By Jennifer M. Paine
Every day is another dollar spent, another opportunity for your spouse to file a motion, another roadblock on your path to freedom.
Then you discover an even bigger roadblock – the mandatory divorce waiting period. What is a waiting period, and why should the government be allowed to tell you when you can and cannot get a divorce?
Here are the 5 common reasons for waiting periods in divorce:
1. Reconciliation: In many states, waiting periods allow spouses time to reflect on their marriage and reconcile. This may be an explicit purpose stated directly in the law itself or a subtle, but intended, purpose from religious and social groups who lobbied for the law.
Either way, the consequences of divorce can be disastrous, and a few good weeks to reflect on why one of you filed could do a great deal to correct mistakes and bring you back together.
However, there are many reasons, such as abuse and abandonment, to forgo reconciliation efforts altogether and focus on the divorce process during this time. Consult with your mens divorce lawyer and a mental health professional, and do what is best for you – not what a lobbying group or a legislator says you should do.
2. Investigation for Finances: Unless you have all of your and your spouse’s tax returns, bank and credit union statements, credit reports, credit card statements, vehicle loan statement, etc., will need time to investigate.
Investigating requires subpoenas, interviews with third parties, appraisals, home and business inspections, and more, all of which take time. A minimum subpoena turn-around time, for example, could be as little as two days or as much as 30 days or more.
3. Investigation for Children: Similarly, unless you and your spouse agree how to parent your children after your divorce, you will need time to investigate housing, childcare providers, schools, visitation schedules, who will be around your children during each other’s parenting time, whether there are any mental or physical health impediments, and so forth.
Investigation here also may require subpoenas, interviews, and inspections. This will almost certainly require meetings with children’s professionals and, in many states, guardians ad litem and child custody evaluators. These also generally take longer than 30 days to complete.
4. Court Scheduling/Trial Preparation: If your case does not settle, then you will be at the mercy of the court’s schedule for trial. In most states, courts are so backlogged that trials occur well after your waiting period expires.
Add to this the time required to prepare and file witness lists, exhibits, trial summaries, and to interview witnesses and prepare your testimony, and you could be waiting a long time for your divorce. In some states, the grounds you have to prove to obtain a divorce depend on how long you wait for a divorce, as well.
For example, you may be able to obtain a “no fault” divorce if you wait X months, while you must prove fault to obtain one earlier. That being said, if trial is on the horizon, you will want this time to prepare adequately to present your case.
5. Minimizing Collateral Consequences: Like the explicit or subtle purpose to make couples reconcile, for most couples divorce waiting periods also force both spouses to consider collateral consequences.
What will happen to our children, and how can we minimize the impact on them? What will happen to my credit score, and who do I consult for financial planning and when? Where will I live, and should I attempt to buy a house now?
These issues, and more, will need to be addressed while your divorce is pending so that you have a sound, workable plan when your divorce concludes.
Frankly, a quickie divorce – like a quickie marriage – is a bad thing for most guys anyway. If you’ve spent years waiting for this time, it’s worth it to wait a couple of extra weeks in order to finalize your divorce the right way.
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Jennifer M. Paine is a Michigan Divorce Lawyer with Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.