How Long Will a Contested Divorce Take?

Contested divorces can take a long time, and the more complicated a couple’s finances are, the longer they have been married, and the less willing they are to cooperate with one another, the longer the process tends to drag on. A divorce will end when one of three things happens: the couple reconciles and withdraws their divorce petition, the couple comes to an agreement to settle the divorce and a judge approves of the agreement’s terms, or the case goes to trial.

Washington law discourages married couples from taking their divorce proceedings all the way through to trial, especially when they have children together. The thought is that by avoiding declaring a “winner” and a “loser” of the divorce, the couple can preserve close and continuing relationships between children and both of their parents, which serves the children best in the long-run.

It is also typically in the interest of the divorcing spouses to try their best to reach a settlement. Divorces are almost always a stressful and troubling process, and a quicker resolution affords both parties some peace of mind that much faster. Settling a divorce will also save the parties a substantial sum of money in court costs and legal fees in most cases.

In order to encourage settlements, Washington courts are authorized to order mediation before setting a trial date. Mediation involves sitting down with a neutral third party to help the married couple work out terms of a settlement. This is likely to take place over the course of several meetings, and even though it is a less formal proceeding than a traditional trial, it still requires a great deal of preparation. Both parties need to come in with a detailed understanding of their finances, their future plans, and the needs of their children so that they are on solid footing to make decisions. Typically, mediation can take place between six and nine months of filing for divorce.

If mediation fails, the parties will prepare for trial either on all the issues or on a subset of issues they were unable to settle. Again, the more complex a couple’s situation is, the longer this process will take. In the context of a complicated financial situation, such as a married couple that owns a family business, it will take longer to set a trial date, and the trial itself will also last longer. Divorces decided at trial will take approximately a year on average, but may last up to two years or more in certain circumstances.

Contested divorces can take a substantial toll on the well-being of a family. Don’t go through this alone. Call Crouse Erickson today.

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