After years of practicing family law one of the most common complaints I hear is that divorce takes too long. There are a number of possible reasons why your divorce might take longer than you would like. It is important to ask your attorney at the very beginning for a timeline. This will be an estimate of how long things should take. Remember that this is just an estimate, things change that cause divorces to go unexpectedly long.
The following is a list of possible reasons why a divorce might run longer than the parties might want.
- Delay is built into the system. In Texas there are numerous delays built into the legal system in all areas. Divorce is no exception. Every divorce filed in Texas is subject to a 60 day cooling off period starting from the date of filing. That means the fastest you can get divorce is 2 months assuming no other delays. While I have done this it is the exception. If you are requesting a final hearing you must give the other side 45 days notice of the date which adds even more to the delay.
- Discovery takes time. Discovery is the process of sending written requests for information to the other side that they must respond to. The requests set the tone for future hearings by locking in testimony and evidence. They take time to prepare so that they are as complete and comprehensive as possible. They take even longer to respond to. Typically the attorney responding to discovery attempts to minimize the information that is handed over through careful wording of answers or refusals to submit documents. If this occurs and the information is important enough the attorney asking for the information is forced to set a hearing before the court asking that the judge force the other side to respond. Assuming that no hearings are necessary discovery is due back roughly 30 days from the date it is sent out. If a hearing is necessary it could be 30 to 45 days before the court is available and often the judge will give the other side additional time to comply with his or her order to respond to the discovery. This means the discovery process can add anywhere from 30 to 90 days to the overall divorce.
- Court Driven. Most divorce attorneys attempt to resolve matters without involving the judge but if a hearing is necessary the attorney will have to request a time from the court. The dockets of most divorce courts are constantly filled. This means that even a simple matter that doesn’t need more than a few minutes of the judge’s time may not be set for a hearing inside of a month. Hearings that are going to take more than a few hours are often not set for months.
- Client Driven. Sometimes a person getting a divorce says they want it done quickly but then causes delays. Occasionally the problem is emotional. Other times it is financial. No matter what the source clients have the ability to slow down or even stop divorces in their tracks. The question is whether they are doing it on purpose or not. If the client knows they are delaying things then they need to tell their attorney what they are doing and why. A good attorney can give advice. When they don’t know they are doing it the attorney is placed in a difficult position because the clients are in charge of their cases and make the final decisions about how things should proceed, even when they aren’t making good decisions. The best the attorney can do is point out what is going on then allow the client to make the final decision.
- Opposing Party Driven. Just because you want the divorce over quickly doesn’t mean that your soon to be ex does. There are dozens of ways to force delays in a divorce and millions of reasons why the other side might want to do so. The best that the attorney can do is force the issue and combat each delay tactic as they appear.
- Strategy. Sometimes delay is your friend. If you need time to clean up a mess or establish a pattern you need time. Sometimes the other side is just too angry to be reasoned with and you need to give them time to cool down. Or there could be external pressures that build up over time that assist your cause. Whatever the reason strategy sometimes calls for intentional delay. If that is the case then you should discuss the plan in detail with your attorney and then try your hardest to stick to it.
No one likes going through a divorce. Almost everyone would rather pull the band aid off quickly and get it over with but that isn’t always an option. When you start to get frustrated with the delay think through why there is a delay. If you can’t figure out why there is a delay ask your attorney to explain it to you. Generally there is a reason for everything and when it is all over and you look back you will realize that the delay was necessary.