What Is a Cooling-Off Period?


Getting divorced? Navigating the complexities of your state's divorce laws can add to the frustration. A concept you must understand is the “cooling off period” mandated by your state if it mandates one at all.

What is a cooling-off period?

A cooling-off period is the amount of time required to elapse between the day you file for divorce and the day you can receive your final divorce decree. This is also called a waiting period, and it's required in most, but not all, states.

Why do I have to wait?

Cooling-off periods were created to give couples time to reflect on their decision before making their dissolution of marriage official. It’s not uncommon for emotions to run high during a divorce, so having some space and time apart can help both parties gain clarity before entering divorce proceedings that result in a legally binding agreement. Moreover, if couples are able to reconcile during the cooling-off period, they will not have to go through the entire legal process again if they wish to stay married. 

For the states that require a cooling-off period for divorce cases, most fall around 60 days. Your divorce will likely take longer than this, anyway. A few states have mandatory waiting periods of six months or more, and some require a 12-month waiting period.

Quick read: Divorce Process Flowchart

What can I do while I’m waiting?

Although this is a difficult time for many people, you can still do things during the cooling-off period. Here are just some of the activities you might consider during your cooling-off period: 

  • Gather financial information. This may include bank statements, credit card statements, tax returns, home appraisals, and other documents that will be needed when preparing financial disclosures.
  • Research your state divorce laws regarding property division. All of your shared marital property will have to be divided. Some states are community property states that mandate a 50/50 split of items. Other states are equitable distribution states that mandate property division is “fair” – though not necessarily 50/50.
  • Negotiate with your spouse. Before you can receive your final divorce decree, all issues related to shared debt, property, and minor children must be resolved. If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse can work these out without assistance from a third party (like a judge), you’ll save money and time.
  • Hire a mediator. Many divorcing couples, even amicable ones, benefit from the assistance of a mediator for tougher issues like how to determine child custody, who pays child support, or who gets alimony. This neutral party helps promote negotiations that are fair so each person feels satisfied with their marital settlement agreement.
  • Seek counseling or therapy. Although not everyone who goes through divorce needs therapy, many do. It’s a huge life change with multiple moving parts, so it makes sense – even if you’re the one who initiated the divorce in the first place. You might also want to look into support groups in your area or for a divorce coach – a person who will advocate for you and help you through all aspects of your divorce.
  • Create an updated budget based on post-divorce expenses. You might not know exactly what your post-divorce costs will be, but it’s a good idea to start thinking about your budget and running some numbers now. If spousal support or child support are part of your final divorce judgment, this may further impact you.

Suggested reading: How to Create a Post-Divorce Budget

You can use this period to make sure any agreements reached between you and your spouse are made thoughtfully and carefully rather than hastily. A thoughtful divorce will benefit everyone involved in the long run. An uncontested divorce can be ideal because both spouses agree on all issues and see little need for hiring a divorce attorney.

To help you through this time, check out the cost-effective online divorce plans from Hello Divorce. We can help you follow your state divorce laws correctly so you don’t face any unwanted delays in your divorce process. We offer a menu of other services as well, from divorce coaching to financial planning to time with an attorney where you can obtain legal advice. 

Helpful resource: Divorce Deadlines by State

Suggested reading:

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.