2010-07-20_Black_windup_alarm_clock_faceA frequent question asked during an initial phone call or meeting with a client is “When will I be divorced?” The answer is “It depends.” It depends on whether or not there are issues in dispute, what those issues are, how far apart you are on those issues, and whether emotions may impede resolution of those issues. There are a range of possible timelines. On the fast end is a very simple divorce with no children and very few assets, with both people agreeing on how to divide the assets. It usually will take an attorney about a week or less to draft the necessary legal documents (assuming all the necessary information has been provided to the attorney) and, if there is another attorney, the time needed by that attorney to review the documents. The next step, signing the documents, can be accomplished in a matter of days if both spouses are prompt in doing so. Once the documents are filed with the court, a judge will be assigned to the case and will review and sign the document (if it is acceptable and in proper form) within a month of filing of the documents. Even in those situations in which the couple thinks they have an agreement, it may be helpful to work with professionals who are trained in the collaborative process, and who are committed to helping them reach agreement, but also who can help identify issues that the couple has not addressed. Couples who “do their own divorce” sometimes miss issues that can create future conflict and possible litigation. More time will be needed if there are disputed issues involving parenting time, financial or other issues. The key in these situations is finding the resources to help the couple ultimately reach an agreement. Some cases drag on, not because of complex issues, but because the spouses are engaging in emotionally charged behavior creating obstacles to reaching agreement. Couples who work with neutral experts (rather than two competing experts) and with coaches and child specialists can avoid some of the common causes of protracted delays. Attorneys trained to facilitate settlement agreements can also help you make better use of your time. For names of professionals trained in the collaborative divorce process, visit the Collaborative Law Institute of MN website here. The more contentious cases which are not resolved by agreement may not go to a final court hearing or trial for a year or more. Since close to 97% of divorce cases in Minnesota are resolved by agreement, not trial, the process you use to reach an agreement will affect both the length of time needed and the quality of the agreement.