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Why Is There a Divorce Waiting Period?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

For most folks, once they've made the decision to get divorced, they want it over as quickly as possible. But just because you've signed the papers doesn't mean your divorce is finalized. Half of all states have a waiting period between the filing of divorce papers and when the marriage is legally dissolved, which can range from ninety days in Washington and six months in California to even longer in some states.

So what's with all the waiting? And why can states put a divorce on hold?

The Marriage Institution

Courts have long recognized that states have an interest in encouraging and preserving marriage. And while this may seem like a vestigial legal concept, tied to our country's puritanical past, this presumption that marriage is good and divorce is bad has yet to be removed from all state statutes. So some states use this as a means to delay divorces, under the theory that both parties (or just one) may just need some time to cool off, and could rethink their decision.

Of the states that still impose a waiting period, the wait can vary:

  • Alabama has a 1-month waiting period;
  • Iowa, Utah, and Washington have a 3-month waiting period;
  • California, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Vermont, and Washington, D.C, all have a 6-month waiting period;
  • Massachusetts has a 7-month waiting period;
  • New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia have a 1-year waiting period;
  • Arkansas and New Jersey have an 18-month waiting period; and
  • Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania have a 2-year waiting period.

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

While these waiting periods may sound unreasonably long, some can be reduced if both parties consent. And just because your divorce isn't finalized yet doesn't mean you have to live with your ex. It just means you can't get remarried yet, and it may mean you'll still have to file your taxes as a married couple, depending on the timing of your divorce.

Divorces can be complicated, both emotionally and legally. For help with your divorce, contact an experienced divorce attorney in your area.

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