All divorces are different. While some can take mere months to finalize, some divorces can last for three to four years. Like relationships, divorces are unique to the individual couple. How long does a divorce take? Depending on how you divorce, the process can take months or years to finalize.

How Long Does a Divorce Take?

So, how long does a divorce take to actually finalize? There are several different options available for those who wish to divorce. Since not all couples are the same, these options vary depending on the communication style, preparation, and stage of the divorce. Depending on the reason for divorce, whether children are involved or financial matters, certain divorce processes may work better for certain situations. When emotions are running high, divorces can tend to drag on. While hiring separate lawyers may be enough for some spouses, there are other solutions available as well.

4 Types of Different Divorces

Although laws vary by state, these four different divorce processes have proven helpful for many divorcing couples. From the independent, no-fuss divorce to the lawyering-up process, these four types of divorces are good for a range of different spouses.

The "Do It Yourself" Divorce Process

For couples who do not have children or many assets, this divorce is a straightforward process. The only requirement is that each person fill out the divorce papers. Although waiting periods differ depending on jurisdiction, this process is usually the fastest in New York City. Because the Do It Yourself Divorce process can take only a few months to complete, many people choose this option for its efficiency and speed.

The Negotiated Settlement

This type of divorce is the complete opposite of the Do It Yourself process. With a negotiated settlement, there is little interaction between the two individuals getting divorced. Lawyers representing both parties will reach agreements on behalf of their client's wishes. Dividing assets and child support are among the few possible settlements that come out of a negotiated settlement.

For couples who disagree on important issues that cannot be resolved outside of court, lawyers can help protect their client. Since court dates may take time, this type of divorce can take a much longer time. It is not unheard of to wait a full year for a single court date.


Mediation is for couples who are somewhere in between the Do It Yourself Divorce and the Negotiated Settlement. Mediation works best for those who are on amicable terms but still need to resolve some conflict. By hiring a third person to act as a neutral party, the couple can work out their issues without feeling like sides have been taken.

Because the mediator is not advocating for either person, they do not need to be a lawyer. Often a mediator can be a counselor or therapist, but a general understanding of the law is key with this type of mediation.

Typically a couple meets several times with the mediator until an agreement is made. Once both parties agree to the terms of the divorce, the mediator will draft the divorce papers. This process primarily depends on how the couple communicates with each other. If communication is good and both parties want to resolve issues, it can be done in just a few weeks. If the communication is unclear or there are unresolved issues that cannot be smoothed out with the help of a mediator, this process can take years.


Arbitration is for those who would like to mediate but have certain issues they cannot work through. The arbitrator, like a mediator, is a neutral third party that will help make tough decisions surrounding the divorce. If there are issues that cannot be settled, the arbitrator will make the decisions.

Acting like a judge, the arbitrator will listen to both sides of an issue before coming to the best decision that will positively affect each person in the divorce. Arbitration is especially helpful if issues pertaining to children arise. Child support is frequently discussed after the arbitrator understands both sides of the equation before coming to a conclusion.

Although most people hire their own lawyers in addition to having an arbitrator, this process can still prove faster than going to court. How long does a divorce take on average? It really depends on which type of process is right for your situation.

What Can Affect a Divorce?

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When determining how long a divorce may take, there are many factors to consider. Not only does the type of divorce play a crucial role in saving time, but state law can also greatly impact the process of a divorce.

4 Factors That Affect Divorce

  • A required separation period
  • Residency requirements
  • Hidden assets
  • Custody conflicts

Some states will not allow couples to file for divorce unless they have been separated for a specific amount of time. This allows the couple time to reconsider their divorce in addition to learning what life is like without the other spouse. While California has a six-month waiting period until the couple is allowed to divorce, it is possible to get a divorce in one day if residing in New Hampshire. Family lawyers are often the best attorneys to contact with questions pertaining to mandatory separation times. They will also be able to tell you if there are requirements for specific living arrangements.

Residency requirements require that both parties have lived in a jurisdiction before filing for a divorce. Depending on the state, residency requirements may vary. 26 states require six-month residency while others only require two to three months. Residency requirements and mandatory separations are a big factor when debating how long a divorce takes.

Disclosing assets is an important part of any divorce. If all assets are disclosed, the divorce can proceed with all facts presented. If a spouse is suspected of hiding assets, contacting a family lawyer is key. Although this will increase the time it takes to complete a divorce, it may well be worth the time.

Custody conflict has the potential to greatly slow down a divorce. Whether it's issues pertaining to child support or whether abuse allegations are made, matters involving children can delay the process. Sometimes forensic psychologists are used or even at-home therapists. Both can cost extra money and time.

No-Fault vs. Fault-Based Divorce

There is an option in every state to file for what is known as a no-fault divorce. This simply means that although the marriage did not work, nobody is to blame. A fault-based divorce means that someone is to blame. If filing a fault-based divorce, the behavior must be proven at a hearing.

When someone has filed a no-fault divorce for “irreconcilable differences” it essentially means there is a breakdown of the marriage where nobody is to blame. No-fault divorces typically require both spouses to live apart for a certain amount of time. Fault-based divorces, however, rarely require a separation time before filing for divorce.

If a fault-based divorce is proven to be true, larger distributions of the marital property may be awarded to the person not at fault. Because of the ability to acquire more assets and forgo the separation period, some spouses choose to file a fault-based divorce.

How long does a divorce take when filing no-fault? The answer depends on which state is handling the divorce as well as the couple. When filing a no-fault divorce, the wait time is usually less than for a fault-based divorce.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

Depending on the type of divorce filed, going to trial is not mandated. This makes an uncontested divorce faster than one which is contested.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

What About a Contested Divorce?


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Couples who have complex marital issues  generally take longer to divorce. Some of the complications that arise with complex divorces include issues with children, alimony, property and assets. Uncontested divorces where the main issues are agreed upon will be easier to file and finish.

Although the divorce process may seem daunting, there are many different avenues to explore for each individual couple. Knowing legal rights, an idea of what to expect and how to find an attorney are all important steps to having a successful and timely divorce. With the right support, a planned divorce does not have to extend for multiple years.

So, how long does a divorce take? Depending on a strategy that fits your emotional, financial and personal needs, a divorce does not have to take years. In some cases, a divorce can take just a few days. With the right information, there are plenty of options to choose from.

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