How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in California?

Man looking at watch to check the time

No one wants their divorce to drag on. In fact, once most people decide to get a divorce, they want it over with as quickly as possible.

How long does it take to get a divorce in California? 

The short answer?

Even if you and your ex agree about every aspect of your divorce, California law mandates a six month waiting period. This means that your divorce cannot be finalized until six months after the divorce petition is officially filed. 

The length of a divorce will vary case by case. A divorce where each spouse is willing to cooperate and compromise will move much quicker than a couple resolving their dispute through litigation. 

Why is there a minimum 6 month waiting period in California? 

The state of California wants to make sure that the couple is serious about terminating the marriage. Some call the waiting period the “cooling off period”. 

While the majority of couples follow through with their divorce, enough reconcile that the state feels the waiting period is warranted.

How Can You Speed Up Your Divorce?

cartoon clock with bells ringing

Unfortunately, everyone must wait the mandatory six months from the time they file for their divorce. There are however, several things that you can do to ensure that your divorce does not drag on.

File for Divorce Right Away

The mandatory six month waiting period starts immediately after you file for divorce. The sooner you file and serve the forms, the sooner that six months starts. 

Fight Less

The more you argue, the longer your divorce will take. 

You don’t need to agree on everything for your divorce to move at a swift pace. Mediation and collaborative divorce are known not only for saving money, but saving time.


When both parties decide to mediate, they hire a third party mediator (often a divorce lawyer) to mediate the nuances of their divorce. The third party helps the couple to reach an agreement outside of court and allows the individuals to remain in control of their divorce and the decisions surrounding it. 

For the right people, mediation is a major time saver. It can also save a significant amount of money and stress. Mediation can be used in conjunction with other divorce options. 

Collaborative Divorce

In collaborative divorce, each individual hires a divorce lawyer who assists them in negotiating the terms of the divorce. Each individual meets and counsels separately with their own lawyer and often a team of other experts in the areas of finance, mental health and child custody. The group then comes together and meets several times to work out the terms of the agreement.

In a collaborative divorce, the parties do not need to agree on everything. They do, however, need to have a commitment to cooperation and collaboration. It is important to note that if the parties are not able to reach an agreement, they will be required to start their divorce process over with different attorneys. 

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is when both parties are in general agreement about most aspects of their divorce. Some couples decide to do a DIY divorce. While this is cost effective, there can be financial repercussions down the road. 

Many individuals hire an attorney to draw up the agreement, help to work out any small disagreements, and submit the paperwork. At minimum, we recommend that you hire a divorce attorney to review your agreement before you sign. 

An uncontested divorce is not the right fit for everyone, but it is a great option for some.

It is vital to make sure that the divorce lawyer you hire has experience in all of the divorce options mentioned above. They will help you to determine which type of divorce is the right fit for your case (it might even be a combination of the options).

What is the Divorce Process in California?

graphic of divorce timeline in CaliforniaFile for Divorce

One spouse starts the divorce process by filling out the divorce forms and submitting them to the court. Once the papers are submitted to the court and the other person is served with those papers, the six month waiting period starts. 

After the papers are submitted, the spouse that files the initial paperwork must then “serve” the divorce papers to the other spouse. When you legally “serve” someone papers, another legal adult (not you) must physically deliver the papers to your ex. The server then must fill out a form and file it with the court to prove that the papers were officially served. Another option is if your ex signs a form that says they voluntarily received the forms by email or some other agreeable method.

The spouse being served papers has 30 days to fill out the forms, file a response and legally “serve” the response to the spouse who filed first.

Disclose Financial Information

Each spouse must legally disclose all financial information. This includes assets, bank accounts, cash, property, what you owe, earn and spend, as well as debts and obligations. This allows the couple to work out an agreement when making important financial decisions.

The financial documents you disclose with each other do not get filed in court. Each party must submit a form stating that they fulfilled the financial disclosure requirement. 

It is important to be honest and upfront when disclosing your finances. If you withhold any financial information, you are at risk of losing assets and having to pay for the other party’s legal fees. 

Make Decisions

When getting a divorce, there are a lot of decisions to make. Who will keep the house? What will the child custody schedule look like? How will you divide assets and retirement accounts?

A couple can come to an agreement about these decisions on their own. They can also enlist help from a mediator or pursue a collaborative divorce, where their attorneys negotiate the agreement. If a couple cannot come to an agreement on their own, they can have the court decide on these important questions. 

Want your divorce to move fast? Avoid litigation. When the court decides the nuances of your divorce, it takes more time and costs more money.  

Note: If you need a short term decision made before you are able to work out an agreement (ex: short term custody or spousal support) you can ask the court to make a temporary decision.

Submit Final Paperwork

The final steps to finalize your divorce will vary depending on your situation. The California Courts Self-Help Finishing Your Divorce quiz is a great resource to learn more. 

The general steps to finalizing your divorce are as follows

  • Fill out Final Orders
  • Submit Orders to Clerk
  • Wait for Judge to Review & Sign Forms
  • Receive the Signed Judgment

The final judgment will contain the date that your marriage will officially be dissolved.