One question new clients almost always ask is “how long will my divorce take?” And the answer is almost always the same; “It depends!” Your attorney can only control his or her portion of the process, which can cause frustrating (and expensive) delays. Here are some of the most common things that can make a divorce drag on.
1. The Judicial System
The judicial system, like most governmental entities, is overtaxed, overburdened, understaffed and underfunded. Each judge typically has way more cases assigned than is possible to efficiently handle. In the family law area, there are roughly 250 new cases per month and three family law judges (who don’t just have family law on their dockets). This means to get a hearing on a simple Motion to Compel Financial Disclosure can take several weeks and, quite often, several months.
This means if you need financial information just to do a business valuation and your spouse isn’t providing it, it takes a long time to get before the judge to obtain said documents. Moreover, the judges don’t necessarily rule from the bench, but instead take the issue “under advisement” meaning more wait time for a ruling, which can often take months.
Meanwhile, clients are frustrated because their case isn’t going anywhere, their lives are on hold and they continue to fight with their soon-to-be ex. Tensions remain high and often even get worse during this time.
2. Financial Documents
In most jurisdictions, a certain amount of financial disclosure is required in any divorce. This usually includes income information, tax returns, bank statements and credit card statements. Further delaying the proceedings, sometimes there are account transfers for which you or your spouse may have no record. Therefore, more discovery regarding requests for production or interrogatories will be required.
3. Financial Experts
Many times, one or both sides have engaged a financial expert to do a business valuation or determine a self-employed person’s true income. They can also conduct a lifestyle analysis for alimony purposes or determine if a party is hiding money. This expert will often require financial statements, general ledgers, tax returns, credit card statements and possibly more.
In the event the proceedings involve custody, the financial expert may interview the parents or other family members. If these experts have a lot of cases or are having difficulty getting the documentation to conduct an accurate analysis for mediation or trial, this could also slow down the proceedings.
4. Uncooperative Parties or Opposing Counsel
If the lawyer or the financial expert determines certain information is necessary, they will send opposing counsel a request for said information. If the other side doesn’t share the information for one reason or another, the inquiring lawyer will have to file a motion with the court. This motion with the intent for sharing establishes a hearing in front of the judge, which could potentially tack on months to the trial.
Divorce is traumatic enough. Long delays can add to the already-elevated stress of the situation. Understanding there are certain components to the procedure over which you nor your attorney simply don’t have control may help alleviate some anxiety. Take deep breaths, mediate and have faith that what’s best will prevail in the end.
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