default divorce timeline

Some people realize suddenly, in a blinding moment of clarity, that they need a divorce. Most people come to the realization more slowly, often after doing everything possible to make the marriage work. Still others are blindsided when their spouse announces the marriage is over or files for divorce. But no matter when or how you find yourself facing a divorce, you want to know what the default divorce timeline will be. It’s difficult to say exactly how long your divorce will take; many factors influence the length of the divorce process. In this blog post, we will discuss how long your divorce could take, a typical divorce timeline, and what could draw the process out or shorten it.

Typical Maryland Divorce Timeline

Usually, when people ask how long a divorce will take, they are asking about the minimum amount of time before their divorce can be final. In Maryland, that depends on what grounds for divorce you are asserting. Some divorce grounds require a waiting period of up to 12 months before you can even file for divorce; others require no waiting period at all. Once the divorce is filed, the length of the process depends largely upon how much you and your spouse disagree over the terms of your divorce, such as alimony, child custody, child support, and equitable distribution of property.

You will not be surprised to learn that a heavily contested Maryland divorce takes much longer than one in which the parties agree on most issues. An uncontested divorce in Maryland can be final in as little as two to three months after filing.

Washington D.C. Divorce Timeline

As in Maryland, a Washington, D.C. divorce will take longer if it is contested. An initial hearing on an uncontested case is typically set within four to six weeks after the complaint for divorce (initial papers) are filed. The judge may grant your divorce at that time if all issues in the divorce are resolved. Typically, a divorce in Washington, D.C. does not become final for 30 days after the divorce order is stamped “entered on docket.” This usually occurs within a few days of the hearing.

The 30-day period is intended to give one party time to appeal if they wish. However, parties to an uncontested divorce can sign a "Joint Waiver Of Appeal Of Divorce Order/Judgment," allowing their divorce to become final sooner.

However, you must also take into account the required separation period before you can file for divorce in Washington, D.C.. If your separation is mutual and voluntary, you can file for divorce in six months; otherwise, you must wait 12 months before filing.

Why Does Divorce Take So Long?

There are two main reasons that a divorce takes longer than it otherwise might: a required waiting period to file, or disagreement between the spouses on the terms of the divorce. You might think that you don’t have much control over either — but you might have more ability to shorten the length of your divorce process than you think.

Let’s talk about the required waiting periods to file for divorce. In Maryland, as mentioned above, a waiting period depends on which ground for divorce you are claiming. If you can file for mutual consent divorce, you can avoid the need for a waiting period. Similarly, if you have a fault-based ground such as cruelty or adultery, you do not need to wait to file for divorce. Deciding what ground for divorce you can and should assert your filing upon may be a strategic decision. The speed with which you can get a divorce is not always the most important consideration, so consult with your attorney on this issue before filing. In Washington, D.C., you can’t eliminate the pre-filing waiting period altogether, but you can shorten it if you and your spouse agree to separate, or have special circumstances such as having pursued separate lives — but talk to an attorney about what this means.

Often, being able to reach some level of agreement with your spouse allows you to shorten the period of time you must wait before filing for divorce. Reaching agreement can also shorten the time between filing and being granted a divorce.

At this point, you may be thinking to yourself, “If we were able to agree, we wouldn’t be divorcing in the first place!” The good news is that even if you can’t reach agreement about everything relating to your marriage on your own, there are alternative divorce options available to help you divorce more easily, cost-effectively, and quickly.

How Your Divorce Affects Your Divorce Timeline

Many people don’t realize there are many ways to get a divorce. Some options are more likely to encourage agreement (rather than foment conflict) between the parties than others, making it possible to get a divorce more quickly, efficiently and less expensively.

Litigation, or a divorce lawsuit, is what most people think of when they first imagine divorce. One spouse files for divorce, the other one answers the lawsuit, and they fight about the issues associated with the divorce in court proceedings until either they settle out of pure exhaustion or the case goes to trial, with a judge deciding the outcome. Unfortunately, litigation is sometimes necessary to protect, or assert, one spouse’s rights; however, litigation is not designed to foster cooperation and agreement.

Another way that people can also choose to resolve their divorce outside of the courtroom is in a process called arbitration. Arbitration is similar to bringing your case before a judge, but the arbitrator is a private party who is paid to hear and decide the case. One of the reasons people choose divorce arbitration is because it can move the process of divorce to conclusion faster than litigation and is often less formal and rigid than the courtroom. While arbitration is available for divorces, in practice fewer people choose this option as compared to other modalities.

Collaborative Divorce is another form of ADR designed to foster an environment in which the spouses, supported by their attorneys and other professionals, can identify “win-win” solutions and reach agreement on the issues in their divorce. Mediation is another ADR process aimed at promoting agreement, with discussion of issues and resolutions facilitated by a trained, neutral third party. Both Collaborative Divorce meetings and divorce mediation sessions can take place prior to filing for divorce. That enables the parties to focus upon the issues and areas of concern while crafting their desired outcomes without the pressure and expense of the courtroom. The parties can then pursue an uncontested divorce once all issues are resolved.

Lastly, and notably, you can simply choose to work with an experienced attorney who will help you negotiate directly with your spouse and your spouse’s attorney to find a solution that works for your family. Like mediation and Collaborative Divorce, direct negotiation can take place before or after you file for divorce.

If you have further questions about how long it takes to get a Maryland divorce or Washington, D.C. divorce, or how you can divorce more quickly, contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Divorce