Getting a Divorce Can Be a Long, Complicated Process

The time it takes to get a divorce can be determined by a lot of things. Where you live can be the biggest factor.

Robin Hill-Gray - Author

May 20 2022, Published 5:14 a.m. ET

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Whereas planning a wedding can be one of the biggest challenges a couple faces, uncoupling—that is, getting a divorce—can prove to be even costlier and more time-consuming. How long does it take to get a divorce?

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Most couple aren't thinking about divorce as they walk down the aisle, but after the honeymoon, things can change. Here are some things to consider if you want a divorce.

The divorce process doesn't have to be difficult but often is

Getting a divorce can be cumbersome, especially if your affairs aren't in order (no pun intended). Before getting a divorce, couples need to consider whether they want a divorce attorney, organize their finances (such as bank accounts and credit cards), and figure out their living situation during the divorce.

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The time it takes to get a divorce is largely determined by your state

In some states, divorces are quick and efficient, and in others, they can be grueling. Some places may even require a separation period before the divorce can be processed.

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States with longer divorce processing periods are the following:

  • New York: 360 days.
  • Nebraska: 420 days.
  • California: 360 days.
  • Arkansas: 540 days.
  • Rhode Island: 510 days.

States with shorter processing times are:

  • Alaska: 30 days.
  • Nevada: 42 days.
  • South Dakota: 60 days.
  • Wyoming: 80 days.
  • Idaho: 62 days.
  • New Hampshire: 1 year (non-residents), none for residents.
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Another factor that can derail the processing times is legal fees. Whereas spouses may try and settle the divorce themselves, a divorce lawyer may be needed if things get ugly. Generally, the more things that need to be divided and accounted for, the longer a divorce will take and the more it will cost. For people with fewer assets, lower income, and no children, a divorce may be as easy as getting married in Vegas.

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The type of divorce a couple is filing for can also determine the timeline. According to LegalZoom, contested divorces, fault-based divorces (involving adultery or abuse), and situations where a spouse avoids being served with papers can all be slower. There may also be factors out of your control that drag out the process, such as your county having a backlog of unprocessed cases.

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Does your state require separation before divorce?

According to Divorce Source, these states require separation before divorce:

  • Alabama: 1 month.
  • Arkansas: 18 months.
  • California: 6 months after the filing date.
  • District of Columbia: 6 months.
  • Illinois: 2 years, 6 months with mutual consent.
  • Iowa: 3 months.
  • Louisiana: 6 months, 2 years for covenant marriage.
  • Maryland: 2 years, 1 year with mutual consent.
  • Massachusetts: 7 months, 1 month with mutual consent.
  • Missouri: 6 months.
  • Montana: 6 months.
  • New Jersey: 18 months, 6 with mutual consent.
  • New York: 1 year.
  • North Carolina: 1 year.
  • Ohio: 1 year, none with mutual consent.
  • Pennsylvania: 2 years or 3 months with mutual consent.
  • South Carolina: 1 year.
  • Utah: 3 months, none with mutual consent.
  • Vermont: 6 months.
  • Virginia: 1 year, 6 months with mutual consent and no children.
  • Washington: 3 months.
  • West Virginia: 1 year, none with mutual consent.

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