We’ve all known people who’ve filed for divorce but haven’t completed the process. Perhaps we’ve even dated someone in this situation! What happens during this time and how long does it take?
After the initial filing and interim issues have been resolved, several things need to happen before the case can be finalized:
- you and your spouse need to make financial disclosures
- decisions need to be made about who will keep each asset and who will pay each debt
- decisions need to be made about who will continue to live in your home or apartment, or whether other living arrangements are necessary
- determinations as to how much spousal support and child support is appropriate, if any, and whether either spouse or a child has special financial needs which must be considered
- if disclosures are not forthcoming, or if financial records are unclear, additional investigations may need to occur
- if custody and visitation is an issue, a custody evaluation or investigation must be completed
Once the waiting period has expired, and any necessary disclosures or investigations are completed, your case is ready to come to a final judgment. There are 3 ways which this may happen:
- Uncontested Trial: all matters are agreed upon, and a written agreement is presented to the judge for review on the final hearing date
- Limited Contested Trial: some matters are agreed upon, such as custody and visitation, or certain matters about finances, but other issues remain unresolved, requiring a court trial limited to those issues
- Fully Contested Trial: all financial matters are in dispute, or custody and visitation are not agreed upon, and a court trial will need to be held on all issues.
While most cases begin with unresolved issues, over 95% of these cases are settled prior to a divorce trial. Sometimes resolution takes only a few hours; for other cases, it takes months or years. Only about 5% of all divorce cases end up in limited contested or fully contested trials.
Once the case has been concluded either by a court-approved agreement or by a judge after a trial, the matter goes to final judgment, and you are divorced. The agreement or judge’s orders become the court orders which govern your case. In some cases, this conclusion is final, but in others, parts of the court orders may be modified in the future.