How long does a divorce take?
A divorce case can last as little as a few weeks and as long as two years or more. Many factors contribute to the length of a case, such as the number of contested issues, how busy the attorneys involved are, how quickly documents can be obtained and the Court’s schedule.
What are some common steps in a divorce case?
In a common divorce case, the order of events is as follows:
- Filing of the divorce complaint;
- Service (delivery) of the divorce documents on the other party;
- Receiving party (Defendant) files a response;
- One or both parties file a Motion for Temporary Orders asking the court to enter an Order on issues like who will stay in the house, child support, custody, visitation, etc.
- The Court schedules and holds a hearing on the Motion for Temporary Orders. For most cases, this is the first time the parties will be in Court.
- Both parties now have an opportunity to gather documents and information from the other side through discovery requests, subpoenas, etc.
- Pre-trial Conference. In this hearing, both parties get to explain their side of the story in a brief manner, and talk about whether the case is ready for trial.
- Status Conference. This is usually a final “check-in” with the judge about any outstanding issues before the trial.
- Trial. A divorce trial typically lasts between one and five days, depending on the number of witnesses, complexity of issues, etc.
Do we have to go through all of this to get divorced?
Absolutely not. The Courts allow (and encourage) settlement of the case at each and every stage of the case.
Will I have to talk in Court?
If you choose to represent yourself, you are held to the same standards as an attorney. You will be expected to follow the rules of procedure and evidence in dealing with the Court and presenting your evidence.
If you choose to have an attorney, the attorney will do all or nearly all of the talking for you.
What happens in Court?
The most surprising fact for most people at their first court hearing is how busy the judge is. On nearly every day, family law judges will hear dozens of cases. That means there is often a lot of waiting before the case is called. It’s usually a good idea to use the time to try to work out less contested issues with the opposing side.
Why does the process take SO long?
A divorce or other case often takes far longer than either party wants. Judges, Court staff, and lawyers are often incredibly busy and have a variety of cases they are working on at any given time. Most Family Courts in Massachusetts are severely understaffed and underfunded.
The reality is, the more work that can be done to resolve at least some matters in a case is a good way to make sure the case will make its way through the system as quickly as possible.
Will hiring an attorney make my case go faster?
Having an attorney will not get a case scheduled with the court any faster. However, an attorney that is experienced in family law can streamline the process, work on resolving certain issues, and make sure the case stays on track with each step of the process.
When is the best time to hire a lawyer for a divorce case?
A lawyer can often be helpful at any step in a case. If you cannot hire an attorney for a complete case, most people who are un-represented find Court appearances the most challenging aspect of a case. Trials are particularly complex because all parties and lawyers must follow the rules of evidence to present any information to the Court.