How Long Will My Divorce Take? (I Want It Done Fast!)
Divorce is painful, but it is more painful to rush through it.
Posted July 9, 2020
One of the first questions clients ask is “How long will my divorce take?”
Your intuition tells you that if you can get it done and over with, it will be less painful, right? Turns out this is not true.
Dan Ariely is an author and professor at Duke, and a researcher in a field called behavioral economics, studying “why we repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives.” He says that his interest in irrationality began many years ago when he was recovering from severe burns over most of his body. He was hospitalized for many months. The nurses subjected him to daily, very painful baths and changing of his bandages. Despite his pleas, the nurses ripped the bandages off quickly, to get it done fast and minimize the pain. Later, inspired by this experience, his research showed that in fact, it would have been far less painful if the nurses had removed the bandages slowly and gently.
Similarly, divorce is painful, but it is more painful to rush through it.
There are a number of reasons why rushing is not a good idea.
So, how long will your divorce take?
Once you and your spouse file and respond to the divorce “petition” the “clock starts running.” Legally, the soonest you can terminate marital status (finalize your divorce) is six months plus one day in California. The reason is that sometimes a “cooling off” period helps people decide if the divorce is what they really want. So, if you can get all the other divorce-related tasks done, then you could be divorced in six months.
1. The reality is that divorces often take longer than six months to complete. One reason might be that you could save money in taxes by finalizing your divorce this year or next year. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or your CPA can help you figure out the tax consequences of waiting or finishing up sooner. You will have to file and cause your petition and summons to be “served” by the end of June to finish up this year. You would then file as a single person or head of household this year.
2. Another reason your divorce might take longer is that your situation might be complex financially. If you have assets, debts, a business, retirement savings, pension, income from various sources such as stock options, etc., your financial situation may not be as simple as you think. A financial professional may need to help you sort it out. The law requires that you and your spouse have a full and complete understanding of your finances, and often one or the other of you needs to be “brought up to speed.”
3. You and your spouse will need to take the time to work out a comprehensive parenting plan if you have children. This important task will help your family recover and heal when the divorce is over. You both love your children, but you may have different ideas about how you will co-parent when you are in two households. It can take some time to develop a plan that fits your children’s needs, your work schedules, your lifestyle, and more.
This is not a task you should rush through, as it is an investment in your children’s future mental health, success in school, social experience, and life. A divorce coach and/or child specialist can help, support, and educate you about your children’s specific needs and how to soften the impact of the divorce on them.
4. Delays in the divorce process are often caused by emotional factors. It is said that divorce is 95% emotional and only 5% legal. Conflict, arguing, uncooperative behaviors, and evasive or hostile tactics will cost dearly in both time and money. Grief, sadness, anger, depression, and other emotions, while all quite normal and expected in a divorce, get in the way of making good decisions during the divorce.
This is a time when you will need to think clearly and carefully about your decisions. In fact, emotions might be the most costly part of your divorce, and it is well worth your time to do the emotional work you need to do before you begin to negotiate your divorce.
A therapist or divorce coach can help. Often people turn to attorneys first, but if you can work with the emotional divorce first, then the legal process will be much more efficient in terms of time and cost. Find the emotional support you need before you start.
Your divorce will inevitably be a stressful event, but you will get through it. Take the time you need to complete the divorce, without rushing through the important decisions you will need to make. The decisions you make during your divorce will affect the rest of your life.
If you would like it to be an efficient and less costly divorce, you can control some of the costs and time by doing these things:
1. Be prepared emotionally. Get the support you need and take care of yourself.
2. Prioritize your children’s needs. Your child specialist can help you with this. Work with your divorce coaches to develop a realistic parenting plan. Try to put your children’s well-being ahead of your own emotions.
3. Find a way to reduce the conflict between you and your spouse. It will help to work with a divorce coach who can help with communication, especially during the legal negotiations.
4. Be prepared for meetings. Give yourself adequate time to complete the various assigned tasks, such as collecting financial records, disclosing all financial information, and contacting any necessary outside professionals (realtors, health insurance companies, etc.).
Doing your divorce quickly is less important than doing it well.
Taking the time you need to do it “gently” will put you, your spouse, and your family on the path to a new, healthy, and stable life. A good divorce means that you and your spouse can continue to communicate in a friendly way and co-parent successfully. A good divorce, taking the time you need, will be less costly and more efficient, preparing you for a better future. So, as Dan Ariely says, “Disasters are usually a good time to re-examine what we've done so far, what mistakes we've made, and what improvements should come next.”
For amusing and interesting information, check out Dan Ariely’s website.
A version of this post was published on May 15, 2015, at www.collaborativepracticemarin.com
© Ann Gold Buscho 2020