Divorce is likely to be one of the most challenging experiences of your life, and it is natural to have concerns about how your divorce is likely to unfold. If you or your spouse file for divorce in Columbia, MO, you may wonder how long the process will take. While it’s possible to complete divorce proceedings in Missouri in as little as 90 days, most divorcing couples require much more time to complete a divorce. The complexity of the divorce, the willingness of the divorcing spouses to negotiate, and the quality of their respective legal teams all influence the timeline for a divorce in Columbia.

If you want to estimate the time your divorce will require more accurately, it’s important to know how a divorce case unfolds in Missouri. You’ll also want to examine the various options you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have for handling the process effectively.

What Does Divorce Entail?

Divorce is the formal end of a marriage contract, but it also includes the division of the divorcing spouses’ assets and debts. For that reason, the time required to complete divorce is directly proportionate to the complexity of the case. If a couple has substantial assets and complex investments, it can take quite a long time to untangle and divide them appropriately under Missouri’s equitable distribution law. If the couple has limited shared assets and/or has only been married for a brief time, the property division process is typically much swifter.

The time required to complete divorce can also increase significantly when divorcing spouses have minor children. The Missouri family court has a legal duty to preserve the best interests of divorcing parents’ children, and this means the parents must undergo a lengthy child custody and child support determination process. It’s natural for divorcing parents to want to secure the greatest possible custody rights, and conflicts are likely when parents believe they each have the right to claim custody.

It’s also possible for a divorce to involve additional factors that either complicate proceedings further or streamline the process. For example, if the couple has a prenuptial contract in place, this can effectively serve as a blueprint for divorce and significantly speed up divorce proceedings. The divorce could essentially consist of a formal review of the prenuptial contract and enforce the terms and conditions therein. Conversely, if a divorce involves other issues such as domestic violence, hidden assets, or other sensitive topics, these factors can increase the time required to complete the divorce by a substantial margin.

How Does Divorce Begin?

The divorce process informally starts as soon as a couple decides to end their marriage or one married spouse decides to file for divorce. The actual legal process begins once the divorce petition is submitted to the Columbia, MO family court. It’s a common misconception that the party that files a divorce petition holds an advantage in the eventual divorce proceedings. However, this is not true. It does not matter which spouse files for divorce.

Once a divorce petition is filed, the other spouse will receive divorce papers from the court and have the opportunity to respond. Although rare, it is possible for the divorcing spouses to immediately agree to divorce terms and speed up the divorce process significantly. However, most divorces are contested. The petitioner includes their preferred divorce terms in their divorce petition, and the respondent answers with the adjustments they believe necessary. Once a contested divorce has arisen in this manner, the couple has two options for turning their contested divorce into an uncontested one ready for final review and approval. They can either litigate their divorce and let a judge have the final say on every aspect, or they can take advantage of alternative dispute resolution to exercise more control over the outcome.

Litigation vs. Mediation

Divorce mediation has grown to be the most popular option for handling divorce in the US. This form of alternative dispute resolution offers significant savings of time and money to both spouses in a divorce. Mediation typically allows couples to handle their divorce in a much shorter time than litigation would permit. If both spouses agree to mediation, they will meet with their respective attorneys and a neutral mediator who will assist them in drafting a divorce resolution.

It’s important to note that some issues, such as child custody, cannot be resolved through mediation. If the divorcing spouses need formal litigation to resolve aspects of their divorce, they can still streamline the overall process by settling what they can in mediation before proceeding to litigation to settle the rest of their outstanding issues. While it’s possible to complete divorce mediation in a matter of a month or two, litigation typically takes much longer, sometimes more than one year to complete.

Tips for Speeding Up Divorce in Columbia, MO

It’s natural to want to complete your divorce as quickly as possible. While the process will take time no matter what your unique case involves, there are a few things you can do to save significant amounts of time and money on attorneys’ fees:

  • Resolve as much as possible before taking formal legal steps toward divorce. If you and your spouse can negotiate with one another, it’s a good idea to have some preliminary negotiations before you start formal divorce proceedings. While you both may need to compromise later, this early negotiation can save quite a bit of time no matter how you choose to handle your divorce.
  • Explore alternative dispute resolution. Choosing mediation is always faster than resolving your divorce in court. If you want to streamline your divorce but are concerned about your ability to negotiate civilly, you can still take advantage of alternative dispute resolution with the help of an experienced Columbia, MO divorce attorney.
  • Secure reliable legal representation. No matter what your divorce entails, having legal counsel you can trust will make the process much easier to manage. You can rely on your Columbia divorce lawyer for ongoing support and guidance as your case unfolds.

Keep these tips in mind to significantly reduce the time required to complete your divorce. If you have questions specific to your divorce situation, contact an experienced Columbia, MO divorce lawyer as soon as possible for the guidance you need.