California six-month waiting period for divorce: Is there a faster way?

Under the California Family Code, spouses are getting divorced in California cannot finalize the divorce until 6 months after the date of service of a copy of the summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.

In simple terms, when it comes to dissolving a marriage or a domestic partnership, California has a legally mandated a 6-month waiting period. However, if a couple can agree to the entirety of the terms of the divorce, the parties may prepare and file their final Divorce Judgment Paperwork with the court prior to the 6-month period. The parties, while bound to the terms of the Judgment, are not free to re-marry until the 6-month mark when the courts restore their status from “married” to “single person.” 

While a couple can expedite preparation of their final divorce judgment there are no exceptions or alternate ways to expedite the changing of one’s status from “married” to “single.”

Counting the days

California’s waiting period for getting divorced is longer than other states’ waiting periods. Why? The purpose behind the state’s requirement is to ensure that both parties are truly committed to dissolving their marriage.

If you’re ready to end your marriage, waiting for half a year to do it can seem like a long time. However, if yours is a more complicated or high-net worth divorce, that six months can go by pretty quickly due to any number of issues that will need resolving, as well as scheduling conflicts that may arise between you, your spouse, and the court.

If both you and your spouse agree to getting divorced, you need to start the divorce process as soon as possible to get the clock rolling on the six months waiting period. That means that one of you has to file the divorce papers and serve them on the other spouse. If you’re getting divorced in California, you don’t have to accuse your spouse of marital misconduct such as adultery as California is a “No-Fault” divorce state.

Mediation or flat fee divorce – The faster option

Sometime couples are eager to finalize the terms of the divorce for peace of mind. Other times couples are quite amicable and have already determined what their divorce will look like. For couples, who fall into these or similar categories, the terms of the divorce, apart from the final change in status, can be accomplished in 3 to 4 months.

At Green Giraffe Legal, a division of Buncher Law specializing in mediation and flat fee divorce, we walk most of our clients through the divorce process in 3-4 months’ time. Divorce is very process oriented, and any misstep can cause the courts to deny a filing of a couples judgment. It is important to have a team that understands how to guide you from start to finish. Some couples benefit greatly from attorney-led mediation, while others can get through the process without it. Our team, made up of experienced attorneys and paralegals, will be able to assist in producing a plan that fits a couple’s needs and budget. No two divorces are the same; they all have unique issues.

Starting the process as soon as possible

If you are getting divorced in California, be prepared to go through the legally mandated six-month waiting period, even in cases involving a summary dissolution. But that doesn’t mean that you can file a petition for dissolution and start the process immediately. The key to remember is that once you sign a written marital agreement/judgment to end your marriage, it’s an enforceable contract at the time of signing.