We call it the “divorce process” for good reason. You may be ready to end your marriage right this minute, but it’s a journey, one that takes time. How much time, however, varies.
No two marriages are identical, thus no two divorces unfold the same way. In some cases, it involves little more than filing the paperwork, paying the applicable fees, and waiting the specified time. This most commonly occurs in shorter marriages with no children and little or no shared property to divide.
There are more complicated cases where things take longer. How much longer depends. In general, the more complex a marriage, the more you have to deal with, the longer you should expect it to take. Children, tons of property, retirement funds, frequent conflict, and even the length of the marriage all play a part.
Many factors influence how long divorce takes. Here are a few common hurdles people must clear in order to dissolve a marriage in Oregon in a timely fashion.
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Divorce Waiting Period
Divorce laws vary from one state to the next. One of these is the divorce waiting period. This is the minimum amount of time that must elapse between filing the paperwork and your divorce becoming final.
Some states keep this relatively brief, others do not. In Nevada, for example, the wait can be as little as 14 days, while in Massachusetts, it can last up to 180 days depending on the circumstances. Oregon used to have a 90-day waiting period, but the state did away with that a few years back. So, after you file the paperwork, your divorce can become final in a matter of days. That said, it generally sits in a stack waiting for a judge to sign it, which may take weeks. (In Washington, there is still a 90-day waiting period from the date the divorce is filed and served before you can submit it to the court for signature.)
This represents the bare minimum. Essentially, you can file the papers, pay the fees, and call your marriage done in short order. But many other factors influence how long divorce takes and can draw out the process.
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Child Custody Disputes
When it comes to taking up time in divorce, child custody disputes are one of the biggies. This is such an emotional issue for parents, tempers often flare, and conflict is common. There are a lot of details to hash out and if you and your ex argue about every point, that slows things down.
Custody cases involve where the child lives, child support orders, visitation, decision making authority, and more. All of this should be laid out in a parenting plan. Even if the two sides generally agree, it still takes a while to create this document. The courts aim to serve the best interests of the child, which takes time to determine. Some cases even require third-party evaluations. All of this can combine to extend the divorce process.
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Division of Property
Over the course of a marriage, you accumulate property, assets, and debts. When you divorce, you divide all of this. The more you have to
It’s possible for this to go relatively smoothly. If you have a prenuptial agreement, you both agree on who gets what, or simply don’t have much to split up, it may happen quickly. But again, the more you have, the more potential delays you often encounter.
Oregon is an equitable distribution state. That means the court seeks to distribute assets in a fair, equitable manner. The goal is for each spouse to emerge on relatively equal footing and maintain a lifestyle similar to that enjoyed during the marriage. Property includes the obvious, like houses and cars, but also things like retirement benefits, capital gains, and even airline miles. If you argue about everything, that’s going to lengthen your divorce.
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Doing it Yourself
It’s now easier than ever to take a Do-it-Yourself approach to divorce. You can fill out and file all the forms, no divorce lawyer required. In some cases, usually simple, straightforward ones, it may even be the best choice. The DIY process is ideal for couples without children, real property, or retirement plans. But in others, representing yourself slows things down and draws out the process.
Ending a marriage requires many long, detailed forms, and legalese is not known for being particularly user friendly or easy to understand. Mistakes, omissions, and improperly filled out forms can cause setbacks and delays. Even if you fill the paperwork out yourself, you may want to have an experienced attorney take a look before you file. A small expense up front may save you time, money, and headaches down the road.
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We mentioned evaluations earlier, and there are multiple ways they can show up and slow down your divorce.
When it comes to child custody cases, parenting evaluations are common. The child’s well-being takes precedence over other issues, so this happens if there are concerns about abuse, mental health, substance abuse, or other red flags. If one parent wants to move out of state with the child, that also has to be addressed.
Business evaluations may also be necessary to examine finances. If a business is owned by one or both spouses, it is common to hire an outside appraiser to determine the value. Complicated investment portfolios or situations with a significant amount of assets may necessitate a closer look.
Again, as with most of these points, the more you have to deal with, the longer your divorce will likely take. These aren’t the only things that can slow down your divorce, but in most cases, this rule of thumb applies: the more there is, the more time it takes.
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Worst Case Scenario
While the least amount of time your divorce will take in Oregon is days, what’s the worst case scenario? With all the things that can pop up and complicate matters, it’s not uncommon for a contested divorce to last eight months. Or even longer.
The more you and your soon-to-be-ex fight, the more assets you have to divide, the more time you spend. If your case involves mediation, arbitration, or court appearances, these require scheduling and coordination. Court dates often don’t happen for months. With all of the potential delays, at the outside, your divorce may take up to a year or more. That’s probably not what you want to hear, but it’s all too often the fact of the matter.
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Streamline the Process
There are ways you can streamline the process. Gathering relevant financial information ahead of time helps. Hiring an experienced divorce attorney who has been through this before speeds things along.
Know what you’re willing to fight for and what you’re willing to let go—don’t argue about every point just because, that often wastes time and money. Figure out what issues you and your spouse agree on so you can get them out of the way up front.
Though there are ways to speed things up, know that divorce isn’t a quick process. It’s more important to do it right than do it fast. Divorce has the potential to impact you, your family, and your finances for years to come, it’s worth the additional effort in the end.
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