Often, when I meet with a new client for the first time, the initial question I am asked is, “How long will my divorce take?” While I would like to provide a definite answer, the response that I normally have to give is that, “It depends”.
This logically leads to the next question, which is, “What factors will determine the length of the process?
The simple answer is that it comes down to how many issues are involved, and how contested the divorce may be…with the good news for the client being that these are generally factors that we can determine – at least in broad-stroke terms – right at the beginning of the process. Two of the main economic questions that we explore are whether there are valuation issues involved, and whether there are big property items in dispute. When we talk about valuation issues, the key point is whether there is a major question about the worth of one or more of the assets involved. This can often arise in the case of a family-owned business, with artwork and collectables whose value may be in doubt, or with other types of significant assets where the value is simply not easily determined. The question of whether there are high-value property items (and “property” isn’t just real estate) is somewhat self-explanatory. It is common to find that expensive possessions tend to be more highly contested. Of course, the main non-economic issue arises when there are children involved. Custody and support issues involving children can be among the biggest sticking points in the divorce process, and some of the more time-consuming.
The good news for those with simple, uncontested divorces is that it could take as little as 60 days from the time the Original Petition for Divorce is actually filed with the court, which is the minimum time that the State of Texas requires for the process. However, even then, in an uncontested situation, the process is likely to run 90 to 120 days due to the crowding of court dockets and the time necessary for counsel to draft the necessary legal documents and obtain agreement from both parties regarding the wording of the final documents.
And how long does it usually take for the “average” divorce to be final? The average for most people, with normal economic circumstances, is likely to be between one and two years. This is just one of the reasons why it is so important to find the right divorce attorney for you and your situation.
Laci Bowman is a Board Certified Family Law attorney at Godwin Bowman & Martinezin Dallas, Texas.