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A lot of new clients ask how long it will take to complete the divorce process. From the attorney's standpoint that is a loaded question, as the time will vary considerably from one case to the next depending on the complexities of the case and the parties.

One thing for certain in every case in Texas is that the divorce will take at least 60 days. That is because Texas requires a waiting period of sixty (60) days from the date the suit is filed until the decree of divorce is entered. The simplest cases are "agreed" cases in which the parties do not own real estate and have no children. By "agreed" I mean that the parties have agreed how to divide their personal belongings. In such cases, the Court will generally enter the parties' agreed decree and in many cases will not require a hearing.

Not every case is so simple, though. If the parties disagree about the division of property, custody or child support, the case may take longer. Ultimately, every issue that must be resolved in addition to property division and custody will slow down the pace of your case. Examples may be where one party claims that the other is "at fault" for the divorce, if a party claims reimbursement of a contribution claim to the other's separate property, the existence of a prenuptial agreement, or such like.

These issues make the case take longer because the attorney will have to engage in discovery to obtain evidence that is admissible in Court to support or defend the claim. For example, if one spouse claims that the other is at fault because he committed adultery that claim must be proven with direct or circumstantial evidence. Moreover, that evidence must be admissible. It is not enough for you to say that something happened. It must be proved with evidence that is admissible under the rules of evidence, which generally only allow evidence that is trustworthy or reliable. Often proving that one party is at fault for the divorce will require independent investigation to identify documents or witnesses that prove a fact. That investigation can take time.

A divorce can also be complicated if the parties have a complex or varied asset portfolio. In order for your attorney to help you negotiate a favorable division of community property he has to first know what that property is. If the parties have a lot of assets it may take several months to gather and exchange the documents evidencing what those assets are and how much they are worth. That can be complicated further if one party claims that some assets are separate property and the other disputes this fact. As a rule, the larger and more complicated a couple's financial picture is the longer the divorce will take.

In my experience one of the most significant reasons that a divorce does not resolve quickly is because the parties cannot get along. Constant bickering, accusations, disagreements about money or the children create friction that carried into the divorce case because the parties are unwilling to compromise and seek assistance from their attorneys to resolve what should be simple matters. Fighting about every transaction results in more roadblocks that have to be overcome before the case can be finalized.

In reality there are many cases which should not be settled quickly. If you are concerned that it is unsafe for your spouse to have unsupervised visitation with your children, for example, taking the time to build the evidence why this is so should happen. Likewise, if you feel your spouse is hiding significant assets then taking the time to carefully review account records could result in a much larger divorce settlement.

Often the answer to "how long will it take" is up to you. If you can maintain a positive working relationship with your spouse and respond promptly to requests from your attorney you are going a long way to streamline your case and speed the process along. If you do that and you are a "normal" middle-class individual then a divorce generally takes from 60 days to 6 months. For every additional issue in your case you may add 2-6 weeks to that time. Just remember, however long it takes, your kids deserve for you to be civil to one another and set the best example that you can.

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