It may have taken years to get to this point, but now you’re here: you know you want a divorce.
And you probably want it to be over…well, yesterday. Of course, that’s not an option (sadly). But knowing how long your divorce could take can help you set expectations and plan for the future.
There are several factors that determine how long it takes to get a divorce. We’ll dig into each of them.
Whether your state has a mandatory waiting period
Each state sets its own family law rules, and those laws impact the length of the divorce process. For instance, some states require that spouses be separated for 90 days before they can file for divorce.
Some states have a waiting period — often called a “cooling off” period — after a petition for divorce is filed. Until the waiting period has passed, the court won’t finalize the divorce.
Of course, the purpose of a mandatory waiting period is to discourage rash decisions. These states don’t want people to rush into a divorce after a heated argument. But for couples that know they want a divorce, the waiting period can be frustrating.
Scroll down to find out whether Georgia has a mandatory waiting period.
Whether you’re filing for a contested or uncontested divorce
Contested divorces are almost always more time-consuming than uncontested divorces.
When you file for a contested divorce, you’re asking the court to decide the key issues of your divorce. They determine how to divide assets, how to schedule child custody, etc.
That means you’ll likely spend time in hearings, presenting your side to the court. You may have a full-on trial with evidence, expert witnesses, and testimony.
And of course, your timing will depend on the court’s calendar. You and your spouse may be ready to present your arguments now, but the court might not have an opening for another two months.
In contrast, an uncontested divorce is streamlined. You and your spouse come to a full agreement on all the details of your divorce before you file with the court. When you file for an uncontested divorce, all the court has to do is approve your paperwork to finalize the divorce.
If an attorney didn’t draft your petition for divorce, the court may schedule a hearing to tie up the loose ends. (Here’s why we don’t recommend DIY divorces.) Even then, the uncontested divorce process is much faster.
Whether you’re filing for a fault or no-fault divorce
Every state in the country allows you to file for a no-fault divorce. That’s a divorce where neither side alleges or accepts individual responsibility for the end of the marriage. You may have heard the phrase “irreconcilable differences” or “irretrievably broken.” The marriage cannot be repaired, and neither party is at fault.
In a fault divorce, on the other hand, one spouse alleges that the other is responsible for the end of the marriage. The most common alleged fault is adultery. Georgia has thirteen grounds for divorce, including mental illness, abuse, or imprisonment.
The accused spouse has the right to rebut, or argue against, the allegation. The court must look at all the evidence to determine whether the allegation is true. They may hold hearings and ask for witnesses or experts to testify.
And that means more time.
Whenever you involve the court in the process, you’re extending the time it will take to finalize your divorce. Fault divorces take many more months (and a lot more money) than no-fault divorces.
How complex your divorce is
Every divorce is different, and some are significantly more complex than others.
Imagine a couple that’s been married for three years and doesn’t have kids. They don’t own a home and have very few assets. They could decide to take each other to court out of spite. But the basic facts of their marital life aren’t complex. They could probably come to an agreement relatively quickly.
Compare that to a husband and wife that each started their own businesses during the marriage. They have multiple inheritances as well as shared investment accounts. They have two young children. Untangling their financial situation is more complicated. Figuring out their parenting plan could take serious negotiations.
They may still be able to divorce quickly and amicably. But the complexity of the issues demands a bit more time, energy, and commitment to a peaceful process.
Whether you meet the state’s residency requirements
Most states require you to be a resident of that state when you file for divorce in one of its courts. Some also require that you have been a resident for a set period of time — generally six months.
If you’ve just moved to a new state, you may have to wait several months before you can file for divorce.
Whether there’s a backlog of cases in the family law court
Unfortunately, the court’s calendar can play a big role in how quickly your divorce moves forward.
Throughout the pandemic, people seeking divorce have faced major delays. Some courts closed entirely. Some were open only for emergency orders. Lockdowns created a huge backlog of divorce cases in courts around the country.
Of course, that’s an extreme situation. But courts develop backlogs all the time for everyday reasons. More people want time in front of a judge than there are hours in the day. Staff members were sick or on vacation. The same things that slow down any office or business can affect the court system.
How long does it take to get divorced in Georgia?
All these same factors are at play if you’re seeking a divorce in Georgia. In general, your divorce will proceed more quickly if you go the uncontested route. But even the fastest uncontested divorce will take at least a few months to be finalized.
Georgia has a mandatory waiting period of 30 days. That means from the moment you file, the earliest you could ask the court to make its final decree is 31 days later. That’s the case even if you and your spouse agree on all the terms and file for an uncontested divorce.
But even before filing an uncontested case, your divorce will take some time. You need time to discuss and reach an agreement with your spouse. Your attorney needs to draft the necessary paperwork for you and your spouse to sign. Still, this process is faster than the prolonged contested divorce process.
So here’s what you can expect:
- Uncontested divorce: In Georgia, you can anticipate it taking a little more than a month from the time you file your petition for divorce. That doesn’t include the time you spend negotiating the agreement before filing. That depends on how well you and your spouse communicate and how supportive your attorney(s) is of an amicable process.
- Contested divorce: In Georgia, a contested divorce can take anywhere from six months to more than a year. The time varies based on the parties’ desire to settle and the complexity of the issues.
We specialize in uncontested divorce for people that are ready to move on to their next chapter. Contact us to get your divorce started now.