How Fast Can You Get Divorced in California?

The act of filing for a divorce can often seem like the light at the end of the tunnel. People who are ready for a split just want to get the paperwork over with and move on with their lives. While some divorces resolve quickly, others take a bit longer. A variety of factors determine the length of divorce proceedings. In California, the shortest amount of time a divorce can take is six months.

Factors that Can Extend the Divorce Process

The amount of time your divorce takes generally comes down to you, your spouse, your children, and your assets. If you or your spouse contests every detail of the divorce, the process can stretch out over years. Factors that can extend the timeframe include:

  • A long document/asset discovery process
  • Custody disagreements
  • Spousal support disagreements
  • Disagreements on asset division
  • Scheduling at the courthouse
  • Failing to cooperate with the legal process
  • Keeping information from your attorney

How both parties negotiate along the way can also lengthen or shorten the timeframe. Even some amicable divorces can prove to be lengthy if the spouses need to work through complex financial situations. Your divorce attorney can’t give you a definite timeframe for the divorce process but can look at the general picture and offer an estimate to help you plan.

How to Expedite Your California Divorce

If you and your spouse are fair with each other, you may shorten the divorce process to the minimum six-month requirement. The state imposes a six-month waiting period on all divorces and dissolutions to give both parties an opportunity to reconcile. California offers two relatively fast pathways to divorce known as uncontested divorces and summary dissolutions.

Uncontested Divorces

The state generally refers to divorces that resolve without disagreement as uncontested divorces. In an uncontested divorce, either both parties agree to the terms of the divorce or the respondent fails to respond to the petition (which will result in a default judgment). These cases may involve court appearances. However, you can work with an attorney to complete the paperwork, and handle communications with the courthouse via mail, which can save time and energy.

Many divorces start out as uncontested and later become contested. With all the facts laid out, some spouses may start to feel the other has an unfair advantage. Any formal disagreement can turn an uncontested divorce into a contested one. To minimize the risk of lengthening a divorce, consider working out disagreements with negotiation or arbitration.

Summary Dissolution

For qualifying spouses, the state also offers a fast-track paperwork process for divorce. A summary dissolution allows spouses to jointly file a divorce petition. The process will still take six months, but involves a much simpler process. You may qualify for a summary dissolution if you were married less than five years, have no children, do not own real estate, do not owe more than $6,000 together, do not own more than $41,000 in community property, do not own more than $41,000 in separate property, and if you both agree to never receiving spousal support.

Faster Is Not Always Better

While the minimal time for divorce may seem like the right answer at the time, we encourage our clients to really consider their needs and shared lives with their spouses. A divorce process that moves too quickly may leave you with regrets and resentment in the future. In some cases, moving quickly may force you to request changes to spousal or child support agreement after the divorce finalization – something that can draw out the process beyond average timelines.

Instead of thinking about the timeframe, focus on balancing expediency with thoroughness. If you need to take a few extra months to ensure your divorce ends in a fair split for you and your children, take that time now to avoid complications in the future.