A Guide On How Long Does a Divorce Take

A divorce can be a long and devastating process that takes a toll on the separating couple. Even though most separating partners just want to get it over with and go on with their lives, many details and arrangements go into it. So, how long does a divorce take and what are the factors that influence its duration?

This article will focus on explaining what happens during different types of divorces, the usual divorce timeline, and the factors that influence the duration of divorce proceedings, and will tackle how the divorce process works in San Francisco. 

Source: iStockPhotos.

How Long Does a Divorce Take

So, how long does a divorce take from start to finish? Since every divorce process is unique, there isn’t a collective timeline that divorcing couples can lean on. Furthermore, it usually depends on the circumstances of both parties and the legal help they’re getting. So, when planning a divorce in California, having an expert in family law is always recommended.

For example, if someone’s looking for a San Francisco divorce lawyer alternative, there are various online options available. Not only can this help save time, but it’ll also ensure that the case proceeds in a civil manner and without any disruptions. 

Moreover, you can calculate the average time it may take you based on the type of divorce you’re interested in. That being said, the average times of the most common divorce types this article will cover are the following:

  • Uncontested divorce
  • Contested divorce
  • Collaborative divorce
  • Divorce mediation
  • DIY divorce

Uncontested divorce

The first common type of divorce is uncontested divorce. Since it’s one of the easiest ways to get separated, it’s also considered one of the fastest. The reason why it’s so simple is because there are two requirements for it to be considered uncontested.

In the first case, both sides come to a mutual agreement when it comes to sharing assets and child custody decisions. Thus, the time designated for negotiation is kept to a minimum. The second case is when one domestic partner files for divorce, and the second doesn’t respond or appear in court. In such situations, the judge will review what the filing partner asks for and decide how the assets and obligations will be shared.

So, how long does it take to get a divorce if both parties agree? In general, uncontested divorces may last up to six weeks. However, if the separating couple doesn’t have too many assets or kids, the average duration can be lowered to only four weeks. 

Contested divorce

The second and more complex case of separation falls under contested divorce. What makes this type of separation more difficult is the inability of the couple to come to mutual terms. When none of the parties can agree on the issues surrounding the divorce, it has to be taken in a court of law.

Not only does this prolong the timeframe for the divorce process, but it’s also quite expensive. It’s known to cause a lot of emotional strain and stress not only to the separating couple but to their loved ones as well. Thus, many people deal with their issues before the process starts to avoid further complications.

Depending on the circumstances, the divorce timeline of contested cases may vary. While some people may finalize the process within six months, others must endure it for years. For those looking to end the relationship quickly but can’t come to an agreement, it’s always recommended to try divorce mediation before taking the case to court.

Two people holding their wedding rings next to a cut out broken heart that represents divorce

Image by Freepik

Collaborative divorce

Another common type of divorce is the collaborative type. When settling the separation with the help of collaborative family law, both parties work alongside professionals to meet their needs. This can be a trained family lawyer, a financial professional, or a coach who will help you avoid any negative outcome in court.

Because the lawyers will do most of the negotiation, many consider it cost-effective and less stressful. However, when it comes to its duration, it can last as long as any contested divorce process. Even though legal professionals will represent both sides, reaching an agreement may take between six months to several years.

Collaborative divorce may help the separating couple reach their desired outcome regardless of the timeframe. Since the final results are based on the needs of both parties, they won’t feel devastated if the judge rules the case in favor of the other. 

Divorce mediation

Many divorcing couples who want to get separated with as little complexity as possible turn to divorce mediation. As already mentioned, this practice is designed to help separating partners negotiate in a civil manner and come to a favorable agreement. Furthermore, both parties will be assigned a neutral mediator to guide them through the process, whether online or in real life.

Unlike the other divorce types, the separating couple has the last word when finalizing the case. Only when they’ve come to terms and agreed on all the details will the divorce mediation service file the divorce documents. This ensures that both sides get a good outcome with as little stress as possible.

Furthermore, divorce mediation is a less expensive option when compared to collaborative or contested divorce. The duration of this process highly depends on how ready both parties are to negotiate with each other. But the general period it takes to finalize the necessities is between three and six months

In situations where the couple can’t seem to come to an agreement, it’s best to switch to a collaborative divorce. Even though it may take longer, the legal professionals will negotiate on behalf of the divorcees. 

DIY divorce

With the advantages available through the advancement of technology, the last common separation type is the DIY divorce. As the name indicates, all the legal documents and negotiations fall on the shoulders of the divorcing couple during such a process. Thus, if they don’t have any prior law experience, they may get confused about all the required paperwork.

Without a professional expert by their side, they may further complicate the case if they don’t take care of all the details. However, despite its complexity, it’s thought to have a shorter duration than cases taken to court. The general timeline for DIY divorce can be anywhere between six months to up to a year. 

To ensure this type of divorce takes as little time as possible, reviewing the paperwork before it’s filed is best. This way, they’ll be accepted faster, and the one filing for divorce won’t have to start the process all over again.

Factors Influencing The Duration Of a Divorce Process

Even though there’s a general timeline for different types of divorce, several factors still influence the overall duration of the process. Depending on the circumstances, some of the most common elements that affect the divorce period are the following:

  • Location
  • Mandatory waiting periods
  • Disputes
  • Financial assets
  • Child custody and spousal support


When dealing with any legal case, it’s important to remember that each state has unique local requirements. Usually, each state has different regulations regarding the amount of times you’ll need to appear in front of a court and the required documents. So, how long does it take to finalize a divorce in California?

For California, the average time to get a divorce is at least six months.\

Mandatory waiting periods

These mandatory waiting periods are designed to give the separating couple the time to analyze their current circumstances and decide if they want to go on with the divorce. Not only does this allow a period for both sides to cool off, but it also ensures that the decision isn’t rushed.

Once again, the duration of these periods is based on the state in which the couple is divorcing. For example, the typical waiting period in California is six months, while it takes up to a year in Maryland. Furthermore, some states, such as Minnesota, Maine, and Illinois, don’t have this requirement. 


Another reason a divorce may be prolonged is if the couple comes into a dispute. The best way to ensure that the separation happens quickly is to quickly reach to a mutual agreement. If either of the sides fails to negotiate, it can only further complicate the case. 

Man and woman sitting on a couch after an argument

Image by drobotdean on Freepik

Financial assets

The complexity of the financial assets also influences the duration of the divorce. While some people may have all their finances ready to split, others may have difficulty making the needed arrangements. Furthermore, there are also instances when one of the parties tries to hide certain assets or has undisclosed debts. In such situations, hiring a financial professional to help with the asset division is best.

Child custody and spousal support

Lastly, child custody and spousal support often add to the duration of separation. Even though it’s best to keep the divorce process short when kids are involved, deciding on their custody and support may prolong it. To ensure the child experiences as little stress as possible and both parents get their rights, it’s best to hire a lawyer experienced in family law. 


After reviewing how long does a divorce take, it’s easy to say that it all comes down to the separating couple’s unique life circumstances. While some divorces can last about six weeks, others may take up to several years to finalize. Furthermore, factors like location, financial assets, and child custody may prolong its duration.

To ensure the whole process goes as smoothly as possible, the divorcing couple should be willing to negotiate and reach a mutual agreement. If both sides feel as if they can’t work together, it’s best to hire a professional lawyer to negotiate on their behalf. But if nothing else works, there are also contested divorces where the judge makes the final decision.


  • Bruce Gosling

    Bruce Gosling is an animal blogger. He has written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. He is the founder of the blog Animals in Translation, which focuses on animal behavior and conservation. Gosling is also a member of the Royal Society of Biology.

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