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How Long Will It Take to Finalize My Divorce?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions about the California divorce process, and understandably so. A divorce can be a difficult and highly emotional process so understanding when you will be legally divorced from your spouse can bring some comfort. At a minimum, it takes six months and one day for you to become legally divorced from your spouse in California. This six-month waiting period is due to the residency requirement of Family Code 2320 and cooling-off period found in Family Code 2339.

California's Residency Requirement

The court cannot enter a judgment for dissolution of marriage unless one spouse meets the residency requirement found in California Family Code § 2320(a). According to this statute, one party must have been a resident of California for at least 6 months and a resident of the county in which they are filing the Petition for at least 3 months before the Petition was filed.

A problem arises when neither party meets the residency requirement, but one spouse wants to start the divorce process. In that case, they can file for a legal separation which only requires that one spouse currently lives in California.

However, unlike a dissolution of marriage, a legal separation does not end the parties’ marriage and the spouses remain legally married. A legal separation allows the court to issue orders about property division, child support, custody and visitation, and spousal support until a spouse can meet the residency requirement for a dissolution of marriage. Once one spouse meets the residency requirement for a dissolution of marriage, either spouse can amend the Petition or response to request that the court enter a judgment for dissolution of marriage.

California's "Cooling-Off" Period

According to California Family Code § 2339(a), "no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service..."

When a spouse files for divorce, they (the petitioner) must have copies of the divorce papers served on their spouse (the respondent). Once the respondent is served, the 6-month cooling-off period commences. This "cooling-off" period gives the spouses time to reconsider their decision to end the marriage and provides an opportunity for the spouses to work through their differences and reconcile.

There is no exception to the "cooling-off" period. Thus, six months is the earliest a court can enter a judgment for dissolution of marriage, and even if the parties settle all issues in their case, they must still wait six months before their marriage will be legally ended.

An individual seeking to end their marriage as quickly as possible can consult with a family law attorney to determine whether it is appropriate to file a petition for dissolution or legal separation right away.

Need Help with Your Divorce? Call Our Firm Today.

At Bremer Whyte Brown & O'Meara, our team provides high-quality legal representation for a range of family law matters in Newport Beach. We are ready to assist and deliver the counsel you need throughout your case.

To schedule a consultation, please contact us at (949) 229-8546.