Length of Divorce Process
It is impossible to predict exactly how long a divorce will take to complete, but the process always begins when one spouse notifies the other of their intention to seek a divorce. In most jurisdictions the legally mandated method of notifying a spouse of an impending divorce is to furnish the other party with a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
The petition will specify the particular arrangements a spouse is seeking from the divorce and issues like property division, child custody and alimony will be described in the petition. The summons with the petition is a legal document that tells the responder how much time they have to respond to the petition. Both the summons and petition for dissolution are usually delivered by professional process services and proof of service must be obtained. Until these first steps are taken, the divorce cannot move forward.
Most divorces are filed within the county where one or both spouses currently reside. Despite popular notion, very few divorce cases actually end up in a court trial. Over 98 percent of divorces are resolved through a marital termination agreement between spouses. A formal termination agreement will detail the issues and agreements in writing and becomes binding when it is signed by a judge. Mutual agreements between spouses will hasten the divorce process considerably.
A divorce case will only proceed to a full-on court trial if mutual agreements cannot be reached any other way. Once the adversarial process begins in court, disposition of a contested divorce case could take years. Even in cases where a divorce was obtained, bitter battles over property division and support can linger even longer.
Sometimes settlements can even take decades to get resolved. Take the recent case of Vancouver, Canada resident Julie Marjorie Ladner. Julie divorced her husband in 1990, but just this week was awarded over $250,000 by a British Columbia court as proceeds from a legal settlement stemming from her divorce 20 years prior. Most of the money was awarded as unfulfilled financial obligations stemming from the divorce, like court-ordered spousal support of $2,340 a month that she never received. Julie also sued her own attorneys for negligence, with the court ruling that her attorneys failed to meet the standard of care expected of a reasonable lawyer and now 20 years after she originally filed for divorce, Ms. Ladner has finally collected a quarter of a million dollars in damages for negligence, plus all the interest that piled up from June 1998, and all the court costs too. Two decades is at the extreme end of long and slow divorce settlements, but it does show that persistence can eventually pay off if you battle it out long enough.