As a family law solicitor this is one of the most common questions people ask when I first speak to them. It is a question that can be difficult to answer in clear terms. It all depends whether matters are agreed, whether the other party opposes the divorce or what other matters need to be sorted out alongside the divorce that might hold it up.
Divorce is the legal process that dissolves the marriage. The divorce itself does not deal with any issues concerning arrangements for children or sorting out financial matters. If the other party does not oppose the divorce, then the process can be completed in as little as 24 weeks, although in my experience, the more likely timescale is between 5 and 7 months.
If the divorce is opposed, then the process can take much longer. The delay could be caused by things like the other party disputing the ground for divorce, their failure to return court papers quickly or just general obstruction of the process. It’s fair to say that most divorces I deal with are not opposed, but it can happen.
If there are financial matters to be sorted out, then sometimes these can impact on how long it takes for the divorce itself to be concluded. The key with your marital finances is to sort out and agree as much as possible before divorce proceedings are started. That way, everyone knows what the process is, what steps they have to take to move it forward and that means that the divorce is likely to be concluded much more quickly. In many cases where the couple agree a financial settlement between then and have it laid down in a consent order or a clear break order, the divorce and finances can be sorted on the same timetable, so within 5 and 7 months.
What causes delays to divorce?
The real delays and lengthy cases occur where the couple cannot agree between themselves, whether about the financial settlement of about the care of their children. This is when cases can become protracted, whether because the couple choose to go through a process of mediation to try and reach agreement or because they enter the court process to ask a judge to decide on a final outcome.
I have to be honest and tell you that sometimes the courts can cause delays in the divorce process. They do get backlogs of paperwork which might mean your case doesn’t progress as quickly as we would all like. One major advantage of instructing an experienced family law solicitor to help you through the divorce is that the correct procedures will be followed and paperwork completed correctly which helps to avoid unnecessary delays. They will also be able to explain to you the process and how it applies to your own circumstances and keep you informed about the progress every step of the way.
I do get asked about “quickie” divorces. People think that if they are willing to pay a bit more, or have the right people working on the divorce they can get divorced in a day or two. I blame the tabloids for this misconception. When you read that Anthea Turner and her husband were granted a divorce in 120 seconds it’s hardly surprising that people wonder why they can’t have the same treatment. The fact is this couple will have gone through exactly the same process as every other couple to get to this stage and it will have taken at the very least the 24 weeks I mentioned above. What the media are referring to is the brief court formality to review the papers and agree the divorce can go ahead. And in most cases neither party needs to attend court for that, it’s very much an administrative process.
To put it simply quickie divorces do not exist. The divorce process is exactly the same for everyone, including celebrities! The time to takes to conclude the divorced is affected by how much is agreed in advance in exactly the same way.
So, the short answer to ‘how long will my divorce take?’ is, if everything is agreed and both parties ‘play ball’ around 6 months. The secret is to reach agreement, and not rely on the court process.
Divorce & family solicitor, Stoke on Trent