If you have decided to end your marriage, whether on your own, due to your spouse’s decision, or a mutual decision between the both of you, it’s natural to dread the legal proceedings you face and to wonder how long your divorce will take to complete. Ultimately, every marriage is unique, and there is no single formula you can use to calculate how long your divorce will take to complete. Depending on how you and your spouse choose to complete the process, the timeline for your divorce can fluctuate dramatically.

It’s essential to know your options for handling the divorce and what you can expect from these different scenarios. One of the best assets you can have, no matter what your divorce entails or how it came about, is legal counsel you can trust. The right attorney will make a significant difference in the outcome of your case, helping you approach the situation with confidence and peace of mind.

Understanding Divorce Litigation

When most people imagine the divorce process, they think of heated courtroom battles and emotional exchanges between divorcing spouses. The reality is that most divorcing couples in the US do everything they possibly can to avoid litigation. You do not necessarily need to settle your divorce entirely in the courtroom. It’s quite possible that you can manage most of your divorce-related issues with minimal need for litigation when you have the right attorney representing you.

Divorce litigation is a civil case that unfolds under the purview of family law, but the case itself will proceed much the same way as any other civil court case. When divorcing spouses choose to litigate, both have the right to call witnesses to support them in court, present evidence for the judge to consider, and testify on specific issues related to their divorce. Once the judge has reviewed all relevant testimony and evidence, they will deliver a verdict, outlining the terms for the divorce and issuing a divorce order.

Litigation is time-consuming, complicated, and leaves very little room for either spouse to influence the outcome. Ultimately, the final decisions concerning every aspect of the divorce rest in the judge’s hands. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the judge will see things the same way you do regarding your expectations for your divorce decree. Typically, when a couple litigates their divorce entirely, the process will require several months to complete. For more complex cases, a divorce can take more than one year or even several years.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Many divorcing couples throughout the US choose alternative dispute resolution to avoid the stress and expense of litigation and to obtain their divorce decrees more quickly. Collaborative divorce, arbitration, and mediation are a few examples of alternative dispute resolution options that will allow you and your spouse to complete your divorce more quickly, sometimes in as little as a few weeks or a month or two.

Arbitration is a formal and legally binding process that is functionally similar to a court case without the courtroom setting. Usually, the arbitrator, a family court judge, will review both parties’ evidence and testimony and deliver a ruling. Arbitration offers some room for negotiation, but the final decision is ultimately left to the arbitrator. Most couples who opt for alternative dispute resolution choose mediation for the flexibility and control this option provides.

Divorce Mediation Timeline

It’s possible to complete divorce mediation in only a fraction of the time you would spend in divorce litigation as long as you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are willing to negotiate throughout the process. Mediation is flexible, unfolds in a low-pressure atmosphere, and provides both you and your spouse with privacy and more control over the outcome of your divorce. Additionally, you will both spend much less on legal fees because the process takes less time to complete than divorce litigation.

Once you and your spouse have agreed on a mediator, the two of you and your respective attorneys can begin mediation sessions. The mediator will guide discussions and help you negotiate each item of your divorce one at a time. The mediator will also arrange for one-on-one sessions with each of you throughout this process. The end goal of mediation is to draft a divorce resolution that covers every aspect of the divorce as completely as possible.

Depending on how agreeable you and your spouse are toward one another, it’s possible to complete the mediation process in a few weeks or a few months. Compared to the several months or longer that litigation may require, it should be easy to see why so many divorcing couples throughout the US choose mediation instead of litigation. You and your spouse will have greater control over the timeline of your divorce proceedings as well. If your chosen mediator has wide availability, you could have one session or multiple sessions per week until you have covered every aspect of your divorce. Ultimately, the time required to complete mediation depends on the complexity of your case and the issues you must cover.

It’s important to remember that you will still need to attend some measure of litigation when you choose mediation. For example, you cannot create a child custody agreement on your own. You can develop a parenting plan in mediation, but a family court judge must approve it before it becomes a family court order. Additionally, if you have any other issues in your divorce that require formal legal review, you will need to litigate these issues in court.

Find the Right Legal Counsel

If you are concerned about how much time and money you will need to spend on your divorce, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced attorney as soon as you have decided to end your marriage. Your divorce lawyer will review the details of your situation and get to know you to determine the best approach to your divorce case. If you are ready to take your first steps toward starting the divorce process in a way that is right for you, contact an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.