The Divorce Waiting Period—Why It Exists And How Long To Expect

11 July 2023
 Categories: Law, Blog

Getting a divorce is challenging for most Americans. Once you make the decision to formally dissolve your marriage, you probably want to complete the process as quickly as possible so you can move forward. But this plan often runs into a mandatory waiting period. What is the divorce waiting period? Can you avoid it? And what should you do if that's not possible?

What Is a Divorce Waiting Period?

Many states require that there be a minimum number of days between when a divorce case is filed and when it is finalized. The intent is to create an obligatory cooling-off period to allow couples who might be making this decision rashly to rethink things. This is especially important when children are part of the equation. 

Waiting periods vary by state. Hawaii requires no waiting period. Louisiana's is 6 months (or longer with children). And childless Oklahoma couples must only wait 10 days. 

Can You Skip the Waiting Period?

In some jurisdictions, a couple may ask for a waiver of the waiting period. This is often granted if there is domestic abuse involved, since the waiting period may put the innocent spouse and/or children in danger. In other states, the waiting period is significantly shorter if there are no minor children in the home.  

Can You Stop the Waiting Period?

The clock on the waiting period may be paused in some situations. For instance, if the waiting period's stated goal works and a couple decides to work things out without divorce, they may generally notify the court that they are withdrawing the petition. At other times, a couple may still go ahead with the divorce but need more time to settle issues. Pausing the waiting period clock prevents it from expiring before they are ready to finalize the agreement. 

What Can You Do While You Wait?

The good news is that a mandatory waiting period generally begins when you file for divorce. So you may still have a number of tasks to complete, including further negotiation with your spouse, mandated education, and gathering or producing documents.

If your divorce is uncontested or you've already hashed out the details, use this time to start preparing for post-divorce life—including planning tasks like meeting with a financial planner, doing individual estate planning, or preparing new accounts for post-divorce assets. 

Where Can You Learn More?

What is the divorce waiting period in your state? Do you qualify for a waiver? And what can you expect when the waiting period ends? Find out by meeting with a family lawyer in your state today.