How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California?

Possible divorce timeline in California
Last Updated on April 2024

In California, after serving a petition for divorce, the plaintiff has 30 days to file a response to the divorce papers. After all the necessary documents are filed, it typically takes about six months to one year or longer to finalize a divorce, depending on the complexity of the issues and the degree of conflict.

California Divorce Process Timeline

Divorce in the United States, even if it is uncontested, takes some time and effort of both parties to be finalized. The thing is, there are certain steps that cannot be avoided irrespective of case specifics. So, getting a divorce in California, you will have to do the following:

  • The case is opened as soon as the person initiating the dissolution of marriage (the petitioner) files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Summons with the Superior Court in the county where he or she had resided for at least 3 months. If this condition is not met, then the petitioner has to wait until this period passes, which, of course, delays the California divorce process.
  • The person filing the divorce also has to prepare a package of documents needed for their specific case, which usually takes a lot of time if it is done without any assistance.
  • After that, the second spouse (the defendant) should be served with the paperwork. The service process is an official notification of the defendant that the divorce process has started. In California, the paperwork can be served by any third party of over 18 years.
  • The second spouse then has 30 days to fill out the response and file it. You will also need to provide the proof that you served your spouse to court along with your spouse’s acknowledgment that they’ve received the paperwork.
  • It will be necessary for both spouses to complete the preliminary disclosure process. This procedure requires each spouse to fill out some of the financial paperwork and exchange it.
  • As soon as the questions with paperwork have been resolved, you will have to schedule a divorce hearing if your case is contested. It might not be your only one depending on your family situation. If everything is fine with the forms and your case is uncontested, the hearing is unlikely to be necessary.
  • Once divorce papers are signed, it means that your case is finalized and your marriage has ended. However, please note that the divorce won’t be finalized until the mandatory waiting period for divorce in California(6 months) passes.

How Long Does It Take to File a Divorce

On average, filing for divorce takes approximately 8-12 months, which covers such processes as preparing and submitting paperwork, serving your spouse, going to hearings, passing the waiting period, and so on. If your case is contested, then the divorce procedure in California may last for more than 1 year. The reasons for such a delay lie in the following:

  • A contested case means that you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on some of the important aspects without which the marriage dissolution cannot be finalized. These are issues related to custody over your children, spousal or child support calculations, visitation schedule, property and assets division, etc. Therefore, it will take some for you to settle with the help of mediators, attorneys, or the court if you don’t manage to reach an agreement.
  • A contested divorce is almost impossible to cope with without a lawyer’s involvement, which also makes the whole process much longer. Finding a good attorney for an affordable price is a real challenge. A contested case also presupposes that you have to meet with a lawyer as many times as it is needed to prepare the strategy for the court.
  • Before the court hearings take place, you will have to go through pre-trial motions. During this period, you and your spouse have to go through discovery and make an attempt to come to an agreement for the last time. If you fail to resolve the disputes, which is a frequent situation for such type of case, the court proceedings will start. All of this also delays your case considerably.
  • Finally, the divorce proceedings for this type of marriage dissolution take plenty of time. You will have to provide solid evidence for the judge to make a decision and invite witnesses and experts (for example, forensic accountants, real estate appraisers, and so on). Only when all the experts were heard, and the witnesses cross-examined the judge can reach the decision.  
  • If one of the parties appears to be unsatisfied with the decision, he or she may file an appeal, which will make your divorce process even longer.  

As you can see, engaging in a contested marriage dissolution is not only an extremely stressful and expensive venture but also a very lengthy one. On the contrary, the uncontested case takes so much less time, money, and effort.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California if Both Parties Agree?

For those couples who have managed to end their relationships in the most peaceful way possible, mutual consent divorce is the best option. It is cheaper, relatively easier than the contested one, and of course, much faster. If everything goes smoothly, your divorce will be granted immediately after the 6-months waiting period is over.

California is a state that allows couples to file for a no-fault divorce, which gives you an opportunity to end a marriage without the necessity to prove each other’s wrongdoings. This factor makes the procedures much simpler in all senses. All you need to do is create a settlement agreement detailing your decisions on divorce matters and present it to the court along with other paperwork.

Here are some of the aspects of your divorce that you would need to discuss to end your marriage as quickly as possible.

Child Custody

As a rule, US couples are inclined to get joint legal custody of their children. However, there can be cases when one of the spouses is not satisfied with the time they get to spend with their kids. In order not to delay your divorce, it is better to discuss all these matters in advance and create a parenting plan, as well as a visitation schedule in case only one party is planning to get physical custody.

Property Division

The more assets the couple has, the more problems can occur during the divorce process. While dividing your property, make sure you do it fairly. California is a community property state which means that all the assets are divided equally between spouses. So if the judge finds the division unfair, they may reject it.

Spousal Support

The amount of alimony one spouse may need to pay to the other depends on many factors, such as the spouses’ financial situation, the ability of both parties to work, the length of the marriage, etc. Whether you were planning to seek alimony or not, you need to know that by declining to receive it now, you will not be able to reverse this decision.

How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce in California?

On average, it takes around 1 year. You will be able to get a more precise answer to “how much does it take for a divorce to be final?” based on a few factors:

  • The couple’s ability to settle
  • Type of case
  • Attorney’s involvement
  • Help with paperwork preparation

For those who want to get a quick divorce in California, reaching an agreement is the best option. This will save you not only time but also thousands of dollars. The way you can expedite it even more is by getting your paperwork completed online. Why?

  • Some forms are mandatory for all cases, and some are not. Instead of having to research and figure out which forms for your case, you can receive the necessary ones by filling out a simple questionnaire. This will save you weeks of time.
  • Legal terminology is often hard to grasp. If you don’t understand what question you’re answering, you will likely make mistakes and have issues submitting your paperwork. With a simplified online tool, you answer easy questions with useful hints, minimizing errors.
  • Working with a lawyer means having meetings with them, which you will have to schedule and pay for per hour. When you get the papers online, you don’t adjust to anyone’s schedule and only pay once – less than you would for an hour with a lawyer. Besides, your documents can be ready in a day, even if you ask for them at night.
  • You need to learn about the nuances of California divorce if you don’t have a lawyer. We provide you with a guide showing you what steps to take and what pitfalls to await. This means that you can file for divorce when it’s convenient for you – not your lawyer.

All you need to do is to fill out a questionnaire, make a payment, and wait for your document package to be delivered. It’s quick and easy!