How long does it take to get a divorce in California?
According to California Family Code 2339(a), a California divorce that is not a Summary Dissolution (see below) will take a minimum of 6 months to become finalized. It can be longer. It cannot be shorter under any circumstances.
There are no exceptions to the 6 months’ minimum waiting period. That is true despite many rumors and urban legends to the contrary. Even serious illness or impending death is not a valid reason to reduce the 6 months’ minimum waiting period.
To be more precise, because Family Code 2339 states, “… until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent,” most courts agree that the actual minimum waiting period is 6 months plus one day in order to give effect to the “have expired” clause.
By way of an example, if your spouse/partner is served with the Summons and Petition on June 1, in order for 6 months to “have expired,” your divorce cannot be final until December 2. Even more precisely, the case can be final at the stroke of midnight on December 1. December 1 must have expired for the 6 month to have expired.
Does It Make A Difference If Your California Divorce is Contested?
A contested case is where you and your spouse are disputing some issue(s) in your case.
No. It still takes a minimum of 6 months plus one day from the date the other party (the party who did not file the case first) gets served. If your divorce case is contested, all that means is that you and your spouse/partner are disputing or contesting one or more issues in your case.
Your spouse/partner will have indicated that there is a dispute by filing a Response at court so that the court will not proceed to make any orders in your case without appropriate input from both sides.
Obviously, a contested divorce case can be a lengthy process. It may take years to finalize all issues. The delay will depend on what issues are involved and how seriously they are being contested.
In contested divorce cases, a process called bifurcation is available. Bifurcation simply means that one or more issues that have been settled can be finalized and separated from other issues that have not yet been settled. One of the issues that can be separated from disputed issues is the actual date the divorce case becomes final.
In other words, if you and your spouse will continue to dispute one or more issues, the court can order that the divorce case is final as to “status only” as of a certain date. This enables you to finalize your divorce case in the normal 6-months’ minimum period without being penalized by further delay just because you are contesting issues in your case.
However, the date your “status-only” divorce is finalized still cannot be less than 6 months plus one day after service of docs on your spouse/partner or your spouse/partner’s Response being filed. Bifurcation and status-only divorce is not a way to shorten the mandatory 6-months waiting period. It’s a convenience for when other issues are dragging on.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce in California if the Case is Uncontested?
It’s still a minimum of 6 months plus one day. Bifurcation is available in an uncontested case that has, for whatever reason, been delayed by the parties beyond the 6-months waiting period but where no final settlement has been reached. However, it is strongly recommended that you do not bifurcate your uncontested case without consulting a lawyer first.
Two Areas of POTENTIAL Confusion About How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce in California
There are 2 areas of uncontested divorce procedure where the mandatory 6-months’ waiting period may seem confusing depending on how you hear these practice areas being described. On occasion, I’ve seen online definitions of these two practice areas that almost seem to confuse the public purposefully about the 6-months’ minimum waiting period and how long does it take to get a divorce in California.
Getting the Judgment Signed/Entered
You may see online discussion or hear friends talking about getting their California divorce judgments “signed” or “entered” in just 2 or 3 months after the Respondent was served. That’s entirely possible. In fact, it is common in almost all California counties.
Getting the Judgment signed or entered is a normal part of the divorce process that takes place during the 6 months’ minimum waiting period. Getting the Judgment signed or entered does not finalize your case unless you are already beyond the 6-months’ minimum waiting period.
If you are still within the 6-months’ minimum waiting period when your Judgment is signed or entered, your case still won’t be final until that 6-months plus one day date.
Absent a “status only” termination of marital status, your divorce case, whether contested or uncontested, will be final on the 6-months plus one day date or on the date the Judgment is signed/entered, whichever date is later. In almost all uncontested cases that have not been delayed purposefully by the parties for some reason, the Judgment being signed/entered will be the first of those two events. So you still have to wait for the 6-month plus one day date to roll around in order for your case to be finalized pursuant to Family Code 2339(a).
California Summary Dissolution
About 25% of California divorces are Summary Dissolutions. They require that the parties were married and living together for less than 5 years, have no minor children, no current pregnancy, own no real estate together or separately, don’t own very much else, don’t owe very much else and that both parties consent to the divorce and certain other requirements.
A Summary Dissolution is still a divorce, but both parties sign for it jointly. Both parties are Joint-Petitioners. In a Summary Dissolution, there is no Respondent to be served with papers.
So if there is no Respondent to be served, how long does it take to get a California Summary Dissolution? You guessed it. Family Code 2403 provides that in a Summary Dissolution, the court shall dissolve the marriage, “When six months have expired from the date of the filing of the joint petition for summary dissolution,…”
You will occasionally hear people calling Summary Dissolution a “short form” divorce. It is a much simpler procedure than Regular Dissolution (the other 75% of California divorces) and there is much less paperwork. But it’s shortness is in the procedure only. Summary Dissolution still takes 6 months to finalize. It’s just that it’s 6-months from the date of filing, not 6 months from the date the Respondent is served or files a Response, as in a Regular Dissolution.
Conclusion – How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce in California?
So if you are stuck with a California divorce, you’re stuck with the 6 months minimum waiting period, whether your case is contested, uncontested, a Summary Dissolution or a Regular Dissolution.
However, if you’re “lucky” enough to have an uncontested divorce, now that you are aware of that fixed minimum time frame, it’s time for you to concentrate on getting the best and most cost effective divorce available.
Online divorce is definitely the biggest cost-cutter. Try to find an online divorce provider that specializes in California divorce only. And try to find an online divorce provider that is experienced. The following table provides some comparisons between the top online divorce providers in the California market. I hope this will help and I hope you will consider my company, NetDivorce.
|NetDivorce.com||$129||Flat fee; no ups or extras EVER; this is not an installment payment or a 1-month subscription; This is the complete fee!! California divorce ONLY; Pre-Internet company was called California Legal Assistance Centers; Has been handling ONLY California divorce since June, 1981; State AND county docs|
|DivorceWriter.com||$137||Nationwide. Experienced; State docs only BUT THERE ARE MANY COMMON DOCS THEY ADMIT ARE NOT PROVIDED – THEY ONLY PREPARE ABOUT HALF OF YOUR PAPERS IN A NORMAL CALIFORNIA CASE!! They admit this in their Help Center. Why would you hire someone to do half the job?|
|InstantOnlineDivorce.com||$139||ALERT: THIS FEE IS FOR A 1-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION ONLY!! THEN THEY HIT YOUR CREDIT CARD EVERY MONTH UNTIL YOU CANCEL; Based in Jaipur, India; State docs only|
|GetDivorcePapers.com||$139||ALERT: THIS FEE IS FOR A 1-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION ONLY!! THEN THEY HIT YOUR CREDIT CARD EVERY MONTH UNTIL YOU CANCEL; Read the BBB complaints here; Based in India; 122 complaints at BBB; F-rating at BBB; State docs only. If you want your private data to be cut-and-pasted onto legal docs by someone’s grandmother in Mumbai, this is the way to go.|
|OnlineDivorce.com||$139||ALERT: THIS FEE IS FOR A 1-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION ONLY!! THEN THEY HIT YOUR CREDIT CARD EVERY MONTH UNTIL YOU CANCEL; State docs only; 193 BBB complaints; F-rating; BBB labels the owners, Andriy Bogdanov and Grigoriy Rublev, as false advertisers; As of March 2020, they will also charge you by the year to store your data until you also cancel that contract. Located in Ukraine; TrustPilot threw them off their platform because of fake testimonials. These guys are sharks! THIS IS DEFINITELY THE WORST AND MOST DANGEROUS ONLINE DIVORCE WEBSITE|
|DivorceFiller.com||$139||ALERT: THIS FEE IS FOR A 1-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION ONLY!! THEN THEY HIT YOUR CREDIT CARD EVERY MONTH UNTIL YOU CANCEL; State docs only; This is OnlineDivorce.com. Their reputation is so bad, they must have fresh websites ready to continue their frauds.|
|MyDivorcePapers.com||$139+++||ALERT: THIS FEE IS FOR A 1-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION ONLY!! THEN THEY HIT YOUR CREDIT CARD EVERY MONTH UNTIL YOU CANCEL; Big upseller!; $125 “expedite fee” or you wait 10-14 Days for your papers; $199 “premium package” fee; Uses bogus self-owned testimonial and review websites; State docs only; 65 BBB complaints; F-rating at BBB.|
|OnlineDivorcer.com||$139||Based in the Czech Republic. Claims over 10,000 cases handled and 12 years of experience, but the company (Palantis Group) only started in April 2018 and this website has only been up since December 2019. Looks like another foreign scam. But hey, if they’re doing the monthly subscription price fraud, they’re not disclosing it anywhere.|
|3StepDivorce.com||$299||Good Company. Nationwide. Experienced; Does Good Work; Second Best to NetDivorce; State docs only|
|Completecase.com||$299||ALERT: THIS FEE IS FOR A 1-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION ONLY!! THEN THEY HIT YOUR CREDIT CARD EVERY MONTH UNTIL YOU CANCEL; Nationwide. Experienced; State AND county docs; This was a really good company for many years; It’s a shame they’ve started using the one-month price fraud scam.|
|DivorceSimplifiedMyWay.com/||$499 – no kids or assets|
$699 – kids OR assets
$799 – kids AND assets
|They also have a $99 teaser, which is just for the first few docs; Owned and operated by Anthony Dunne, a California lawyer who was disbarred in December 2019 for 5 counts of serious misconduct, including the theft of over $50K of clients’ money; NOTE: Obviously, not everyone listed in this table is a criminal, but this is just one example of a few who are; Online divorce is completely unregulated; Any criminal or conman can set themselves up as an online divorce provider; on their website, it says, “Our company’s founder retired from his family law firm…” We guess a disbarment is a form of retirement.|
|HelloDivorce.com||$99 – $4500||Very tricky pricing. $99 looks attractive, but it’s a teaser fee. THAT FEE DOES NOT INCLUDE ANY CLIENT SUPPORT. You are completely on your own. You get to use their online system, but you can’t ask questions. California divorce is the second most difficult in the whole country. You will need client support or things will go wrong. When you screw up your case, they upsell you to their $1100, $2500, $3000 or $4500 packages to clean up the mess you would not have if you had client support. The fact that their teaser fee is $99 and their next package up is $1100 should be enough to tell you all you need to know. Be careful.|
|ItsOverEasy.com||$750+++||Latest foo-foo hipster divorce site. ALL FEES ARE NON-REFUNDABLE NO MATTER WHAT!! Very tricky pricing. $99 looks attractive, but it’s a teaser fee. THAT FEE DOES NOT INCLUDE ANY CLIENT SUPPORT. You are completely on your own. You get to use their online system, but you can’t ask questions. California divorce is the second most difficult in the whole country. You will need client support or things will go wrong. When you screw up your case, they upsell you to their $1000 or $2000 packages to clean up the mess you would not have if you had client support. The fact that their teaser fee is $99 and their next package up is $1000 should be enough to tell you all you need to know. Be careful. Really nice website.|
|Wevorce.com||$949+++++||Way overpriced; Big upseller; Tries to move you to subscribing attorneys, accountants, financial planners, psychiatrists, counselors, etc.; All of these are EXTRA! None is included in the $949. Total hipster feel-good; nonsense; If you and your spouse could do the Wevorce procedure, you wouldn’t be getting a divorce; State docs only; ALERT: THIS FEE IS FOR A 1-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION ONLY!! THEN THEY HIT YOUR CREDIT CARD FOR $200 EVERY MONTH UNTIL YOU CANCEL;|
|Separate.us||$999||Total Rip; Quotes $999 but then also quotes a $99 “Total Fee” that is nothing but a teaser. $99 is their fee for the first filing docs only!! If you want the whole divorce – it’s a grand!! Cool website, though.|