When clients come in for a consultation, they often want to know:
HOW SOON CAN I GET DIVORCED?
Sure, getting married can be quick and easy. But most states make it a little harder to get divorced, for a variety of reasons.
The bottom line for you if you’re considering divorce is that it could take anywhere from several months to more than a year, depending upon where you live and several other factors.
Fault v. No-fault
I practice collaborative (A.K.A. “amicable”) divorce in North and South Carolina. North Carolina is a no-fault state. That means that regardless of the reason for the divorce, the spouses must live separate and apart continuously for one full year before they can file for divorce. Unfortunately, if you’ve experienced adultery or abandonment in your marriage, it won’t expedite the divorce. You must still wait a year and at least one of you must have lived in the state for six months before you can file. (Different states have different residency requirements. Check yours.)
South Carolina is different in that you can file for divorce sooner than before one full year of separation if you have one of these fault-based grounds: adultery, desertion, physical cruelty, or habitual drunkenness/drug use. There is a 90-day waiting period if you have fault-based grounds. The spouses must also resolve all matters pertaining to the divorce, such as alimony, child custody, property division, etc., before a judge will grant the divorce. If a couple has experienced adultery or any other large breach of marital trust, it may be hard for spouses to resolve their marital issues within 90 days. In those cases, it could take a year to resolve the divorce regardless.
Your timeline will depend upon your individual situation, which is why I strongly encourage people to schedule a consultation with an attorney. A consultation will help you understand how long your divorce could take.
Collaborative v. Contentious
Another factor that could affect your divorce timeline is whether you’re divorcing amicably. If you and your spouse have decided to part ways and want to work together to disentangle, first I applaud you and believe you are making the best choice for your family. Legally speaking, in North Carolina, you’ll still have to wait one year to file for divorce after you separate. Your spouse then has 30 days to respond to the filing. After that, if you and your spouse have come to a resolution outside of court, finalizing the divorce will be a matter of getting on the court’s docket to have a judge declare you legally divorced. In South Carolina, if you have an agreement, a fault-based ground for divorce, and your spouse does not contest the filing, your divorce could be granted long before one year of separation has passed.
Depending upon where you live, getting on the court’s docket could be faster or slower than you anticipate. Mecklenburg County is always busy, so in this county, I tell my clients that if they’ve met the mandatory one year waiting period, it could take an additional 3-6 months to finalize their divorce.
As a collaborative divorce attorney, I help couples resolve their divorces outside of the courtroom. We can’t change the law to get you divorced faster, but I believe that if you can work together as a team to separate assets and decide on parenting time, you will resolve your divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If you have questions, call us to set up a consultation. We do divorce differently here. We believe both sides can come through divorce as emotionally and financially healthy as possible. If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us. We’d love to help.