quickest divorceWhat’s the quickest you can get a divorce in California?  The quick answer is 6 months.  However, this oversimplifies things:

a.  A divorce accomplishes two different things.  First, it provides court orders in the areas of division of assets and debts and spousal support (and co-parenting and child support if you have minor children).  Second, it dissolves the couples’ marital status and returns the spouses to single persons.

b.  The six-month period applies to marital status only, i.e. whether the spouses still legally have the status of “married” or whether they are now each “single.”

c.  The six-month period starts running from either the date the Petition was served on the Respondent (the other spouse) or the date the Respondent filed a Response to the Petition.  So if a case has not yet been filed and served (or responded to), the six months has not yet started running.

d.  The date a judge signs the FL-180 Judgment form (and thereby grants the divorce) is the effective date for all the court orders (division of assets and debts, etc.)  In the body of the FL-180 Judgment form, the court indicates the date the couple will be returned to single status.  Note that this date can be different from (later than) the date the judge signs the Judgment form.

e.  Few couples qualify to file for a Summary Dissolution.  But if you do, it will be faster than a normal divorce since there is no requirement for service (or a Response).  The six-month marital status period still applies.

When Will a Judge Grant the Divorce?

It will be no sooner than:

1)  The case is filed and served (or responded to);
2)  The court is notified of service (or receives the Response);
3)  A “judgment package” is submitted to the court.  This will include a number of forms and documents including financial disclosure declarations and a write-up specifying all the terms of the divorce;
4)  The Court Clerk checks the package for completeness and sends it on to a judge;
5)  The judge reviews the package and signs off on the divorce.

Quickest Divorce – Factors

The two biggest factors are how quickly you submit everything to the court and how backlogged the court is.  Making any mistakes in your submissions to the court will of course slow things down.  If everything goes smoothly and without delay, chances are good a judge will sign off on your divorce within 3 months or so of beginning the court process.

You can decide when marital status is dissolved.  However, as noted above, it cannot be sooner than six months from the date of service or the date of the Response.  But you can ask for a specific date later than this and the court will approve your request.  Couples often do this to enable them to file joint tax returns one last time.  The IRS does not let you use a “Married” filing status on your tax return unless you are married for the entire tax year.

So how quickly can you be divorced?  It depends mainly on:

  • Where you are in the process;
  • How you are going about accomplishing your divorce; and
  • Whether you are referring to your marital status or all the terms of your divorce.

For the terms of your divorce, it’s quite possible to be divorced in less than six months.

Having an experienced divorce mediator to help you work out and document a settlement agreement and an experienced paralegal to handle all the court paperwork will normally speed things up significantly.

If you have attorneys involved and your case is getting protracted, a bifurcation may speed things up.