How long divorce proceedings take is a large concern for many families. Long divorce proceedings mean more time and money spent in legal banter, raising the stress levels for everyone involved.

While individuals are usually looking for a definitive answer on how long their divorce process will take, the reality is that the amount of time spent in litigation depends entirely on the unique challenges of your case.

Keep reading for an overview on the average timelines of the 4 main types of divorce and learn which most resembles your personal case.

Main Types of Divorce

While this article goes through 4 types of divorce, they fall into two main categories: contested or uncontested. As the names suggest, contested divorces are those in which spouses disagree on terms and uncontested divorces are those in which spouses do agree.

Generally speaking, contested divorces or divorces with a missing spouse will take longer than uncontested divorces. This is due to a greater chance of time spent arguing or waiting on an unresponsive party. These problems can be made worse when child custody and child support are involved as it adds yet another layer of emotional and financial complexity to the case.

No one knows the circumstances of your divorce better than you– see below for which category is the best fit and what that might mean for your timeline.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage (30 Days)

This type of divorce is available to spouses who are not only in agreement on the terms of their divorce, but do not have any minor children, neither spouse is pregnant, and neither spouse is seeking alimony. This is by far the quickest method of divorce taking approximately 30 days to complete from start to finish.

Uncontested Divorce (4 Months)

While this is an unlikely category for the majority of divorce cases, these proceedings do exist. The good news: they are cheaper and faster than their contested counterparts.

In the case of uncontested divorces, both parties agree that it is best to move separate ways and further agree on the terms of their divorce, but they may have children, pregnancy, or spousal maintenance to take into account.

Here, spouses agree on the best ways to handle these difficult decisions. They voluntarily produce any needed information regarding financial disclosures, child support and spousal maintenance disbursements, and arrange a visitation (also called time-sharing) schedule that both agree on.

By being in agreement, spouses can complete preparation and document gathering for their case in as little as 3 weeks. Once the case is filed, it is only another 3 months on average to get a court date to make your decree final.

Initially Contested Divorce (4-12 Months)

An initially contested divorce is by far the most common type of proceeding. In these cases, spouses generally agree that they should divorce but they don’t agree on the terms of their separation.

Each disagreement is considered a separate contested issue which the counsel of both spouses works diligently to resolve without the need for trial. Divorces of this kind follow these steps:

  1. File the initial petition
    The individual filing the case is called the petitioner and the individual responding is called the respondent. If you are bringing the lawsuit into court, it is your responsibility to file the petition at the inception of the case.
  2. Wait (or submit) and Answer
    If you are the Respondent, you have 20 days to answer the initial petition. Petitioners commonly wait during this period and begin preparation for step 3 of the process.
  3. Fill out financial affidavits
    Here is where you compile documentation to disclose your assets, salary, and any other financial information about yourself. This is also the phase where you estimate your monthly spousal maintenance request. 
  4. Conduct additional discovery
    In heavily contested divorces, additional discovery is sometimes needed. This can come in the form of written questions, requesting additional documentation, or taking depositions (a type of questioning session taken under oath)
  5. Develop a custody schedule (where applicable)
    This is where you develop and submit a co-parenting plan to the judge. It must be approved by the Court to ensure the plan reflects what is in the best interest for the child. 
  6. Mandatory mediation
    In Florida, you must mediate your case before going to trial. In an initially contested divorce, this is the final step with both parties settling on the terms of their divorce during this mediation conference. 
  7. The final judgement
    Once the terms of your divorce are final, both sides will submit their agreement to a judge. Once the judge signs off, your divorce is finalized.

For more in-depth information on the divorce process, see our article on the topic.

Contested Divorce (12+ Months)

There is a common misconception that an initially contested divorce and a contested divorce are the same proceedings. They are not.

The main difference here is that in a contested divorce, the issues raised between parties cannot be resolved through litigation or mediation. Thus, a trial is needed.

For a contested divorce, you can expect to follow a similar timeline to an initially contested divorce, providing you add additional time to discovery and trial. As such, anywhere from several weeks to several months will be added to the case. How much time is needed depends entirely on the issues at hand.

In Florida, trials can last up to two weeks. At your final hearing, the judge will issue a judgement which solidifies and makes permanent the terms of your divorce.

Contact An Attorney

While understanding how the different types of divorce can influence your timeline, there is no way to determine how long your divorce will really take until you speak with an attorney. After assessing the particularities of your situation, your attorney can advise you on an approximation of how long your case may take, barring anything unforeseen.

For this reason, finding a family law attorney who you trust with your case is one of the most important steps in your divorce process.

Dave Roy Law, located conveniently in West Palm Beach, can handle all your divorce needs. Staffed with experienced lawyers, there is very little we have not seen. If you are looking to begin your divorce proceeding, start on the right foot by contacting us at 561-729-0095 to schedule an appointment.