How Long Does a Massachusetts Divorce Take?

As long as it takes to resolve all the issues. A divorce can be processed within only a couple of months, but on the other hand, it may take years to finalize. Why are some cases resolved so quickly while others take so long?

The more complex the case and the more unresolved issues there are between the parties, the longer it takes to finalize.

The most efficient means for obtaining a divorce is to proceed uncontested. The key is that the parties have to be in agreement on all the major issues: property division, alimony, child custody, child support, and health insurance are the major ones. If that’s the case, uncontested documents are filed and the court schedules a date, usually about 3-6 weeks out, give or take some time depending on the court calendar. And at that final hearing, the divorce is usually approved (unless the judge has an issue with something in the agreement that’s obviously unfair or there’s an error). Then after a “nisi” period of 120 days, it’s officially and legally final.

If there are contested issues, the case must be filed … you guessed it, “contested!” The time it takes to finalize can fall anywhere on a huge time spectrum. Most contested cases end up uncontested when the parties reach an agreement. If they quickly come to an agreement, it may take only a couple of months.

However, if it’s a complex case that requires litigation through trial, it can take a couple of years, or more. And anything in between. For example, the case may require only one contested hearing and the exchange of a few documents, but the parties then come to an agreement on all issues: that case may be resolved in 3-6 months.

So what can you do to move your case along?

First, be sure you and your divorce lawyer set reasonable goals. Don’t waste time (and money) chasing something that’s not worth it – or is simply unattainable. Because you likely don’t have experience in divorce, the responsibility for efficiency in this department falls on your lawyer. So do your homework before you hire one. Ask a lot of questions. You don’t want a pushover. But you also don’t want a “bulldog” who appears tough, but is really only creating drama for profit.

Also, answer your attorney’s questions and requests promptly. If your attorney’s waiting on you, that may be holding up the case.

Finally, control your conduct during divorce. Even if you wish your soon to be ex the very worst (you may even have a voodoo doll), if you conduct yourself with respect and dignity throughout the divorce – despite the conduct of the other side – you’re increasing the likelihood of an efficient resolution. That doesn’t mean you’re giving up the farm. You can and should fight for what you’re entitled to. But do it respectfully, and you’re minimizing the risk of senseless emotionally-charged delays.

The length of your case is not fully within your control. But if you focus on what you can control: setting reasonable goals, communicating promptly with your attorney, and conducting yourself in a dignified manner, you’re maximizing the chances of resolving your divorce efficiently.

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