The single most common question that I hear from new or prospective clients is “how long will my divorce take?” This question is among the most difficult to answer. Forecasting the duration of a divorce has always been difficult, but it has become nearly impossible during the modified courthouse procedures occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some (rare) divorces are completed within a month, while others linger for years for a variety of reasons. However, there are several factors that guide how long the process will last, most notably:

  1. Your Spouse. While many divorcing couples agree that they both want to move along the divorce process as quickly as possible and cooperate to do so, others move at a lackluster speed. Often, this is because he or she is not emotionally ready to proceed, and in other cases, he or she wishes to delay for strategic reasons. In any case, you and your spouse will have an oversized influence on how quickly your divorce proceeds. Cooperating to exchange information and guide the process will help move the process far more rapidly.
  2. Attorneys. Some lawyers move slowly, either because they are understaffed or otherwise ill-equipped. Others do not ably handle the emotions of the situation or guide their clients to fight when there is room for agreement. Good matrimonial lawyers that properly staff their cases can move their clients’ cases along much more quickly. Assuming you timely meet the deadlines set by your attorneys and cooperate with the process, hiring a responsible and attuned attorney will be the second most important factor in deciding whether your case moves swiftly.
  3. Judge. Judges have sizable control over how quickly divorces pending before them proceed. Some judges move cases pending before them much more quickly than others in setting court dates and moving the case along.
  4. Venue. Some counties (and states) proceed much more quickly with divorces than others. In Cook County, divorces often take well over one year from start to finish except where the spouses and their attorneys are able to cooperate effectively.
  5. Complexity of the Issues. Common, straightforward fact patterns are easier to resolve than cases involving uncommon facts or more complex or novel legal issues, such as businesses that must be valued, claims of non-marital property, or custody disputes.

Benton H. Page, Partner

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