How Long Does a Divorce Take in California?

Serving Clients Throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties

Filing for a divorce can be a long and exhausting process. There are many different types of divorce to consider, depending on how much you and your spouse agree on the divorce terms. When engaging in this process, many divorcing couples ask, “How long does a divorce take in California?” Working with a Santa Rosa, CA, divorce lawyer can help expedite the divorce process and reduce stress for everyone involved.

Requirements for Filing a Divorce

In Santa Rosa, there are some requirements that a married couple needs to fulfill before filing a divorce case, including:

  • At least one spouse must have lived in California for at least six months.
  • For individuals living in Santa Rosa, at least one spouse must have lived in Sonoma County for at least three months.

Unlike other states, you do not need any evidence of a spouse’s wrongdoing to file for divorce in California because it is a no-fault divorce state. The other spouse does not need to consent to you filing a divorce.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

The biggest factor that can impact how long your divorce could take is whether you and your spouse can agree on the major parts of your divorce. If you’re able to do this before trial, your divorce is considered uncontested. If you still disagree on the specifics by the time your case goes to trial, it is considered a contested divorce.

What Is a Summary Dissolution?

A summary dissolution is similar to an uncontested divorce but is only available to certain couples. To qualify for a summary dissolution, the couple must:

  • Only be married for five years or less.
  • Have no children as a couple.
  • Owe little debt and own relatively few assets.
  • Not be interested in spousal support (where one spouse is legally required to financially support the other).
  • Agree on how to divide any owned property.

There is less paperwork required for a summary dissolution, and the process is often quicker than a traditional uncontested divorce.

The Divorce Process in Detail

To obtain a divorce in Santa Rosa, a couple must follow this divorce process:

  1. One of the spouses submits a petition for divorce, usually with the help of an attorney.
  2. The other spouse is notified of the petition and must either agree to or dispute the terms within 30 days.
  3. If these terms are disputed, the couple must resolve them. This is typically known as a contested divorce and is normally done with the help of an attorney.
  4. A settlement, signed by both parties, must be submitted to the court.
  5. Once the settlement is filed, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period before the court finalizes the divorce.
  6. After this waiting period, the court can approve the divorce.

What Is the Ten-Year Rule?

There is a common misconception that if a couple has been married for longer than ten years and files for divorce, a spouse automatically gets permanent spousal support. While this is untrue, a divorce of a marriage that’s ten years old or longer can affect certain aspects of the divorce, like:

  • Spousal Support: For divorces involving marriages lasting less than ten years, spousal support is often allowed for half of the total length of the marriage. “Long-term” marriages, or those lasting ten years or longer, have different end dates for spousal support that depend on each party’s circumstances.
  • Division of Property: If a marriage lasted for longer than ten years and one spouse significantly increased their income over the course of the marriage, formerly shared property might be split differently, relative to other divorces.
  • Legal Fees: If one spouse did not participate in the workforce for an extended period of time in a long-term marriage, it’s possible for that spouse to request the court that the other spouse pay their legal fees.

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

While California law has guidelines that dictate this, the ultimate answer depends on your situation. The biggest deciding factor in the length of your divorce case will come down to whether or not the divorce is contested.

California is a no-fault divorce state

As a no-fault state for divorce, you won’t have to worry about building a case against your ex. The court essentially doesn’t care about why you’re getting a divorce. In fact, they probably don’t even want to hear it. Court officials will focus on making sure your filing is complete and that there is either an agreement on your divorce or that they’ve settled the necessary details for you.

There has been some discussion about adding ramifications to the California divorce process such as punishing individuals who have been convicted of or admitted to domestic violence. So far this isn’t the case, so unless that changes you shouldn’t bank on this working for or against you.

Uncontested divorce in California

Uncontested divorce, naturally, works more seamlessly than a contested divorce. In this case, it could be as simple as one party filing for divorce and waiting six months for the divorce to be finalized per California Law. Generally, uncontested divorces take between 6-12 months.

If you or your spouse are working to finalize certain details of the divorce, however, that time period will stretch a bit longer. Maybe you’re in agreement on almost every point but are working on who gets what assets. Your case will take as long as it takes to figure that out, but if you’re not able to come to a complete agreement then your divorce could go from uncontested to contested quickly.

Contested divorce in California

When your divorce is contested, either from the get-go or as the uncontested process shifts to contested, the time period can stretch between one and two years (occasionally longer). Contested divorces will have the same required six-month waiting period that uncontested ones do, but the courts will need more time to sort out your situation.

If you and your partner have significant assets and income between you then it’s more likely that your case will take much longer. Because California is a community property state, all property acquired during the marriage will be presumed to be equally owned by both spouses. This could lead to a long back-and-forth, but you can make the whole process easier if you’re able to come to an agreement with your spouse so the courts don’t have to sort it all out.

At Carroll Law Office, we’ve handled divorces of all types and lengths. Even if you think you have an uncontested and “easy” divorce, you should speak to an attorney to make sure you don’t end up costing yourself should your case turn sideways. Our team wants to help you simplify life’s complexities. Contact us today and get your divorce process on the right timeline.

FAQs About the Time it Takes to Divorce in California

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California If Both Parties Agree?

A divorce in which both parties agree to all aspects of the divorce is called an uncontested divorce. In Santa Rosa, there is a required six-month waiting period before the divorce is finalized. This means that the shortest amount of time it can take to get divorced in Santa Rosa is six months and one day. A contested divorce could take considerably longer, depending on how long it takes for the couple to reach an agreement.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California in 2024?

The cost of a divorce depends on how long the couple takes to agree on the procedure. If both parties agree, then it can take less time for an attorney to work with the couple. The cost also depends on who you choose to help you file your divorce. While a mediator might only cost a few thousand dollars, an arbitrated divorce or hiring a divorce attorney and going to trial can cost considerably more.

How Can I Speed Up My Divorce in California?

The most effective way to speed up your divorce is to agree with the other spouse on the divorce terms. An uncontested divorce moves much quicker than a contested divorce. However, in Santa Rosa, there is a minimum six-month waiting period after the couple submits an agreement to the court before the divorce is finalized. An attorney can also speed up the divorce process.

What Is the Quickest Divorce You Can Get in California?

There are different types of divorce proceedings, depending on the individual details of the couple filing for divorce. A couple might qualify for a summary dissolution and not have to go to trial if they:

  • Are married for a short period.
  • Have no children.
  • Own relatively little.
  • Agree on how to split what they own.

Couples that do not meet these criteria must go through either a contested or uncontested divorce, which can take longer.

Simplify the Process

There are many factors that can complicate even the simplest divorce cases. Each step in a divorce requires many important decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. A divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process and take care of challenging paperwork. That way, you can focus on making the right choices for you and your family. Schedule an appointment with the team at Carroll Law Office to tell your story and learn your options.

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