Why Does Divorce Take So Long?


We have all heard the stories. Someone we know has been stuck in a divorce that drags on for years. Why does this happen when everyone wants their divorce to be completed ASAP?

There are many reasons, the four most prevalent ones are: 

1. Your emotions. The more you fight, the longer it takes.

I would say the one reason why divorce takes so long is the emotions people are going through. 

These emotions slow everything down. Rational thinking comes and goes. One ancillary event may bring upon a large argument that in hindsight you shake your head at why it even happened. It is an emotional time. Period. The hard part is reigning in these emotions. But if you are looking to have the divorce be concluded in a timely manner, these emotions need to be under control to the best of your ability. 

Fighting takes time. Stonewalling requests causes delays. Acting in a manner that instigates your spouse usually will similar actions come back to you. Playing the endless game of tit for tat, adds more time on the clock. 

As these games perpetuate, people are going to get aggravated. 

The person who files for divorce, probably wanted the proceedings concluded last week. That individual usually wants the divorce completed on their terms (state matrimony statues will have the strongest say in this). When things don’t go according to plan, they often get angry. They fight. They vent to their attorney. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, this will add more time to the process. 

The person who did not file for notice, probably doesn’t care how fast the divorce goes. They are dealing with the emotional shock that comes with the realization their marriage is over. Things will get done when they have no choice. 

If both sides are engaged in a mindset of “I will make you pay!” or “I will get to this when I am damned good and ready!” the case will drag on. And both parties will be paying. Their attorney’s.

Until BOTH spouses start to deal with their emotions, resolving their divorce will take longer than imagined. 

2. The System. Divorce Court has built in delays.

Many states have enacted divorce laws that have mandatory “cooling off” periods. 

Some states laws will require a couple to be separated for a certain period of time before filing for divorce. Others require a couple to wait a specific amount of time after they file, before they finalize their divorce. 

Should you unfortunately find your case in court, there are rules that each party will have to adhere to. 

Every time you or your spouse files a motion in court, you have to give the other party a certain number of days advanced notice that you will be presenting the motion in court. The party whom the motion is directed at, will also get time to respond to it. 

Next up is a hearing date for the motion. Should the courts calendar be full, you could end up waiting weeks if not months for your next court date. 

Anything that happens in court is governed by rules. These rules have timeframes that correspond with them. Sometimes the time frame can be accelerated. Often times, not. 

3. Lawyers. Divorce Lawyers Don’t Have a Need for Speed.

The majority of people going through a divorce feel the attorney’s purposely drag out their divorce case so they can make money. The longer the case gets, more hours to bill. 

In some cases, this is probably true. 

Some divorce attorney’s will purposely fuel the fire of conflict to have their case go longer. 

Again, while there are some attorneys who engage in these tactics they are in the minority. 

The majority of divorce attorneys are genuinely trying to do a good job. They are ethically obligated to be thorough. They are working hard to get the best deal possible for their client. Also, consider a mediator as well. A very time and cost efficient alternative when getting divorced. Possibly less stress too. 

For your attorney to be detailed orientated and fighting in your best interest takes time. A LOT of time. 

You want the best deal possible? I don’t think you want your attorney to jump on the first offer exchanged that is exchanged. 

You end up in court, you will not win unless you are willing to fight. 

All of these items will take time. 

4. Money. Sorting Through Complex Financial Situations Takes Time.

Why does the financial side of a divorce go slowly? 

  1. Someone is dragging their feet in producing financial information.

  2. Someone is trying to hide money or assets.

  3. The couple has assets that need to be valued by an outside expert. (House, pension, a business)

  4. The couple’s financial situation is genuinely complex.

Should a spouse not produce information that is requested, or is feverishly trying to hide assets, sorting through even the simplest financial situation will be time consuming. 

Should you need to call in an expert for an evaluation on an asset such as a business, this will add time to the process. For a proper evaluation to be completed, an evaluator will need to have access to A LOT of financial information and documents. To produce the evaluation that has been requested, this individual will need to do their research with all of the documentation provided. Once the research has been completed then a report will be submitted to both parties. Again, this takes time. 

If a couple owns stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and any other kinds of investments, they may need advice. Tax advice. Dividing assets due to a divorce doesn’t typically raise any tax issues from their transfer.  The disposition of those assets after the divorce may result in taxes that need to be paid to the IRS. Get the knowledge beforehand from a tax advisor on any potential tax liability that may result from selling off these assets. Keep in mind that your filing status will change once the divorce is finalized.  

What can you do to have your divorce go faster? 

Not every divorce is the same. Some divorces go fast. Others drag on for years. Delays will likely occur. It is the nature of the event that you are going through. 

How could this process go quicker? One word. Agree. Should you and your spouse be able to agree on all the issues at hand, this will make the divorce go much quicker. 

But getting an agreement isn’t always easy and or possible. 

Should you not have access to all the financial information, settling your divorce is reckless and irresponsible. To have a realization three years later when you are in financial distress that you should have taken your time is not a feeling I want anyone to have to experience. 

If it takes time to get what’s fair for your share of assets, custody or whatever it may be that is causing a delay, don’t take the shortcut to get the divorce over with. Chance are you will end up regretting it down the road. 

Ronald Reinstein