How Long Does a Divorce Take in California?

How long does a divorce take? This question is as common as how much does a divorce cost and is at the forefront of just about every single divorce client’s mind. Most people want to hear that the divorce will be quick, cheap and amicable. Fortunately, all of those things can come true so long as you have a cooperative spouse. But what happens if you don’t? What is the answer to the question of how long a divorce takes and what can you do if you have a spouse that is intent on dragging out the family law process and making it as expensive as possible for you?

Step One – Making Reasonable Settlement Offers

Look, you have to figure out what your priority is. If your intent is to resolve your family law case, then your conduct should be consistent with that. Any spouse who is interested in getting a divorce case resolved will be reasonable and cooperative throughout the process. That includes the exchange of mandatory family law disclosures and information. The best way to get the process started on the right track is to make sure that you are not the cause of any delays or problems.

Once the disclosures have been made and you’re comfortable that there are no hidden assets or income, you should take the initiative to make a settlement offer to your spouse. Far too many spouses going through divorce don’t do this and instead continue to litigate a case senselessly without goals and priorities of resolution. If there are issues such as business valuation or other complex issues involved, some family law discovery (formal requests for information in separate from the disclosures) may be necessary before making an offer.

Making a settlement offer, one that is well thought out and consistent with the facts of your case and the law will force your spouse and his or her attorney to respond. This should cause negotiations to start and hopefully result in a settlement of your divorce case.

But what if it does not? What happens if your spouse is uncooperative? Well, you will be happy that you made the settlement offer that is consistent with the law. That’s because an uncooperative spouse faces the full force of Family Code 271.

Step Two – The Attorney Fee Motion

So you made the settlement offer, it was reasonable and you did everything you could to try to resolve the case in a fair manner. However, your spouse simply will not relent. Your spouse is set on making this process as difficult as possible for you. What do you do next? While there are several options available to you, one that makes sense is to file an attorney fee motion.

Attorney fee motions can come in a few forms but, when dealing with an uncooperative spouse, the one that can be the most powerful is a Family Code 271 motion. Family code 271(a) states:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, the court may base an award of attorney’s fees and costs on the extent to which the conduct of each party or attorney furthers or frustrates the policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation and, where possible, to reduce the cost of litigation by encouraging cooperation between the parties and attorneys. An award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to this section is in the nature of a sanction. In making an award pursuant to this section, the court shall take into consideration all evidence concerning the parties’ incomes, assets, and liabilities. The court shall not impose a sanction pursuant to this section that imposes an unreasonable financial burden on the party against whom the sanction is imposed. In order to obtain an award under this section, the party requesting an award of attorney’s fees and costs is not required to demonstrate any financial need for the award.

Family code 271 is designed to punish a spouse that does not cooperate throughout the family law process and causes unnecessary attorney fees. It is designed to hit that spouse with monetary sanctions in the form of attorney fees to dissuade the spouse from continuing to engage in the unreasonable and uncooperative conduct. This is a step that is not used often enough in divorce cases. Family code 271 is designed to move cases toward a settlement and to teach a valuable lesson to any spouse in the divorce case we does not work toward a compromise and resolution.

Step Three – The Divorce Trial.

Most divorce clients hope that a trial will not be necessary case but, in certain cases, it is inevitable. Typically, trial is for the cases that involve significantly disputed issues of fact and/or law. If your position is on the earth and your spouse is on the moon, the chances of you two being able to resolve the case and compromise may not be likely. While the best lawyers work hard to resolve issues with the cooperation of the clients, trial may be the necessary and only avenue to bring certain divorce cases to closure.

How long does a divorce take?

An uncontested case can resolve in as little as a few months while contested cases can last between 1 – 2 years. One challenge in the more complex cases is court time. As the economy has hit the courts hard, and family courts are no exception, trial time for multi-day cases can be difficult to come by; however, you can make a difference. You have the power to keep your case from dragging on and to bring it to resolution or trial within a reasonable time.

For a related article, check out “How to tell your spouse you want a divorce?

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