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Divorce Help: California’s Six-Month Waiting Period

According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, basketball star Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa Bryant may be putting their divorce proceeding on hold in an attempt to work out their marital issues and reconcile. This decision may in part be based on California’s requirement that anyone filing for divorce must wait at least six months before the marriage can be dissolved.
This is a good reminder of how strict the California law is regarding the six-months waiting period—even celebrities have to abide by the waiting period—and there are no exceptions or ways to expedite the date of dissolution for the marriage.
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  NBA player Kobe ...
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

The waiting period begins in a California divorce once the divorce papers are filed and served. Thus, even if you and your spouse have been separated for years, the waiting period does not start until the divorce action is filed and the papers are properly served upon the other party.

There is no way to speed up the divorce process. A divorce always takes at least six months to complete. Sometimes the parties agree to all the terms of the divorce before the six months has run. In this case, the parties can prepare and finalize a divorce judgmentbefore the six month waiting period expires, but they will not officially be divorced until the six months has elapsed. Even if a judgment is prepared before the six-month waiting period expires, the terms of the agreement are still binding on both parties. They are just not free to remarry until the six months have run.
Other times, people do not resolve all the custody, visitation, child support, spousal support/alimony, and division of property issues within the six-month time period. In this case, a divorce will take longer than the six-month time frame because the parties have a right to litigate the terms of their divorce and resolve the issues before a judicial officer.
The reasoning behind a six-month waiting period, which is longer than for many states, is to make sure that you and your spouse do not change your mind about going through with the divorce. The courts want to give you time in case you decide to reconcile. You cannot get a divorce in California until the waiting period has expired.
The Kobe Bryant case is just another example of why the law is in place. Apparently, the reason for the divorce filing may have had to do with Kobe possibly cheating on his wife. If California allowed a quick divorce, the divorce would have been granted while Vanessa Bryant was still mad at her husband and had not “cooled” off from the divorce filing. The required six months waiting period may have given the couple adequate time to calm down and work on reconciliation. This is exactly the type of situation the law was created for, to give a “cooling off” period so that couples can be sure they want to proceed with the divorce, and are not merely acting on an impulse to quickly end the marriage.
Legal updates provided by the Orange County and Riverside Law firm of Don Ho, LLP.

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