It is a common misconception that divorce in California takes six months. The reality is that California has a waiting period of six months, which means that the earliest time that you can be divorced is six months and one day from the day you or your spouse is served with the divorce Petition. The divorce process, however, bears no relationship to this timeline, and though some divorces can resolve before this, most divorces take much longer to settle.
The delay is caused by many factors. First, the courts in California are severely under funded, so the existing judges are doing the work of far more personnel, and the court staff is woefully lacking as well. This means that the lead time to get in to see the judge for a hearing is much longer – 6-8 weeks if not more – and then follow-up hearings are also pushed out. It can take four months alone to have a temporary and review hearing on a common issue such as support or custody/visitation.
Second, the delay in the court hearings often inadvertently delays the resolution of the rest of the case. Often what happens with the property depends on what happens with the children or support, so the parties are waiting for some kind of preliminary resolution on these issues before working on the property. Financial reasons, too, can delay the process when one party needs an attorney’s help – or money for filing fees or mediation fees – but just can’t afford it.
Mediation and other out-of-court options can speed up the process significantly as well as keep costs down, but too many couples are unwilling to try mediation, or else they don’t know enough about the benefits. In any event, the lengthy process of divorce is unlikely to speed up any time soon.
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