Talk to a top lawyer for free

How long does a divorce take in California?

How long does divorce take in California? The timeline can range from six months to over a year, depending on several factors. We explain in this article.

evident Editorial Team
January 28, 2024
San Francisco skyline, woman sitting

If you are going through a divorce in California, you probably have lots of questions. Many questions that are usually top of mind relate to how long divorce takes in California.

The divorce process can be challenging and stressful, so it is only natural for people to wonder how long it will last. 

In this article, we will:

  • provide a general timetable for finalizing a divorce in California 
  • Share how long an uncontested divorce takes in CA
  • Share how long a contested divorce takes in CA
  • Explain the different factors that influence the timing of the divorce process

Let’s begin with an overview of the possible timetables.

Key Takeaways

California Divorce Timetables

So, how long does a divorce take in California? A California divorce can be as quick as six months or as long as multiple years.

Several factors affect a California divorce timetable. One of the most important factors is whether a divorce is contested or uncontested. 

The timeline for an uncontested divorce in California is typically much shorter than the timeline for a contested divorce, though the timeline for a contested divorce in California can vary greatly. 

Is there a waiting period for divorce in California? 

Yes, there is a six-month waiting period for divorce in California. 

Many states do not have a divorce waiting period (like New York), while other states have much shorter divorce waiting periods (such as Texas, which has a 60-day waiting period).

Under California law, though, a full six months must pass after the divorce petition is filed before the divorce can be finalized. 

Note that you do not have to be separated from your spouse for six months, and being separated does not help speed up the process. That is, being separated prior to filing for divorce does not count towards the waiting period, which only commences once one spouse files the divorce papers. 

Meanwhile, there is no waiting period for legal separation in California, though legal separation will not end your marriage. 

How long does an uncontested divorce take in California?

The timeline for an uncontested divorce in CA could be as short as six months. As noted, though, it will take a minimum of six months given the CA divorce waiting period.

In California, an uncontested divorce is when both parties agree (1) to end the marriage and (2) on all of the divorce-related issues, such as:

  • Property division
  • Alimony (called spousal support in California)
  • Child support
  • Child custody

Uncontested divorces require minimal court oversight, given that the parties agree on all the issues, which helps shorten the timeline of an uncontested divorce in California. The parties work together to draft a marital settlement agreement, which they present to the court for its approval.

Things like mistakes in divorce paperwork could still delay the process, so attention to detail is crucial if you want your divorce to proceed in a timely manner.

How long does a contested divorce take in California? 

A contested divorce in California typically takes much longer than an uncontested divorce, often taking a year or more to finalize.

Even if the parties agree on most divorce-related issues, disagreement over a single issue makes the divorce contested, which typically lengthens the process and requires more court involvement. 

There is no single timeline for a contested divorce, and how long a contested divorce takes in California depends on a variety of factors.

The complexity and contentiousness of the divorce play a large role in influencing the timeline. If a divorce is particularly contentious or complicated, it could take years. Cooperation between the spouses can be critical for helping a contested divorce move more quickly. 

What affects a California divorce timeline?

Returning to our main question: how long does divorce take in CA? The answer often depends in large part on several factors and how they impact a California divorce process. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of those key factors and how they can affect a divorce case. (Note that many of these are also factors that impact the cost of divorce in California).

Whether the divorce involves minor children

girls, children, friends

When children are involved, divorces are typically more complicated and, therefore, usually take longer. 

Issues like child custody and child support must be addressed, which not only add complexity to the divorce but also the risk of conflict. 

Even if spouses are able to avoid a full-blown custody battle, though, divorces involving children are likely to take longer.

The size of the marital estate 

California is a community property state, so most property acquired during the marriage is presumed to belong to both spouses equally. Dividing this property is a fundamental aspect of getting divorced.  

As you might expect, the more marital property there is to divide, the more complicated the process usually is and the longer it can take. 

The complexity of the marital estate

Similar to the size of the marital estate, the complexity of the marital estate is also a key factor. 

It will typically take longer to divide marital property that is more complex (like an ownership interest in a business or partnership) than property that is more straightforward (such as cash in bank accounts, even if there’s a lot of it). 

Whether a spouse seeks spousal support

Disputes over spousal support can also prolong a divorce. Spousal support is not always an issue, such as if both spouses worked throughout the marriage and have comparable earning capacity.

But when spousal support is at issue, it is one more issue that needs to be resolved and can often involve extensive financial disclosures.

How contentious the divorce is

Last but not least, how contentious the divorce is can have a huge impact on the timeline of a California divorce. 

As mentioned, contested divorces in California take longer than uncontested divorces. There is still a lot of variance in how long a contested divorce can take, though. Hard-fought court battles could take years, whereas more amicable divorces could be finalized more quickly. 

The more that the spouses can work together and keep the divorce proceedings moving forward, the faster it will go.

FAQs About California Divorce Timelines

How long does it take to get a divorce in California if both parties agree?

If both parties agree to get divorced, and they can agree on all the underlying issues involved in the divorce--such as alimony, child support or child custody, and property division--then they can seek an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are generally simpler, faster, and less expensive than contested divorces in California.

The typical timeline for a CA divorce if both parties agree is six months, which is largely due to the mandatory divorce waiting period.

How long do you have to be separated to get divorced in California?

There is no particular amount of time that you must be separated to get divorced in California, but your divorce will take at least six months due to the waiting period.

And note that being legally separated before filing for divorce does not speed up the process. It may well make sense to separate from your spouse if that's best for you on a personal level, but the California divorce waiting period begins once one spouse files the petition for divorce, and you don't get to start the clock early so to speak even if you were separated before starting the CA divorce process.

The Bottom Line

So, how long does a divorce take in California? 

An uncontested divorce in California can take about six months to finalize. Though uncontested divorces move faster in some states, California’s mandatory waiting period means that the minimum a divorce will take is six months.

Meanwhile, a contested divorce in California can take longer, often a year or more, from the initial petition to the divorce decree.  

Under California divorce laws, all divorces take a minimum of six months due to the mandatory divorce waiting period. 

If you have questions, consider speaking with a California divorce attorney to get a more accurate estimate of how long your divorce will take.