Clients often, if not always ask at the start of my representation how long the divorce process is going to take, and my answer is almost always the same – it depends. No one wants to or enjoys going through a divorce, especially one that may last for months, if not longer than a year. Having information as to when the divorce process will end or what may prolong its conclusion can be helpful to you in not only planning for the future (from both financial and child-related perspectives), but also in mentally preparing you for when you may be able to move on and move forward.
With that being said, here are four things that may impact upon the length (and cost) of your divorce proceeding:
- The Other Party: If you and your spouse are on the same page in trying to move towards an expedient, fair and cost effective conclusion, then work together in achieving that goal. Consider suggesting a settlement conference, mediation or even offering a settlement process early on in the process. While the matter may not immediately settle, it may crystallize what issues are really in dispute, and what can be quickly resolved. If, however, your spouse does not want to get divorced, or is, perhaps, having a difficult time in moving forward (or allowing you to do so), then the process may take far longer. In addition, if your spouse engages in some form of misconduct during the divorce, motions may have to be filed, emotions often escalate and the process will often take longer than previously thought.
- The Other Attorney: Who is the other lawyer? Is he or she known for being reasonable and settlement minded, or aggressive at every turn? Are there going to be genuine efforts to resolve the matter early on, or are you going to be litigating about every issue imaginable? Unfortunately you cannot control who your spouse hires to act on his or her behalf, but the potential impact of who the other lawyer is on your case is oftentimes known and predictable at the outset of your matter. At the very least, knowing who the other lawyer is and how he or she practices often allows you to set your expectations for how the entire matter may unfold.
- The Issues: The duration of your divorce proceeding will also be impacted by the issues in dispute. If you have a straightforward matter, with easily understandable and resolvable custody and financial issues, the matter should resolve sooner rather than later (depending, of course, on the other party, the other lawyer, and the county where your case is held). A more complicated case, however, may take longer simply so that certain issues can necessarily be examined in more detail. Perhaps there is a business to value, or a custody dispute requiring experts. Engaging in what may be necessary expert work will take time, but oftentimes has to be done.
- The County: Certain counties in New Jersey have more cases than others – it is as simple as that. With a huge volume of matters and only so many judges working tirelessly to get through them, your case may not move as fast through the court system as you would like. While the court system will ensure that you are moving forward and, at the very least, engaging in settlement efforts through mandated custody/parenting time mediation, the Early Settlement Panel, economic mediation and intensive settlement conferences, oftentimes the length of your proceeding can be impacted simply based on the volume of the court’s calendar.
The above considerations are all the more reason to consider alternative dispute resolution methods in an effort to get your matter resolved. Settlement conferences, mediation, and even arbitration may expedite the conclusion of your matter in a more cost effective fashion. Moving on and moving forward may take time, but knowing what may stand in your way is important to providing you with some sense of when it is going to end and, perhaps, some peace of mind.