offer to keep the marital home in exchange for you keeping his or her marital portion of the retirement account, but you don’t know the value or the home, the value of the retirement account, or what portion of either asset is even marital, you aren’t going to be able to respond to that offer. You and your spouse can make this happen by cooperating in exchanging information.

Once you gather all the necessary information you will need to come up with an offer. Unless you are in mediation or a collaborative divorce, exchanging settlement offers requires you and your attorney to sit down and come up with an offer, the attorney to put together that offer in a letter, the attorney passes that letter to your spouse’s attorney, your spouse’s attorney reviews it with your spouse and then they formulate a response. This can be time consuming and frustrating.

Another approach taken in mediation and collaborative divorce is to sit down together in the same room to discuss any offers. This allows for quicker communication. Getting people to come together and sit down in the same room to exchange ideas is always a great catalyst to keep discussions moving forward.

How can I move through my divorce quickly?

It is important to hire an attorney that understands your goal of moving through a divorce efficiently, but also knows how to effectively gather information and exchange settlement proposals. Having a structured process like mediation or collaborative divorce, where all parties have the expectations and goals to move forward, can speed up the process and lower the cost.

Looking for more information?

If you’re interested in the different divorce options, check out our free resource: The Divorce Options Guide. This guide will help you better understand your options for divorce and evaluate which method is best for you.

If you have more questions or are ready to schedule an in-office consult with an attorney, feel free to call divorce lawyer Jennifer Rench at St. Louis Divorce and Mediation at 314-725-4000 or schedule an in-office appointment online using this link.


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