I Died Waiting

At least once a day a client asks me how long it takes to get divorced.

As always, the legal answer is “it depends.”

In Ohio, the waiting period for a divorce is 42 days after perfection of service of process to the other side.  In reality, most divorces in southwest Ohio take at least three months, and usually much longer.

The fastest way to get divorced is to reach an agreement with your spouse.  If you cannot reach an agreement, and you must ask the Court to decide any issue, the answer to how long it will take is the same:  “it depends.”

If there are children it will take longer than if there are no children.  The Ohio Supreme Court issues guidelines as to when a trial court must report a case as “late.”  This is an extremely important measure to most trial judges.  Cases with children have eighteen months to resolve; cases without children have twelve months to resolve.

In a recent decision, Daniels v. Daniels 2014-Ohio-83 (5thDist. LickingCounty), a trial judge simply dismissed a divorce case because otherwise it would have been late under the Supreme Court rules.  The wife appealed.  The Court of Appeals said:

“The Rules of Superintendence were designed to secure the prompt and efficient disposition of cases.  To dismiss a case because the guideline for disposition has been exceeded and advising the parties it can be refiled – thereby beginning anew the start of the clock – does not serve that purpose, but rather thwarts it.”

Is this a good decision?  I think so.  The parties in this case appeared to have done what I call “ying-yanging around.”  One day there was a settlement agreement, then it was off, and so on.  In any event, dismissing the case and requiring the parties to start over to avoid a tardy slip is not likely to resolve the underlying problem:  parties who cannot agree for long.

If parties are not in agreement, or cannot stay in agreement long enough to have it read into the court’s record, then trials should proceed.  Even then, at the completion of a contested trial, the parties must wait on a decision.  I have been waiting on one decision from a trial for more than eight months so far.  Some judges write decisions in a day; some judges take a year.

It just depends.