Guide to Divorce Waiting Periods
In most states, a divorce waiting period is a standard part of the divorce process – even in no-fault divorces and uncontested divorces. Understanding how long the waiting period is in your state can help you make the best decisions for your situation. It’s also helpful to understand why some states impose a waiting period as couples work through a dissolution of marriage.
State-imposed waiting periods
A mandatory waiting period gives couples time to consider their decision. It also gives them time to prepare for the legal, emotional, and financial aspects of their divorce case.
The waiting period is also sometimes referred to as a “cooling off” period. During this period, the members of a couple may not remarry. While some people find this frustrating, the mandatory waiting period is a way for states to make sure each granted dissolution of marriage is the result of careful consideration rather than a rash decision made in anger or distress.
In fact, for some couples, a short waiting period allows them time to rebuild their relationship or explore other options for resolving the issues that led them to consider divorce in the first place. In this way, though it may feel like a burden, a divorce waiting period can sometimes benefit both parties.
Some example waiting periods:
- California: 6 months
- Colorado: 90 days
- Illinois: None for uncontested; ~6 months for contested
- New York: None
- Texas: 60 days
- Utah: 30 days
Why do states impose mandatory divorce waiting periods?
As mentioned, one possible reason for a state-imposed waiting period is the possibility of reconciliation, which is much easier to do before divorce papers are submitted than after the final judgment has been made.
That said, not everyone agrees that a waiting period should be enforced in all circumstances. For example, in the case of domestic violence where one spouse is abusive or manipulative, the extra time could give the abuser more leverage and control over their partner. In such situations, it may be better for the court to move toward a final judgment without delay.
Another reason to delay divorce proceedings is a more practical one: It gives spouses time to sort out their finances. Property division can be a huge issue for divorcing couples. They may disagree over which items are community property and which items are separate property. Retirement benefits are often a point of contention, as is real estate: Who will get the marital home?
Child custody, division of parenting time, child support, and spousal support (often called alimony) are further issues to be resolved before a settlement agreement can be reached. Often, couples turn to a divorce lawyer to help them resolve these issues. But finding the right law firm and hiring the right divorce lawyer takes time – and the waiting period can provide this.
Note: A divorce attorney is not always necessary, even for couples who struggle to agree on issues regarding marital property division, spousal support, and their minor children. Going through divorce mediation is much cheaper than hiring a divorce attorney through a law firm and paying attorney’s fees.
Issues like child custody and property division take a while to resolve, even in uncontested divorce cases. You may quickly find that a short waiting period causes you no stress because you’re busy working out your settlement agreement anyway.
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Mediation: A worthy pursuit
If you and your spouse want an amicable divorce but are struggling to resolve one or more issues related to your marital settlement agreement, mediation is a noteworthy solution.
In mediation, spouses work with a neutral third party, a mediator, to come up with fair agreements on any or all aspects of their divorce settlement. This can be particularly useful for issues like child custody and property division, where spouses may disagree about what’s best for their minor children or how to fairly divide their assets.
Hello Divorce specializes in helping people through divorces of all kinds. For example, we have software that can help you file for an online divorce. Our software helps you file the right documents in your state and helps you meet your state's timelines and divorce waiting period requirements. Click here to read about the different online divorce plans we offer.
We also have experts standing by to help you with your other divorce-related needs. Click here to read about the services we provide, including divorce mediation sessions and legal advice and counsel from a divorce attorney. If you'd like to speak with one of our team members, please schedule a free 15-minute consultation to learn more.
Watch: How Long Will My Divorce Take?