In my 23 years of practice, I have seen divorce cases settle in a matter of days and I’ve seen them linger on indefinitely. So what type of case are you going to have? It all starts with the parties. Do you have a reasonable spouse? Do you have a spouse that is willing and ready to move on to the next chapter? Or, do you have a spouse that is holding on to the past unwilling to let you go? The answers to these questions are going to be more determinative of whether or not you have a lengthy divorce case than the actual facts and circumstances and details of your case.
You should be able to tell from the outset whether or not you have an uncontested case or a contested case. If you and your spouse are willing to have a conversation prior to filing petitions in court, you will likely be able to talk about the different aspects of your case. For example, can you reach an agreement on custody, support, division of property, allocation of debt and all other issues? If so, then you have a pretty good chance that you’re going to have an uncontested case which could be finalized in less than two months. If, on the other hand, you have no communication with your spouse and there is no willingness to talk about the issues in advance, then you are likely looking at a long, protracted case which could last anywhere from one year to two years or longer depending upon the particular facts of your case.
My advice to clients is that they should try and have that conversation early with their spouse. This way they can get an indication of how things are likely to play out. In many cases, the facts are simple, but one of the parties is just not willing to participate. When you have a case with no minor children, no custody issues, no child support issues, and more than enough money and means to survive, and you can’t find a resolution within two years, you have an unreasonable spouse. Or maybe you are the unreasonable spouse. Perhaps, both parties are unreasonable. In those cases, the litigation will drag on for years in some circumstances with the judge finally setting a trial date to end the shenanigans. If the parties still cannot reach an agreement by the trial date, the matter will be sent out to a judge to conduct a hearing.
Do yourself a favor. Picture this scenario where both parties agree to talk, to be reasonable, to negotiate, and to bring some finality to a marriage that has lost its glow. Contrast that with a 2 1/2 year legal battle, costing you tens of thousands of dollars, months of aggravation, only to wind up with results that are pretty much the same or similar to that which an agreed-upon case could have produced. For those who have been through the process and took the long route, most would say “I wish I would’ve done things differently or I wish my spouse would have done things differently.”