How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?
A divorce is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.
Not only are you on an emotional rollercoaster with the end of your marriage, but there are other stressors like figuring out child custody, possible alimony, and splitting up all the marital assets. It can be daunting to think about how long you’ll have to endure the long legal road.
If you have filed for a divorce or are thinking about filing for a divorce, you might be wondering how long a divorce will take. There is no cut-and-dry answer to the question, but each state has specific laws and guidelines you will need to follow.
Of course, the easiest and quickest way to divorce is through an uncontested divorce, which means you agree on all the terms in writing before you start the process. However, a contested divorce is more complex and can require a more extended period to settle the terms.
The good news is that an experienced contested divorce attorney can walk you through the steps and narrow down the length of time it takes to get contested divorce cases finalized.
What is a Contested Divorce?
Ideally, your divorce is amicable, and you and your spouse agree on everything, but that’s not always the case. When there are children involved or significant marital assets, it’s common for the divorcing parties to disagree on divorce terms like child support, parental responsibilities, and property division. This is referred to as a contested divorce.
Other common topics of disagreement include:
- How much spousal support, if any, is awarded
- Who remains in the family home
- Where the family pets will live
If spouses cannot agree on terms, they might end up with a trial divorce where the judge will decide on appropriate terms.
What is the Contested Divorce Process?
If you are filing for divorce and think your spouse will contest it, it’s best to work with a Miami divorce attorney.
Generally, there are several steps to a contested divorce.. The contested divorce process is highlighted below.
Petitioning for Dissolution of Marriage
One party—called the “petitioner”—files for a Dissolution of Marriage in the county where either one or both spouses live. After the divorce petition is filed, the document is mailed or served in person to the other spouse—called the “respondent.” The respondent has 30 days to file an appearance and respond to the divorce papers.
Each party has the right to learn as much or as little information as they need to either agree to a settlement or convince the case’s judge of their demands.
During discovery, information is gathered on:
- Marital assets
- Marital debts
- Income of both parties
- Child custody issues
Miami divorce attorneys are beneficial during this phase for both the petitioner and the respondent. They can attempt to negotiate terms on behalf of their clients and expedite the negotiation process.
Prove Up or Trial
Your divorce case will only end with signing a divorce agreement or in a divorce trial. If you have a written agreement, you will go to court simply for a “prove up.” This is a formal proceeding where the parties provide “proof” to the judge that the settlement is legitimate and not being forced or coerced.
The judge usually signs off on the agreement, and the case is over without issue.
However, if an agreement is not made during negotiations or mediation, the case may go to court. At trial, you and your attorneys can present information, witnesses, or evidence to support their client’s case. At the end of the trial, the judge will determine the resolution of the divorce settlement.
How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?
While an uncontested divorce has no waiting period after filing, contested divorces can drag on.
Aside from the six-month waiting period to prove grounds to contest the divorce, if your spouse isn’t present, they will need to be served with the petition. Depending on how long it takes to find and serve them, they’ll still have 30 days to respond to the petition.
The length of time that it takes to obtain a contested divorce also depends on how long it takes to reach an agreement on marital property and child custody and support. Meetings with your attorney and a spouse’s attorney or a divorce mediator must be scheduled. If the case goes to trial, the court schedule could cause additional delays.
If a divorce is complex, it could also take time to gather documents pertaining to assets, businesses, and debts to present to the court. The average length of time to obtain a contested divorce is between six months to a year.
The faster parties can agree to a settlement, the quicker the case can be finalized. If the case goes to trial and an appeal to the judge’s decision is made, the divorce could remain unresolved for even longer. In these cases, temporary orders regarding child custody and child support are usually put in place until the divorce can be finalized.
Contact a Miami Divorce Attorney to Protect Your Rights and Property
If you are filing for a divorce in Miami and you think your spouse will not agree with your divorce terms or some of the settlement provisions, a Vasquez de Lara Law Group attorney can help. A lawyer who specializes in a contested divorce in Miami can protect your assets and your children while working to settle your divorce through expert negotiation and productive mediation.