When Is My Divorce Final?

May 4, 2023 | Blog

If you’re like many people going through a divorce, you’d like your divorce to be final the moment you file. Unfortunately, it usually takes quite a bit longer than that. 

Filing for a divorce in California takes time, whether you are on the same page about the separation or the matter is contested by your spouse. The length of time varies based on your unique situation and there are some steps you can take to expedite the process.

How to File a Divorce in California

Once you’ve decided that you are ready for a divorce, you or your attorney will file your initial dissolution pleadings, which include a Petition, Summons, Family Law Certificate of Assignment – Venue Declaration, and if you have children a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). 

Once the case is opened, you need to effectuate service – providing formal notice and copies of documents – to your spouse. If your spouse will agree, they can sign a single form accepting service. 

It’s a good idea to strategize with your attorney about the best way to effectuate service. Surprising them with papers will set a negative tone for the entire divorce process, which could lead to a longer timeframe to get your divorce finalized. Your attorney will take this into account, as well as any safety concerns you may have to ensure your case starts appropriately, considering the unique factors of your individual case. 

Service of these initial pleadings on your spouse is what triggers the mandatory six month waiting period in California.  

How Long Is the Waiting Period for Divorce?

If your spouse is on the same page and immediately responds to your divorce filing, the fastest pace for a divorce in the state of California is 6 months. 

California courts require divorcing couples to wait 6 months, with no exceptions, before the divorce can be finalized so that they have a chance to reconcile or dismiss their divorce filing. 

Even though it’s called a waiting period, it does not mean you have to sit and wait for half a year. To move the matter forward more swiftly, use this period to enter negotiations for assets, settle marital issues, and reach agreements with your spouse, so that when your waiting period is over the judge can more easily grant your divorce. If you have a full agreement, you can even submit that agreement to the Court before the 6 month period passes. The judge will then set the date for termination of your marital status on the date the 6 month period lapses. 

Having a mediator or experienced legal counsel can expedite the divorce process by assisting in negotiation during your waiting period. An experienced attorney can help you have everything in line to expedite the process. 

When is my Divorce Final in California?

Your divorce is considered final when you receive a final judgment of divorce from the court, which is a Court order that officially dissolves your marriage. A divorce judgment contains all the information regarding your divorce matter. This may include details regarding child support, spousal support, asset division, and any other agreements.

A divorce judgment  can be signed by a judge at any time, but cannot terminate marital status before the 6 month waiting period has passed. Once a divorce judgment is entered, you and your spouse are no longer married.

Most Divorces Take Longer than 6 Months – but Yours Doesn’t Have To. 

How long your divorce may take is the result of a number of factors. How quickly you and your spouse retrieve and return documents to your attorneys, how many items are actually in dispute and how many of those items need to be decided by a judge or mediator, and how backlogged the Court is in processing judgments or setting hearing dates (if a hearing is necessary) will all determine how quickly your case can be finalized. As a point of reference, the Court aims to have cases resolved in about 18 months, and that timeline is fairly typical even for uncontested divorces. 

As you work through your divorce it is important to remember that the final outcome is more important than the speed of that outcome. Cases take time to settle, and cases tend to settle when both parties are emotionally ready to settle, not when the numbers are right. If both spouses are on the same page when the process begins, you can charge full speed ahead and obtain a prompt resolution. In fact, it is possible to have everything complete before that 6 month waiting period approaches. 

On the other hand, if you or your spouse are struggling to accept the divorce, things may take longer and it may make sense to slow down. Your attorney will help you decide strategically how best to proceed if this is the case. Sometimes applying more pressure is the best course of action, and sometimes the inverse is true.  

What do I do after my Divorce is Final?

After you’ve received your divorce judgment, there are a few things you may need to take care of to protect yourself. 

According to the California Courts, you should:

  • Change your will
  • Update beneficiaries on insurance policies, bank or investment accounts
  • Close any credit cards in both your names
  • Inform employer of divorce to update benefits and tax status
  • Change the title of your car if necessary

Once you take care of all the practical aspects following a divorce decree, make sure you take care of yourself. A divorce can be a long and emotionally taxing process, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or take steps to rest and recharge. 

Finding Legal Counsel 

To ease the process and support your divorce being carried out as swiftly as possible, consult a family law attorney. At Alaimo Boyer, we’ll help you navigate all aspects of your divorce, whether through mediation or litigation.