This is a topic we often find confuses our clients, and so it is always a topic we come back to. It seems no matter how many times we discuss it, write it down, and consider it again, people often block out the information or misunderstand what the six-month waiting period means for them and the status of their divorce.
What Is the Six-Month Waiting Period?
The six-month waiting period, or reconciliation period, is a timeframe that is set by each state, as to how long they believe a couple should need to wait between filing their petition for divorce and legally being allowed to be divorced.
Why Do States Care?
This is a public policy decision for each state. There is a benefit to the public in general if the very impacted family court system is not unnecessarily used. So we can only assume that if allowed to get divorced immediately, people may do so in a sensitive state before having had the time to think it through, talk to professionals, and talk to each other. They may go through the entire process and then decide not to finalize or maybe to remarry shortly after that. It is merely a “cooling-off” period to force people to think of all ramifications of their choices.
When Does the Six-Month Waiting Period Start?
People are often misinformed and believe the six-month period begins as soon as the petition is filed. This is not true. The six-month period begins after the petition is filed AND served on the respondent
Does the Six-Month Waiting Period Have Any Bearing on When I Will Be Divorced?
Yes and no. The only way the six-month waiting period affects the date you will be divorced is by limiting you NOT being divorced for at least six months. Aside from that, it is not at all relevant to when you WILL BE divorced. We often have people think that their divorce will be final at the six-month mark. While this can be the case, it rarely is. For this to work, all of the agreements must be finalized, all final documents must be signed and submitted to the court pretty much at the same time, or shortly after that, the petition is filed. There are some courts that you will be able to file all of the final documents up to three months after the petition was filed and still get your judgment by the six-month mark, but not all courts can process judgments that efficiently. Most take 4-6 months and may take even longer, we have had it take 8-9 months in some courts (North County and South Bay), as these two courts are the slowest to process judgments.
In short, if you wish to have your case done by the six-month mark, plan to move very quickly once the petition is filed to get everything done. It is a lot of work for your mediator to get the final judgment drafted, reviewed and revised, so you must be proactive in getting your revisions back to your mediator promptly.
More importantly, do not expect your mediator to micro-manage your response time. This is your divorce, and our process is one in which we follow your timeline, we do not force a timeframe upon you. If it is important to you to have a final divorce date at the six-month mark, let your mediator know up front and make sure you stay on top of the tasks you are given. Mediators typically are juggling up to 50 active cases at a time; there is just no time to check in with clients daily or even weekly. At best, you will get a follow up on a monthly basis, so prepare accordingly.
Six-Month “Cooling off” Mediation
Demystify the six-month cooling-off period of divorce. Let us guide you through the process, empowering you to make informed decisions and find closure. Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center today.
by: Jennifer Segura