How to Keep Making Progress during Divorce Waiting Periods

In your state’s divorce laws, various waiting periods may be required. Each serves a different legal purpose. First, there are residency requirements. These stipulate that one or both spouses must have lived in a certain jurisdiction for a specific amount of time before filing for divorce. 

Next, there are required separation periods in some states. This is a timeframe during which the couple must live apart before a divorce can be finalized. 

Then, there are general waiting times. Sometimes known as a “cooling off period,” this is a period of time set by law between when the divorce petition is filed and when the divorce can be legally granted.

There might be other waiting periods related to things like property division settlement or child custody resolution. Each of these waiting periods can vary significantly depending on your location and situation.

Suggested reading: Divorce Deadlines by State

While you’re waiting to meet residency requirements

A residency requirement is a legal prerequisite in many jurisdictions that stipulates one or both spouses must have lived in the state, or sometimes the specific county, for a certain period before they can file for dissolution of marriage. The duration varies from state to state, but it usually ranges from a few months to a year.

During this waiting period, you can take several steps to keep your divorce moving forward. Start gathering all required documents, including financial records and property deeds. Consulting with a professional for legal advice can also be beneficial. Consider seeking emotional support through counseling or support groups to help manage the stress of divorce.

For adults in Alaska as well divorcing couples in South Dakota, and Washington, you do not have to be a months-long resident of the state to get divorced there. These states are the exception to the rule in the country. Check the residency requirements for your state before filing for divorce to know for sure.

When you must have a separation period before you can file

Separation periods are another common waiting time, but not all states have them. In the states that do, the law requires couples to live apart for a certain period before they can file for divorce. This time apart is designed to allow couples a chance to reconcile or confirm that divorce is the right path.

While waiting, use this time to gain clarity about your future. Reflect on your needs and goals for your life post-divorce. 

This is also an excellent time to create a detailed plan for your finances, living arrangements, and childcare if you have minor children. Engaging a mediator or a counselor could be helpful during this period, providing tools to navigate this transitional phase effectively.

When you’re waiting on your spouse to do their part

There may also be times when you're waiting on your spouse to fulfill their part of the divorce process, such as signing divorce papers or providing necessary information. This can be a frustrating period, especially if your spouse is uncooperative.

During this time, maintain open communication with your spouse, if possible. Patience is essential here, but if your spouse continues to be unresponsive, you may need to seek outside guidance on possible legal actions through a family law attorney to move things along.

Temporary orders may be required to keep yourself or your spouse financially afloat during divorce proceedings. Read about these court orders in our article, What Are Temporary Orders, and Why Would You Want Them?

When you must have a separation period before a judge will sign off on your divorce decree

In some divorce cases, a judge may require a separation period before they sign off on your divorce decree. This is typically to ensure both parties have had adequate time to consider their decision and that reconciliation isn't possible.

While waiting, continue to engage in self-care activities and maintain a supportive network of friends and family. This can be a difficult time emotionally, and it's important not to isolate yourself.

FAQ about divorce waiting periods

Is there any way to bypass waiting periods or speed up my divorce?

While certain aspects of the process, like mandatory waiting periods, are legally required and cannot be bypassed, there are some strategies that can help speed things up. Organizing your paperwork before proceedings can help expedite the process. Considering an uncontested divorce, where you and your spouse agree on all terms, can reduce court time.

In some jurisdictions, you may file for a waiver that eliminates the divorce waiting period. However, every situation is unique, so it's important to consult with a legal professional for personalized advice.

Is mediation an effective way to speed up the divorce process?

Yes, mediation can be an effective way to speed up the divorce process. It allows both parties to discuss their issues with a neutral third party (a mediator), facilitating negotiation and compromise. This often leads to faster resolution than traditional divorce court proceedings.

Can online divorces speed up the process?

Online divorces can be faster than traditional ones, as they eliminate the need for physical court appearances. However, they are typically only suitable for uncontested divorces where both parties agree on all terms.


Self-Help Center: Family Law. Alaska Court System.
Codified Laws. South Dakota Legislature.
Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.