A certain percentage of cases go to trial. The process from beginning to end for a contested case is long, delayed, and unpredictable. A contested divorce case can take anywhere from 9 months to several years.
First Half of Case – 3 to 12 months
In a case that goes to trial, the first half normally looks identical to the previously described “semi-contested” case. The case needs to be prepared, filed, and served.
There is normally a 3 – 9-month process of financial disclosure and discovery. The parties always attend the Mandatory Settlement Conference. Each and every step may take significantly longer because both sides conduct a more intensive, more exacting process. The discovery requests are almost always longer; more detailed, and go back more years. Both sides may decide to return to court multiple times. The entire process is contentious and expensive. Delay is common and sometimes used as a strategic weapon.
Depositions – the hallmark of a high-conflict case
When either side conducts a deposition it is usually a sign the case is high conflict. It is also a reliable indicator the divorce case will be extended in length – far past the ordinary case. Depositions are an out of court proceeding where each attorney asks questions and a court reporter types everything down. Each deposition can consume significant time and money.
Divorce Trials and Preparation
The final trial in a divorce case can last anywhere between 4 hours and 2 weeks. The most typical trials are one day in length. While a divorce trial only lasts one day – the preparation and lead into a trial can take up to a year. But the typical prep and lead into a one-day trial is approximately 5 months.
Most judges desire to move their cases along to their ultimate conclusion. But the large variety of procedures, variations in courts, and personal preferences of judges bring a huge variation to the average length of California divorces.