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How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California?

  Divorce Lawyer Donna A. Laurent on How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in California


Progressive California Divorce Law vs. Heartbreaking Irish Laws

Divorce clients always ask me: how long will it take for me to be divorced in California? As I make sure each client has a clear understanding of the laws of the state and the procedures in the family law courts in Los Angeles County, I know how fortunate they are to be free from the legal burdens faced by separated couples in other parts of the world.

I recently returned from a trip to Ireland with my family. The countryside was beautiful and wild and green. Between pubs and castles, we met up with an old friend and high school classmate of my husband’s. (I first met Gatson in Ireland in 1984 when he was married to Rebecca.) Several years later, we visited Ireland again. Gatson and Rebecca’s marriage had endured difficult and challenging times. After attempts to mend the relationship had failed, they mutually agreed to move on, and both were happily devoted to important new relationships. Gatson was now with Mary, a famous Irish soap opera actress. Although Gatson and Mary were committed to one another, both were married to other people and there was no getting out of it. The Irish constitution, adopted in 1937, completely banned divorce.

On this most recent trip, we visited Gatson and Mary on the country farm Mary had inherited from her parents a few years before. We met her donkeys, “Dibble” and “Chooch” (named after characters in the old Top Cat cartoon series). Mary’s hen had surprised Donna Laurent of Encino Family Law firm Laurent Legal travelher with Easter chicks the week before. There were also numerous sheep and several baby lambs, Mary’s favorite of which was named Mint Jelly. (Definitely awkward to be reminded of my Irish Catholic grandmother’s Sunday Leg of Lamb with homemade mint jelly while making a new woolly friend!) In a charming setting, Gatson and Mary have cultivated a life together for almost 25 years. Yet they both remain married to other people. I found this very curious.

Many people think divorce is still illegal in Ireland. I decided to do some research. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland was signed into law on June 17, 1996. As of that date, married couples who have lived separately and apart for a period of at least four years during the past five years and for whom there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation can be granted a divorce in Ireland. Finally. A way to move on after the unfortunate breakdown of a marriage.

So Much Easier to Move Your Life Forward in California

The requirements and time frame for obtaining a divorce in California are not nearly so onerous. California was revolutionary when it became the first state to offer “no fault” divorces in 1969. No longer were couples required to prove “fault” (adultery, desertion, cruelty, etc.) in order to end their marriage. All that is required is a six-month waiting period and either “irreconcilable differences” or “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.” Couples don’t even need to live apart for any prescribed time period (although most certainly do).

The six-month waiting period commences when the responding party to a divorce proceeding is either served with or accepts delivery of the Summons and Petition for Dissolution. Couples who are in agreement on all issues in the divorce can submit a stipulated judgment and have it entered by the court even before the six month waiting period has passed. The divorce will not be final, however, until those six months have passed.

For real: How long does it take to get a divorce in California?

My answer: it depends. As I’ve said, couples who agree on all issues can be divorced in as little as six months. Those who need more time to come to terms with the separation, or who have substantial community assets that may need to be valued, such as a business, or those in disagreement over custody or support issues, may need much more time to resolve their issues and obtain a final divorce judgment. The most challenging divorces can take several painful years to finalize.

If you would like more information about the divorce process in California, and the particulars of the family law courts in Los Angeles County, please give me a call. I would be happy to discuss these issues with you. I also have lots more lovely photos of Ireland I can share, as well as a bottomless cup of tea or coffee for you, and unlimited optimism. More insights from the Laurent Legal Blog here.