Whether you are the person starting or responding to a divorce action, it’s likely that you’re going to have a lot of questions. Divorce is the legal dissolution of your marriage resulting in a divorce decree that sets forth your rights and responsibilities. The divorce process can either be relatively quick or take many months and sometimes even years, in order to finalize. The time frame to finalize the divorce is one of the most common questions people will have about the divorce process.

How Long Does a Divorce Take?

Here’s your guide to how long you can expect a divorce to take, from filing for divorce to finalizing a divorce.

Divorce Has a Psychological Start

Divorce doesn’t just begin when the papers get filed and served. The truth is that the divorce process starts in the mind as a thought that it’s time to bring the partnership to an end.

The psychological start of divorce is not, however, the legal start of the process. Legally, a divorce begins when one spouse files divorce paperwork with the Court.

Simple and Quick

For some spouses, divorce is simple and easy. A divorce can be a mutual decision from both parties agreeing to end their partnership on good terms. In this case, it’s the fastest form of divorce there is. An uncontested divorce simply must be signed by both parties and then put through the court process.  Even in uncontested divorces, divorce is still a process.  Some states, like Nebraska, have a waiting period.  Thus, even if you and your spouse agree to everything the day the divorce is filed, you still have to wait 60 days after the service paperwork is filed before the 60-day mandatory waiting period is up to submit your signed divorce decree.

Taking into consideration the 60-day mandatory waiting period in Nebraska, an uncontested divorce can take 3 months or less if both parties are in agreement on all terms.  Keep in mind if there are a lot of assets or if there are children involved, even an uncontested divorce may take longer than the 60-day mandatory waiting period to gather the necessary financials and complete the required paperwork.

Divorce Papers: Beginning the Process

In Nebraska, filing the Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage is generally the start of the process from a legal perspective.  The Court also requires you to complete and submit statistical information paperwork and pay a court filing fee to start the divorce process.

The next step is generally serving the other spouse with a copy of the Complaint.  If the other party is willing to accept the Complaint without service, they can sign a Voluntary Appearance to acknowledge they received the Complaint and waive service.  Otherwise, a Praecipe is filed with the Court so that the Court issues a summons for service of the Complaint on the other spouse.  This service is often done by the sheriff’s office.

This starts the divorce process – though nothing is finalized by any means.

Contested Divorce

For a contested divorce – one where there is a dispute – the process will naturally take longer. Some divorce cases may drag on for many months or sometimes even years before a final divorce decree is entered.  However, the Nebraska Supreme Court has created progression standards so that divorce actions are completed timely.  Per the Court’s progression standards, Judges are supposed to finish 50% or more of their divorce cases within 180 days and 95% of their cases within 1 year.  This means that the Court finds it acceptable for only 5% or less of divorce cases to take longer than a year to resolve and expects at least half of divorce cases finalized within 6 months.  Because of these standards, you will often see pre-trial or status hearings set by the Court to help prevent either party from causing an excessive delay in resolving your divorce case.

Uncontested Divorce

For an uncontested divorce, the process can be clean-cut – and it simply takes the filing of the initial divorce paperwork and later the parties’ notarized signatures on the final divorce documents to make their way through the court system for judge approval.  You have to wait until the 60-day mandatory waiting period after service is up before you sign the final paperwork.  However, once the final paperwork is signed and submitted, you generally have the final divorce decree back from the Court within a number of days.  Nebraska statute allows a hearing waiver.  Thus, if both parties sign off on the divorce decree and hearing waiver, you may never need to appear in Court to finalize your divorce.  It is becoming increasingly common for an uncontested divorce to be finalized without either party ever stepping foot in a courtroom or seeing the judge.

Uncontested Divorce: Usually, the Quickest

If your divorce is uncontested, then it means that both parties agree on the terms of the divorce decree. This is common when both parties agree that their time is at an end and agree as to what is a “fair” split of their assets and debts and of the parenting of the children.  Keep in mind that this means the parties also agree to the details of their decree.

It’s still recommended to hire a lawyer for an uncontested divorce. While your lawyer might not have to help you fight your case in Court, the attorney can make sure that you are correctly following the process and properly completing the required paperwork.  The attorney can also advise you as to what is “fair.”  Many times, a party who tries to complete a divorce on their own later finds out that what their spouse tried to convince them was “fair” was actually a steal of a deal for the other side.  Further, the mistakes that are made when people try to divorce on their own can be much more costly to fix than paying a reasonable fee for the attorney to assist you with the process from the beginning.  Every divorce attorney has multiple stories of people that cost themselves a lot more in attorney fees, in the long run, trying to fix the problems caused by proceeding with an uncontested divorce without an attorney.

Contested vs Uncontested Divorce

If your divorce “goes to court” rather than just through the uncontested divorce process, you can likely expect at least one court appearance. The Court’s calendar is generally very busy.  If there are children involved or alimony is requested, you will generally have at least one hearing, often a temporary hearing, prior to trial.  Depending on how your judge schedules hearings, the next available hearing date may be a number of weeks or sometimes a month or more down the road.  Further, if your case goes to trial, often the next available trial date is not available until a number of months after the parties are ready for trial.  Thus, even when the parties are ready to have a judge make a final decision at trial, you may likely have to wait a number of months until your trial date.  Sometimes six months or more if your judge’s calendar is especially busy.

That being said, there are many motions that can be filed as part of a divorce action, depending on the specifics of your case.  You may have several court appearances before your trial date if multiple motions are filed before the trial.  Delays in receiving documents and a party not following the terms of a temporary order are some of the more common reasons for additional motions and hearings.  Especially if expert witnesses are necessary, your case may take additional time while waiting for an expert’s review and report.

Even when cases are contested, often parties still agree that they want both parties to have a fair share.  The problem is that they can’t agree on what “fair” means.  For example, both parties might agree that one party should get to keep the house and then pay the other party a fair share for their equity in the home.  However, the parties can’t agree on what the home is worth and what is a fair share of the equity.  This could be complicated further if the housing market greatly fluctuates while the divorce case is pending.  Do we use the value at the time the parties split or the value at the time of trial?  Depending on the housing market, this value can be tens of thousands of dollars of difference.

Also, keep in mind that the quickest isn’t always the best.  Often people just want the divorce wrapped up quickly so they can move on with their lives.  Just thinking about the divorce makes them feel sad, angry, and anxious.  However, sometimes time gives the parties a new perspective.  Often a party can make decisions with more logic and less emotion once the parties have separated.  Once they are no longer facing the daily conflict and tension they may have been experiencing while residing with their spouse, they may see their situation in a different light.  They may start to come to terms that their marriage is over and have a perspective that good things are ahead even though they are about to be divorced.  They may realize that their needs and wants going forward are not the same as they expected when the divorce action was first filed.  Sometimes you get a better outcome when the parties have had time to gain this perspective from living separate and apart for some time.

Default Divorce

Sometimes you file the divorce action, serve the other party, and then the other party takes no action to respond.  Or maybe the Court granted you permission to serve them in an alternative format as you don’t have any idea of their whereabouts.  These cases are similar to uncontested divorce cases and also generally wrap up quickly as the other party is not disputing the divorce.  Unlike an uncontested divorce, these default divorce cases usually require at least one hearing after the 60-day mandatory waiting period has passed.  At this “default” hearing, your Nebraska judge will review your proposed Decree and approve such as long as you followed the proper procedure.  These are called “default” hearings as they are set after the other party has had time to participate and respond but has failed to do so.  The “default” is to grant the Decree per your requests so long as you comply with Nebraska law.

For further information about case progression standards set by the Court, see:: Filing for Divorce in Nebraska – No Children, No Disputed Property

I Want a Divorce, What Do I Do?

Law Office of Julie Fowler, PC, LLO | Divorce Lawyers Omaha

Child Custody | Child Support | Divorce Lawyers Omaha

If you are looking for an attorney in a child support case or divorce in Omaha, Nebraska, or the surrounding areas (including Papillion, Bellevue, Gretna, Elkhorn, Lincoln, Nebraska City, Sarpy, and Lancaster), contact our office to set up a consultation.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.