Do you remember Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare? In the fable, we know the tortoise wins the race because of his unshaken focus on the goal ahead. Not known for speed or agility, the tortoise wins the challenge by maintaining a steady, sustainable pace from beginning to end. Although the hare has both speed and agility, he loses the race with over-confidence by wasting his lead on a nap only to awaken with the tortoise crossing the finish line ahead of him.
Whether you are represented by counsel or represent yourself in your divorce, the moral of Aesop’s fable, that slow and steady wins the race, is just as applicable. In this article, we’ll talk about some common court procedures that can add weeks or even months to the Arizona divorce process.
How Long Will it Take for My Divorce to Be Final?
When you ask that question of an attorney, expect this kind of answer – “that’s depends.” More specifically, though, the earliest date would be 61 days and here’s why.
Arizona’s 60-Day Cooling Off Period.
No Arizona divorce can be granted by the Court in less than 60 days after the original divorce papers were served on the respondent party. The two month cooling off period gives you and your spouse a chance to reflect on the full impact that a divorce will have on your family. With Arizona’s cooling off period, no matter how much money is involved, how well organized you are, how simple and straightforward your divorce is, or whether you have or do not have children, you will have to wait at least two months for the final divorce decree to be issued by the family law judge. If you and the other party came to an agreement on every single issue in your divorce, then the Court may sign the divorce decree as soon as the 60-day cooling off period has expired.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race.
There are some procedures, however, that may be scheduled as part of your divorce and which will add significantly more time, pushing the Court’s final divorce decree farther down the road. When you and your spouse have minor children, then the process of divorce becomes more complex and may take many months longer to reach the finish line.
● Mediation of Child Custody. If you motion the Court for mediation of child-related issues such as child custody or parenting time, then you should expect a couple of months, at least, to work through these issues. Court-ordered mediation is provided through conciliation services and it takes time to schedule mediation sessions with a professional mediator.
● Child Custody Evaluation. Frequently, one parent or the other will motion the Court for a child custody evaluation. Custody evaluations can take several months to complete, so expect to add another four to six months to your divorce finish line.
● Parenting Coordinator. When there is so much persistent conflict between the parties that they are unable to creating a parenting plan, something they must do, then the Court may assign a parenting coordinator to assist the couple. Either party can motion for assignment of a parenting coordinator. The Court may also order such assignment on its own motion, sua sponte. In high conflict divorces, the parenting coordinator meets with the parties and helps them settle the details of a parenting plan that is in the best interests of their children. Working with a parenting coordinator takes time and extends the duration of the divorce.
● Settlement Negotiations. If you and your spouse are communicating, then your divorce negotiations will probably take less time and be more productive. If you can work through all of the issues in your divorce – division of property, who will pay which debts, spousal support, child custody, special provisions for child support, a parenting plan – then you’ll move your divorce along much more quickly. However, if you and your spouse are unable to reach agreements on all of the issues in your divorce, then you’ll be looking at a trial on the remaining unresolved disputed issues. Trials take time, so this will definitely add more weeks to your divorce schedule.
● Marital Counseling. If you or our spouse file a motion for marriage counseling, another court program offered through conciliation services, then you may be scheduled for at least one session with a marriage counselor. Only one spouse needs to request this counseling, so additional sessions with a marriage counselor are always uncertain as it takes two willing participants beyond the initial session. As you would expect, scheduling counseling adds more distance to your divorce finish line.
● Court Rescheduling. In any lawsuit, adjustments to the Court’s calendar are the rule and not the exception, so fill out your schedule in pencil as it is likely to change. Hearings get delayed. Trials get rescheduled. New proceedings push other proceedings to a later date. If your spouse retained counsel, then his or her hearing and trial schedule must be accommodated, too. Even events in your life, such as a medical emergency, can force you to seek a continuance, or postponement, of an important proceeding.
In our experience here at the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart, for simple divorces it is possible to get through the divorce process in only a few months. For most parties, though, the process of dissolution of marriage will take anywhere from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer, to reach the finish line with a final divorce decree.