How Long Does a Divorce Take? Uncontested & Contested

One of the most loathed aspects of divorce is how long it takes. From filling out divorce forms to going to trial, if you can't reach an agreement, divorce is often a lengthy, stressful process.

There are many factors that can result in you spending plenty of time on your divorce, but there are also ways to shorten the process.

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How long does an uncontested divorce take?

A divorce is uncontested when spouses agree on all terms. On average, an uncontested divorce takes around eight months.

The quickest way to get an uncontested divorce is to reach an agreement before you file for divorce. That way you can hand in your agreement when you start your case. In some courts, you won't have to serve your spouse (give them court paperwork through an official process) or appear in court. You'll just wait for the judge to sign the divorce agreement.

Another way to get an uncontested divorce is by default. If the spouse who is served with divorce paperwork doesn't respond within the time allotted by the court, the court may make a default judgment (i.e. rule without that spouse's input). The spouse who filed for divorce would generally get most, if not all, of what they're asking for.

How long does a contested divorce take?

A divorce case is contested when one spouse files a petition for divorce and the other spouse responds on time disagreeing with the requests. On average, a contested divorce takes around a year.

Many courts require spouses to attempt mediation before scheduling a trial. A contested case becomes uncontested if the spouses reach an agreement.

If the case goes to trial, it will require months of preparation, discovery (exchange of documents and information), expert investigations, and court appearances. Trial itself can last days or weeks. Your trial dates may not happen consecutively since many family courts are congested.

Factors that make a divorce case longer

There are factors — some unavoidable — that can make your divorce take longer.

Residency requirements

Residency requirements require spouses to live in a state for a certain amount of time before filing for divorce there. Residency requirements vary by location, but they are usually three to six months.

Separation periods

A separation period is the amount of time spouses must live separately and apart before the court will hear their divorce case. This period is often a year. You can typically file for divorce before the separation period is up, but the court won't allow your case to progress until it expires.

Waiting periods

The waiting period is the amount of time that must pass between the start of the divorce case and the finalization of the divorce. Some states don't have one at all ,while others make spouses wait an entire year.

Fault divorces

A fault divorce is when one spouse accuses the other of wrongdoing, such as adultery. Filing for a fault-based divorce can make your case longer since you may have to prove at trial that the other spouse is at fault.

Volatile relationships

If you and your spouse are strongly at odds, the divorce will take longer. When there are accusations of abuse or other wrongdoing, you'll need to spend time collecting evidence to back up your claims. If you're strongly at odds over custody, you may need a custody evaluation which will add months to your case.

Some spouses drag out their divorce case by making arbitrary requests or false allegations. Don't do this; you can be ordered to pay your spouse's legal fees, and you may face other consequences.


If one of you is pregnant and the spouse is the other parent, you'll need a parenting plan, and it can't be turned into a court order until the baby is born. If someone else might be the other parent, you'll need a paternity test, and the baby's DNA can't be tested until after the birth. Either way, your divorce may not be finalized until the baby arrives.


Disagreements over marital assets make the divorce process longer. Spouses often have to bring in experts to evaluate property or locate hidden assets. If you share a business, you'll spend time figuring out how to divide ownership.

Factors that can make a divorce case shorter

The following may help your divorce move faster.

Prenuptial agreements

Some people draft prenuptial agreements before they marry to lay out what each spouse would be entitled to in a divorce. If you have a prenup, you may have a shorter divorce process as you have already agreed on how to resolve some issues.

Postnuptial agreements are similar, but they're created after the marriage has begun. They can also make for a faster divorce.

Alternative dispute resolution methods

Before you proceed in court, consider trying an alternative dispute resolution method. If you reach a full agreement, you can file it with the court along with the other necessary paperwork to end your case. Or you may reach a partial agreement, lessening the number of issues you need to raise during litigation.

Joint divorce

Filing for divorce together means you can skip service. You don't have to wait for a response or for the time your spouse is given to respond to expire.


If you cooperate — provide documents on time, respond to the other sides request's, show up for court, etc. — your case will move along more quickly. Being difficult can delay your case and may result in fines from the court.

Preparing for divorce with children

Preparation is the most important part of the divorce process — especially if you're a parent.

Evidence you might use in a divorce involving custody includes:

The Custody X Change online app lets you create all of these in one place. It makes sure you're prepared to get what's best for your child.

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