Why is my Divorce Taking so Long?
Even when both sides say they want out of the marriage, some divorces can seem to drag on forever. There are various reasons a divorce may require more time. Some reasons have more to do with the parties themselves than with the issues in their cases. So, why is your divorce taking so long?
The Wisconsin Waiting Period
Wisconsin law requires that parties wait 120 days after service of the summons and petition or the joint petition filing to finalize their divorce. In most cases, a divorcing couple will not have any choice but to wait out the time. Generally, divorces take four-six months and up to a year to complete. More complicated cases can take longer, however.
One factor that can extend a divorce is conflict. High-conflict cases cost more and last longer. The more parties argue, the more they tend to contest issues. These fights lead them to conduct lengthy discovery, schedule and re-schedule hearings, ask for continuances, and all this takes time. Some disagreements may be about legitimate problems. Other fights, however, are about the parties getting back at one another through the divorce. The fighting leads to case delays.
When one spouse serves the other with divorce papers unexpectedly, the two may have very different motivations. The spouse who filed is more likely to have spent more time thinking about moving on and preparing to begin anew. By contrast, the other person is still processing the emotional shock of being evicted from their marriage and is not likely to be concerned with how quickly the divorce can be finalized. If the filing spouse has not been upfront, the other party is likely to feel resentful and may deliberately delay doing things to make the divorce harder to obtain for their ex. This person could also be reluctant to finish the divorce because it will mean having to give up marital property and face the fact that their marriage is over.
Divorce can take time because a couple’s finances are complicated. Some assets require expert valuations before they can be equitably divided. For instance, a family-owned business, pension plans, stocks, and real estate holdings would require professional assessments before they could be equitably divided. Another issue can be when one spouse is not forthcoming with their financial information. One side not producing financial records promptly can delay the entire process. Further, if there is a suspicion that a party is hiding assets, it can create even more of an impediment to the case moving forward.
Getting divorced isn't always a simple matter of dividing a few assets and walking away from the relationship. Your spouse may depend on you for health insurance or have elderly parents that reside in the marital home. You may also have minor children in school to consider. Some divorces will take longer because the people involved care about helping one another and their extended family transition financially. When kids are involved, parents need to carefully and thoughtfully work through the details of legal custody (decision-making) and physical placement (visitation) before reaching an agreement.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to work through the issues in your divorce and resolve your case faster by using a process like divorce mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Both approaches use trained professionals to assist the parties in reaching agreements during divorce.
Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a trained Wisconsin attorney, Collaborative Attorney, and Mediator. She has extensive experience assisting clients before, during, and after Wisconsin divorce cases and can help you understand your options and find the right resources. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your situation.