How to Get an Expedited Divorce

By Cindy Chung

Couple with lawyer

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A couple may have reasons to seek a speedy and efficient divorce. For instance, a spouse might prefer to avoid incurring attorney's fees or participating in a time-consuming trial. An expedited divorce may also become necessary if a spouse plans to remarry. The strategies available to expedite a divorce depend on the laws of the state. Spouses may be able to choose from several strategies to speed up a divorce. Beyond the chosen legal strategy, the court's schedule and any backlog in cases may also affect the timing of a divorce.

Getting a Summary Divorce

Spouses should know the types of divorce available based on the laws of their own state. In some states, spouses may qualify for a "summary divorce" which offers streamlined procedures and may allow a couple to divorce within a specified period of time. In general, spouses often need to apply for a summary divorce jointly. If one spouse does not agree to the divorce or the couple cannot agree on some of the legal issues, the spouses may not qualify for a summary divorce. Couples must meet the state criteria for a summary divorce. For example, California law grants a summary divorce six months from the date of the divorce filing if the spouses file jointly, have assets and debts valued below the maximum amounts set by law, agree that neither party will receive alimony, and do not have any children together.

Choosing the Grounds for Divorce

Spouses may also be able to expedite the process of divorce by choosing the grounds for divorce carefully. Grounds for divorce often include timing requirements regardless of whether the spouse chooses fault grounds based on a spouse's conduct or no-fault grounds based on irreconcilable differences. Fault grounds, such as desertion, may require a specific duration for the conduct before a spouse may file for divorce. In addition, states generally require separation for a minimum period of time before a court can grant a no-fault divorce based on incompatibility. The separation period for no-fault divorce may range from a few months to two years, depending on the state. The spouse filing for divorce should review the available divorce grounds in the state law where he or she is filing and determine the timing requirements for each of the relevant grounds.

Identifying the Residency Requirements for Divorce

A spouse may also need to consider the residency requirements to file for divorce in a particular state, regardless of the chosen grounds for divorce. Residency requirements determine how long a spouse must live in a state before filing for divorce in that particular state court. These requirements range from a few weeks to one year. For example, Nevada allows a spouse to establish grounds for divorce after living in the state for six weeks. After meeting the six-week residency requirement, a spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. The spouse does not need to prove that the incompatibility has been ongoing for a minimum period of time. Nevada may be an option if a spouse seeking a quick divorce qualifies to file there.

Requesting a Bifurcation

If one spouse needs to finalize a divorce to remarry, a bifurcation may become helpful if a state court grants the spouse's request to end the marriage. In a bifurcation case, the court grants the divorce and each spouse becomes a single person who can marry someone else; however, the court also reserves some of the legal issues in the divorce for judgment at a later date. For example, the court may end a couple's marriage without issuing a final decision on how to divide the couple's property. Accordingly, the court can continue to hear evidence regarding any contested issues before resolving the case completely.

Avoiding a Trial

Spouses can often expedite their divorce by working together to negotiate legal issues. If the spouses can resolve their own divorce issues and write a settlement agreement cooperatively, they can avoid a divorce trial in state court. A trial often extends the period of time required for a divorce because the parties may need to engage in discovery procedures to establish evidence in the case. A contested trial may also result in a wait for the court to schedule trial dates. If spouses can avoid a trial, they may be able to finalize their divorce more quickly. However, each spouse should understand the state's divorce laws and the marital rights of spouses before signing a settlement agreement.