How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California?
The divorce process can be stressful, whether contested or uncontested. Most people hope to complete the process as soon as possible, either to get re-married or just to move on with their lives. Unfortunately, California feels differently, and prefers that the parties take it slow. In addition to length-of-residency restrictions, California also requires a waiting period, which forces the parties to wait a number of months before receiving a divorce judgement.
In order to file for divorce in California, you (or your spouse) must have lived in the state for at least 6 months. If you have lived in California for 6 months prior to filing for divorce, then the court has jurisdiction over your case, under California Family Code Section 2320(a). Jurisdiction means the court has power to hear your case and to make rulings that will be legally recognized and enforced. You must also select the correct venue, or California Superior Court House, in which to file your claim. Selection of the venue is based on your zip code.
Once you file for divorce, California has a mandatory waiting or “cooling off” period of 6 months. According to California Family Code Section 2339(a), a divorce will not be finalized, “untilsix months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.” The purpose of the “cooling off” period is to allow the parties time to reconsider the divorce process and reconcile the relationship, if possible. The “cooling off” period does NOT require the parties to be separated for 6 months prior to filing for divorce. Rather, the 6-month waiting period begins only after the dissolution case is filed in court, and prior to any judgment being entered. This requirement is strict, with no exceptions made.
While spouses are often eager to complete their divorce as soon as possible, the minimum amount of time to complete the process is 6 months and one day from the date the non-filing spouse was served with court documents or files a response in court, whichever comes first. The parties can prepare and finalize all court documents before the 6-month waiting period has elapsed, but the divorce will not be finalized until the cooling off period has been satisfied. Even if the spouses agree on all terms before the end of the 6-month period, there is no way to circumvent this rule. Your attorney is unable to speed up the process, and all divorce cases must abide by the 6-month waiting period, regardless of the circumstances. The parties are NOT free to marry until the 6-month waiting period has expired and the court has entered a final judgment.
While Californians are used to cooling off at the beach, they must also abide by the 6-month “cooling off” period before getting divorced. This date begins from the day the Respondent is served with the initial divorce petition documents or from when they first respond in court, whichever is first. If you are contemplating divorce and would like to know more about the process, contact our office today at (833) 4-CAL-LAW.