People have all kinds of reactions to the length of the divorce process: “I just want to get this over with quickly.” This is taking forever.” “I don’t want this divorce and it is moving way too fast.”  In my experience, the two things that determine how long a divorce takes are the process and the people.

The process you choose (litigation, mediation, Collaborative Divorce) will influence the length of time it takes to complete your divorce. In litigation, the process is primarily controlled by outside parties– your lawyer, your spouse’s lawyer and the court system. With mediation and Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse control the process and the pace. The process can move quickly if the parties meet regularly, come prepared and productively engage in discussion. It can also move slowly if these behaviors aren’t followed or if the parties want it to move at a slower pace.

That leads to the other key factor – the people. It is common for one person to want a divorce and the other to want to stay married. In these situations, the divorce will move as fast as the slowest person. This is an important point. If you are ready for a divorce, you have likely spent considerable time thinking about it before you actually asked for it.  During that time, you probably gathered information and began to deal with your feelings about getting divorced. Your partner will need time to “catch up” to you.  He or she will need time to absorb and respond to your divorce request. He or she may also need to mourn the loss of the marriage and the demise of the future they had expected.

The way that people approach the tasks involved in getting a divorce also influences the time (as well as the cost) needed to complete it.  There are a lot of tasks (e.g. financial paperwork) and discussions (e.g. parenting) related to divorce. When people complete paperwork in a timely manner and attend meetings ready to participate—decisions can be made and the process can move forward.  If people procrastinate on key tasks or choose to avoid important discussions, the process will take longer.

A divorce does not follow a set calendar. Trying to set a timeline is made much more complicated by the fact that it involves two people that may be coming from very different emotional places or have very different objectives. Don’t stress about the thing that you can’t control—your spouse’s participation. Instead, select the process that will best meet the needs of your family and focus on carrying out your role in that process.