How Long Does A Divorce Case Stay Open In California? 5 Years

In the state of California, the process of divorce can often seem like a complex labyrinth of legal steps and time frames. Many individuals navigating this process frequently ask, “How long does a divorce case stay open in California?” This is a critical question, as understanding the time frame can help set realistic expectations and aid in planning for the future. In this article, I will explain the timeline of a divorce case in California and provide some advice on making the process smoother.

How Long Does A Divorce Case Stay Open In California

How Long Does A Divorce Case Stay Open In California?

According to the California Family Code, a divorce case can stay open in California without any activity or agreement between parties for up to 5 years before it needs to be refiled. This timeline begins on the date the Respondent is served with a summons and ends when a judgment of dissolution of marriage is issued.

It’s important to note that this 5-year time frame does not refer to the completion of all divorce proceedings; it is merely the time during which your case may remain open without any activity or agreement between parties. Although your case can remain open for a more extended period of time, likely, the court will likely eventually dismiss your case if there is no activity on your part.

The length of time it takes for a divorce case to be finalized depends on several factors, including the case’s complexity, the amount of property involved, and whether or not there are children involved.

In general, uncontested divorces tend to be resolved more quickly than contested divorces, as less legal wrangling is involved. However, even uncontested divorces can take several months to be finalized, as the courts may need to review and approve the divorce settlement agreement.

On the other hand, contested divorces, which involve disputes over property and custody, can take much longer to resolve. These cases may require extensive legal negotiations and may need to be settled in court, which can add several months or even years to the divorce process.

It’s also worth noting that California has a mandatory waiting period of six months from the date of filing before a divorce can be finalized. This means that even if both parties agree to all terms of the divorce, they will need to wait at least six months before the divorce is official.

The California Divorce Process in 13 Steps:

The divorce process in California involves several steps, which can vary based on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Here’s a general overview of the divorce process in California:

  • Meet residency requirements: At least one spouse must meet California’s residency requirements before filing for divorce. Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county where you plan to file for divorce for at least three months.
  • Choose grounds for divorce: California is a no-fault divorce state, which means you don’t need to prove fault or misconduct to obtain a divorce. Irreconcilable differences or the permanent legal incapacity to make decisions are common grounds cited.
  • File the petition: The divorce process begins by filing a Petition (Form FL-100) with the Superior Court of California in your or your spouse’s county. The person who files is called the “Petitioner,” and the other spouse is the “Respondent.” Remember that, it doesn’t matter who should file for divorce first.
  • Serve divorce papers: The Respondent must be served with a copy of the divorce papers. This is typically done by a process server, sheriff, or other authorized individuals. Alternatively, if the Respondent agrees, they can sign a Voluntary Appearance and Waiver of Service.
  • Respond to the petition: The Respondent has 30 days (or 60 days if served outside California) to file a Response (Form FL-120) with the court. The Response addresses the issues raised in the Petition. If the other spouse doesn’t respond to the divorce petition, still you can proceed.
  • Temporary orders: If necessary, either spouse can request temporary orders for issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property use during divorce.
  • Negotiate or mediate: Both spouses are encouraged to negotiate the terms of their divorce, including property division, child custody, support, and alimony. Mediation can be a helpful way to reach agreements with the assistance of a neutral third party.
  • Disclosure of assets and debts: Both spouses must completely and accurately disclose their assets, debts, and financial information. Failure to disclose assets can have legal consequences.
  • Finalize agreements: If both parties reach agreements on all issues, they can draft a Marital Settlement Agreement or a Stipulated Judgment outlining the divorce terms. This document is submitted to the court for approval.
  • File additional forms: Depending on the specifics of your case, you may need to file additional forms related to child custody, support, and property division.
  • Court review and judgment: If the court approves the agreements and all required forms have been submitted, a judge will review the documents and, if satisfied, grant the divorce by signing the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
  • Waiting period: California imposes a six-month waiting period from the date the Respondent is served or the date of filing the Response, whichever comes first. This means the divorce cannot be finalized until at least six months have passed.
  • Obtain the divorce decree: Once the waiting period has passed and the court has reviewed and approved the documents, the court will issue a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, finalizing the divorce. Keep all of the divorce documents in a safe place for a long time. In the future, it may be needed for any other purpose.

Remember that divorce procedures can be complex, and individual cases may have unique circumstances that affect the process. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney in California is highly recommended to ensure that you understand and navigate the divorce process correctly. Another thing – you may need to notarise your all divorce documents for future usage.

California Divorce Timeline:

The California divorce timeline is delineated by a series of legal steps. It begins with filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and ends with the final Judgment of Dissolution. Once a petition is filed, the responding spouse (Respondent) is served with the divorce papers and has 30 days to respond. If the Respondent doesn’t respond within this period and tries to put the divorce on hold, the Petitioner can request a default judgment.

After filing for divorce, Californian law imposes a mandatory 6-month waiting period before the divorce can be finalized. This period begins from the date the Respondent is served with the divorce papers. During this waiting period, spouses can negotiate on matters like property division, child custody, and spousal support.

If the parties can reach an agreement on these matters, they can submit a Marital Settlement Agreement to the court. If the court approves, the divorce can be finalized after the mandatory waiting period. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the process can extend beyond the waiting period and may take several months or even years, depending on the complexity of the issues involved. Cases with no activity or agreement between parties for up to 5 years need to be refiled.

While the process can extend over several years, it’s important to remember that staying active in your case and working towards resolving the issues at hand can significantly expedite the process. For all of these things, sometimes, it may seem to you that divorce is so very hard journey.

Ways To Get A Quick Divorce In California?

Agree on all divorce issues:

The quickest way to finalize a divorce in California is for both spouses to agree on all terms of the divorce. They must negotiate and settle disputes over child custody, support, property division including who gets the house after divorce, and other matters without court intervention.

If both parties can reach an agreement without involving the court, divorce can be fast and efficient. Couples should consider seeking legal advice or mediation services to ensure that all issues are settled before proceeding to court.

File an uncontested divorce:

An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree to the terms of the divorce without having to go to court. An uncontested divorce can be a much faster and more cost-effective way to end a marriage in California.

To file an uncontested divorce, both parties will need to complete the necessary paperwork and submit it to the court for approval. They will also need to establish reasonable parenting plans if they have minor children and divide their property according to California’s divorce laws.

If both parties can cooperate and agree on all terms of the divorce, they can often finalize their divorce quickly without having to go through an extended legal process.

Hire an experienced attorney:

Hiring a qualified and experienced family law attorney is one of the best ways to ensure the divorce process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.

An experienced attorney will be able to handle all paperwork and court proceedings on your behalf, ensuring that everything is filed correctly and on time. They can also provide knowledgeable advice on settling disputes or reaching an agreement with your spouse quickly and efficiently.

In addition, a family law attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options under California’s divorce laws so that you can make the best decisions for yourself and your children. The below video discusses how to get a divorce in California, including cost, time, etc.

FAQs on How Long Does A Divorce Case Stay Open In California

How long can a divorce drag out in California?

Divorce in California can be a lengthy experience, which typically relies on the contentedness of the divorce. Divorce proceedings may run from half a year to an entire five years – it all depends.

If both parties can cooperate and agree on items such as child custody and finances, the process can go much faster. But if heated disputes arise, a divorce could drag out significantly.

In some cases, a divorce that starts off amicably can become combative if significant issues remain unresolved – resulting in potentially lengthy court battles. It is even possible for a single divorce to take up to five years in extreme circumstances. The complexity of issues involved and the amount of paperwork that needs to be completed – all factor into how long a divorce could take.

Does a divorce petition expire in California?

In the state of California, a divorce petition expires if no action is taken after five years. This expiration applies to any divorce filed with California courts, whether it’s an uncontested divorce or one that requires lengthy court proceedings.

After the five-year period has passed, the initial filing will become void, and both parties must restart the process if they still wish to proceed with the dissolution of the marriage.

However, in some cases, a party may be able to extend this 5-year limit due to financial hardship or unique circumstances. Before expiration, a person is recommended to consult a family law attorney for advice on how to handle their situation.

If both parties agree, how long does it take to finalize a divorce in California?

Finalizing a divorce in California can be straightforward if both parties agree. It typically takes 6 months, as long as all the paperwork and documentation is filed correctly. This starts after a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed and accepted by the court, along with any other required notices or documents.

If a response to the Petition is needed and filed after that, the process may take slightly longer. During this time, spouses do not need to appear for a court hearing; it’s possible to obtain an uncontested divorce without even leaving home in many cases.

Since the state of California offers an online platform that guides couples through the entire process step-by-step, it’s now even easier than before to finalize what can otherwise be a complex process quickly and effectively.

What is the 10-year rule in divorce California?

The divorce California 10-year rule is an important part of the divorce process in this state. If a marriage has lasted ten years or more, it is considered a long-term marriage. As such, California divorce law provides that the court will retain jurisdiction to make modifications following divorce unless both parties agree otherwise or unless the court order ends any financial support.

This rule helps ensure that during divorce proceedings involving marriages of long duration, both parties can get the rightful financial and other support due to them for the duration of their marriage.

Why does California have a 6 month waiting period for divorce?

California has one of the longest waiting periods for divorce in the United States, clocking in at a whopping six months. This is due to several reasons.

Firstly, it works as a cooling-off period, both literally and figuratively; it gives couples time to cool off from whatever difficult circumstances may have led them to the decision and occasionally inspires them to reconcile. It also helps to understand whether you are ready or not for divorce.

Secondly, the long waiting period allows those looking to get divorced ample opportunity to carefully consider the division of assets before proceeding with legal action. Lastly, in some cases, California laws require an additional two or three months after all paperwork is submitted before an official divorce decree can be issued.

So while this might seem like a long wait for those amid a tough situation, its aim is ultimately to ensure that all parties involved are thoroughly informed and able to make decisions best suited to their needs.

How long after divorce can you remarry in California?

In the state of California, a party who wishes to remarry after the divorce process must wait for at least six months after the day of the dissolution of marriage to legally do so. However, a motion can be made to shorten this waiting period, and each request is handled individually.

The person who plans on remarrying must then submit their license or certificate and final judgment of dissolution to a county clerk or other authorized official before they can process the wedding.

It is also advisable that each individual meets with an attorney before remarriage to ensure all legal rights are protected and all necessary documents are in place. As always, couples should familiarize themselves with state requirements and rules prior to entering into another relationship.

What is the fastest divorce in California?

Contested divorces are the way to go regarding the fastest divorce in California. An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties reach an agreement on all matters related to their divorce, including division of assets, child custody and support arrangements, debt division, and spousal support.

This means no arguments will have to be made in court, so the entire process moves along much more quickly. Uncontested filings usually take 6-8 weeks in California, although specific timelines may vary depending on county rules and paperwork processing. I know a case of uncontested divorce where one spouse was disabled and it took only 3 weeks to finalize all of the processes.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a quick way out of your marriage while still protecting your rights and interests within the law, consider pursuing an uncontested divorce.


Hopefully, you understand how long a divorce case can stay open. The maximum longevity of a divorce case in California is 5 years. However, various factors can affect the duration of a divorce in California. These include waiting for mandatory counseling to be completed, the complexity of the case, and backlogs in the court system.

To make the divorce process faster in California, both spouses should agree on all divorce issues so that no court intervention is needed, file an uncontested divorce, and hire an experienced attorney to handle the paperwork. By following these steps, you can ensure that your divorce case is resolved quickly and efficiently so that you can move on with your life.

About Shakir Ahmed

Head of the editorial team. I hold a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from UoL. Written hundreds of articles on divorce, child custody, employment and other human rights law topics for blogs and websites worldwide. Worked 6 years as a relationship development trainer. For any communication regarding any legal matter, please feel free to email me at

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