Divorce Waiting Periods in California

Divorce is a life-changing event, and in California, it comes with one of the longest waiting periods in the United States. While it may seem like a hassle, this extended waiting period can be an opportunity to negotiate a fair settlement and make informed decisions about your future. In this article, we will explore the key facts about California’s waiting period and how you can utilize this time to your advantage.

Paperwork Starts the Waiting Process

The clock for California’s divorce waiting period starts ticking on the day one spouse is served with a divorce summons and petition or the day that spouse files a response, whichever comes first. To initiate the divorce process, several steps must be taken:

  • File Paperwork with the Court: All the necessary documents are stamped with a date and time, marking the official beginning of the waiting period.
  • Find a Server: An individual aged 18 or older, unconnected to the case, is responsible for delivering the paperwork to the other spouse.
  • File More Paperwork: The server fills out a document detailing when and where the documents were handed over. This document is then submitted to the courts, and its date typically becomes the starting point for the waiting period.

Weekends Count

In California’s waiting period, weekends are counted along with the weekdays, meaning it follows a straight calendar timeline. This six-month period includes weekends, making it essential to keep track of the exact duration.

Judges Have Limited Power

While some people may want to end their legal connection before the waiting period is complete, judges in California have limited power in this regard. They can approve temporary orders to address critical matters such as finances and child custody during the waiting period, but they cannot waive or shorten the waiting period even if requested.

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More Work is Required

Divorces in California are not automatic; both parties must prepare final documents for review and approval by a judge. Failure to complete these final steps will keep the marriage legally intact, regardless of the duration of the waiting period.

Are There Exceptions to This Waiting Period?

California’s waiting period is firmly established in the state’s laws, and judges play a crucial role in finalizing divorces. However, they do not have the authority to waive this waiting period. Many divorces in California take longer than six months to finalize due to the complexities involved, such as resolving issues related to children, debts, and assets. Negotiations and formal document filings take time, and it is not uncommon for divorces in the state to extend over several years.

Making the Most of the Waiting Period

Rather than seeing the waiting period as a frustrating delay, use it as an opportunity to your advantage. Negotiation meetings with your spouse can be held during this time, allowing you to talk through your plans and reach mutually agreeable solutions. When the waiting period concludes, you will have well-prepared documents that can be submitted to a judge for final approval.

Why is California’s Wait Time So Long?

Compared to states like New Hampshire and Nevada, which have remarkably short divorce waiting periods, California’s approach is different. The waiting period in California serves as a cooling-off period, providing spouses with time to negotiate fair and equal settlements independently. This process eases the burden on California courts and encourages amicable splits, ultimately benefiting both parties.

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Taking Your Time for Informed Decisions

Divorce is a significant life decision that should not be rushed. The waiting period in California ensures that individuals have sufficient time to examine their choices carefully. It allows room for personal growth, self-reflection, and the possibility of reconciliation. If negotiations during this period resemble counseling sessions and your relationship shows signs of improvement, you might reconsider the divorce before the six-month mark and emerge as a stronger, happier couple.


The extended waiting period for divorce in California may seem daunting, but it provides valuable time for negotiation and reflection. By using this time wisely, couples can craft well-thought-out plans that lead to a fair and peaceful resolution. Remember, divorce is a life-altering decision, and it is essential to make informed choices that will shape your future positively.


1. Can the waiting period be waived in California? No, judges in California do not have the authority to waive or shorten the waiting period, regardless of circumstances.

2. How can I make the most of the waiting period? Use this time for negotiation meetings with your spouse, discussing critical issues and finding common ground for your settlement.

3. Are divorces in California always finalized within six months? No, due to the complexities involved, many divorces in California take longer than six months to finalize.

4. Can I file for divorce without an attorney during the waiting period? Yes, you can file for divorce without an attorney, but legal representation is recommended to navigate the process smoothly.

5. What happens if we reconcile during the waiting period? If you and your spouse decide to reconcile before the waiting period concludes, you can halt the divorce process and continue your marriage.

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