How Involved Is the Divorce Process?

It's normal for anyone meeting with a divorce lawyer to want to know how involved the process is likely to be. A divorce attorney can't assure you that the process will take a certain amount of weeks, but they can look at some common factors to give you a ballpark guess.

State Laws

Even if one party is bent on dragging the process out, your state's laws will impose limits. In some states, the law moves divorce almost as fast as you can get the paperwork to the courthouse. Other states impose cooling-off periods that usually last a few months. After you hit that limit, though, the divorce goes through.

Legal Concerns

Family court judges review all divorces. Generally, they don't get too involved with the process, but they may weigh in if they believe an agreement is especially inequitable. A judge has the right to call a hearing and ask the parties about the terms of the divorce, but this is an extremely rare scenario.

Serving Papers

Oftentimes, the biggest delay comes from the requirement of the suing party to serve their soon-to-be-ex with the papers for the divorce. The papers have to arrive in their possession before the law is satisfied. However, if a party tries to evade being served for a long period, a divorce lawyer can petition the court to move the process along.

Judges want to see good-faith efforts to serve the other side, though. Your divorce attorney will document their efforts to serve papers so you can ask the court for relief if the process ends up stalled.

Note that the court may wait a fairly long time if the receiving party has a legitimate reason for not being able to get the papers. For example, folks in the military who are actively deployed overseas get several months to get the papers and respond.


If you and your ex have issues to negotiate, that process can take a few weeks. Some bigger divorces, usually ones involving extensive assets, can take months because the two sides may have to document what the assets are. A couple with a child will have to sort out custody, visitation, and support, too. Sometimes there are concerns about spousal support, especially if one party has a noted disability that may require long-term support. Folks with relatively simple divorces can expect their cases to move as quickly as their state's laws permit.

To learn more about the extent of your case, contact a divorce lawyer.