Timing is Everything
How Long Will Our Divorce Take?
By, Felicia Soleil, Attorney/Mediator
Along with “How much will this cost?” my clients’ most common question when starting a divorce is “How long will it take?” Of course, you probably already know the answer: “It depends.”
Here are several factors that influence timing:
Is the decision to divorce mutual, or is it primarily being driven by one party?
If there is a reluctant party, will they be encouraged to move forward more quickly and cooperatively by choosing a process that includes and supports them, such as mediation? Or will they become more stalwart and stalling, creating the need for implementing court deadlines?
If the decision is mutual, I encourage clients to work backward from when they would like to see themselves divorced. They should consider the following practical matters:
- The availability of medical insurance after one party is removed from the other party’s plan through their employer; (Should any appointments or procedures be completed prior to changing insurance plans?)
- The potential benefits of filing one more joint federal income tax return; (The qualifying date for eligibility is to still be technically married on December 31st.)
- The opportunity and affordability of separating residences; (Yes, you can still get divorced while living in the same house. And, if planning to sell or your house is already on the market for sale, you do not need to sell your house before you can get divorced.)
- The affordability of separating bank accounts and common bills; (This can be done anytime you agree prior to divorce.)
- Other events on the calendar, such as the school year, major holidays, or important family events. (Most clients want to avoid having their divorce finalized on birthdays or anniversaries.)
Whether the decision is mutual or not, you should also consider the psychological and emotional readiness of each of you to finalize your divorce. While clients are very often more than ready emotionally to begin their separation and divorce process, signing the final documents and having them filed with the court to conclude the divorce is often a different matter. Once all agreements have been reached, it is not uncommon for clients to be surprised by new emotions. Expecting relief, they are often challenged by unexpected feelings around finally reaching closure.
The bottom line when considering the timing of your divorce hinges greatly on the process you choose. When I work with clients as a divorce mediator, we create a schedule that works around their timing needs. We set regular meetings, have an agenda for each meeting, and create an overall action plan that they can rely on and incorporate into the next few months of their lives. They know when they are filing their case to open it with the court, they have a general idea of when agreements can ultimately be reached, and the finalization of their divorce works around all the factors mentioned above. The pace is set by the clients.
However, if hiring lawyers to litigate your divorce, the timing is usually controlled by each of the lawyer’s respective schedules, as well as the court’s schedule. You often have minimal control over the timing because you don’t know when your lawyer needs something from you, when the other lawyer might want something from you, and if anyone is procrastinating or simply too busy (lawyers included). Mandatory court deadlines often don’t kick in until several months into your case. If you are one who likes predictability and planning, litigating your divorce will sorely test your patience (among other things.)
If you are considering a separation or divorce, think about how you want the process to be incorporated into your life as you move forward. How important is timing to you and your spouse? Are you comfortable with putting the planning and the process into the hands of others, or do you prefer more predictability and control as you move forward? Timing in your divorce involves so much more than the date the court signs your divorce decree.
Felicia Soleil is a family law attorney and mediator. She helps her clients in achieving resolutions that foster both a compassionate ending to their union and a healthy new beginning for them and their families so they can focus on moving on, rather than simply moving out. Felicia can be reached at 253-853-6940. All consultations are strictly confidential.
Published on February 1, 2020