If you are planning to end your marriage or your spouse has recently filed for divorce, it’s natural to have lots of questions about what you can expect from the process and the most likely outcomes of divorce. One of the most frequent questions for people in these situations is how long the divorce process might take. Divorce is notorious for being a stressful, expensive, and time-consuming process. However, many factors determine how long a divorce may take to complete, and every divorcing couple may have more options for resolving the process than they initially realize.

An experienced attorney can help you save time on your divorce, and they can provide the guidance you need to successfully navigate your options for resolving the case. At the outset of divorce proceedings, securing legal counsel as soon as possible ensures your legal team has ample time to assist you with the unique aspects of your case.

How Does Divorce Begin?

Divorce informally starts as soon as one or both spouses in a marriage decide they no longer wish to remain married. The divorce does not formally begin until one of the spouses files a divorce petition. Every state has different laws pertaining to the filing of divorce petitions, waiting periods for divorce, and residency requirements. For example, if you are filing for divorce in Oklahoma, you must ensure you meet the state’s residency requirements. If you recently moved to your state, you may not be eligible to file for divorce until you meet your new state’s residency requirements.

It does not matter which spouse files the divorce petition. Some people mistakenly believe that the party who files the divorce petition has some legal advantage for being the first to file. This is untrue, and it does not matter which spouse files or if the spouses file a joint petition for dissolution. Once the court receives a divorce petition, it issues the appropriate paperwork to the respondent. The other spouse can then submit their answer to the petition to the court.

Contested Versus Uncontested Divorce

The time a divorce will require to complete largely hinges on whether the divorce is contested and the degree to which it is contested. An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree to all terms included in the initial divorce petition. Though rare, uncontested divorces are possible and unfold rather quickly. A judge must determine whether the divorce petition is acceptable under state law and approve the divorce once any applicable waiting periods have expired.

If a spouse responding to a divorce petition disagrees with the petitioner’s terms, the divorce is contested, and the spouses must reach mutually agreeable terms or have a judge resolve their outstanding issues before a divorce can be granted. Once divorcing couples acknowledge their divorce is contested, they should consider their options for resolving their differences and finalizing their divorce.

Divorce Litigation

Divorce is a type of civil case, and as such, it may be resolved through the civil court system. Similar to a personal injury claim or another civil case, the parties involved will have the ability to offer evidence and testimony in court. However, the judge must carefully evaluate all evidence involved in the case and rule on every aspect of the divorce, from property division to child custody.

Litigation is by far the most time-consuming option for resolving a divorce. Additionally, some measure of litigation is likely to be necessary for virtually any divorce case. While many couples try to streamline their dissolution proceedings as much as possible through alternative dispute resolution and private negotiation, some divorce-related issues cannot be resolved privately. For example, divorcing parents must have a judge resolve custody and support for their kids. The family courts of the US are required to rule in the best interests of any child a court’s ruling will affect.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Divorce litigation can be necessary for some divorces, and couples who refuse to negotiate will need to resolve their divorces in court. However, many teams can take advantage of alternative dispute resolution. Collaborative law and mediation are the most commonly used forms of alternative dispute resolution for divorce, and both can offer substantial benefits compared to litigation.

When a divorcing couple agrees to collaborative divorce or mediation, they will meet privately and negotiate each aspect of their divorce item by item. Their respective attorneys will play essential roles in these discussions, both in collaborative divorce and mediation. Mediation requires a neutral third-party mediator to guide negotiations and help the couple draft their divorce settlement. Collaborative law involves the divorcing spouses and their respective attorneys negotiating a divorce order.

Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution

The primary benefits of pursuing alternative dispute resolution in your divorce are time and money savings. Private negotiations can unfold far more quickly than litigation, allowing the couple to reach terms much faster than the courtroom would permit. In addition, their attorneys will spend less time handling court proceedings and other administrative matters with the court, translating to lower attorneys’ fees for both spouses.

Even couples who cannot seem to agree on anything can take advantage of alternative dispute resolution. Their attorneys can act as their respective proxies and negotiate without any need for face-to-face interaction, if necessary. They can also resolve as much as possible privately before taking any impasses they might reach before a family court judge.

It is always worth considering the potential benefits of alternative dispute resolution in your divorce. You will still need an experienced divorce attorney to represent you in these proceedings. They can provide you with valuable guidance when taking advantage of alternative dispute resolution. If your case must proceed to litigation in any measure, they can provide you with an estimated timetable of how your case might unfold.

Ultimately, divorce always has the potential to evolve into a complex and time-consuming ordeal, sometimes taking several months or even a year or more to complete. Every divorce is unique, and you will be best suited to handle the unique challenges your case presents when you have an experienced attorney on your side. Contact an experienced divorce attorney to learn more about your options for speeding up your impending divorce.