Understanding Your Divorce Process: A Timeline


Chances are, you have heard about the divorce process from family members or friends who have experienced it themselves. Their stories were likely different from one another because each divorce is as unique as the marriage, but the foundation of the divorce process remains the same for every divorcing couple. Although a divorce can be obtained in as little as 91 days, the average divorce takes about a year and a half to be closed. Here’s what you can expect during that time period, from filing to finalization.

Consult, Retain, and File

The first step in any divorce is consulting with representation to understand the process, establish expectations, and outline your legal rights. Once you secure your preferred attorney, you will work together to file a Divorce Complaint, unless one was filed against you. If custody is a consideration in your family, that can be handled at this time as well. The Divorce Complaint must be served within 30 days.

Unless both parties agree on terms themselves, several other documents must be prepared (in collaboration with you and your attorney) and filed. These documents can include some and all of the following:

●      Income Statement

●      Expense Statement

●      Inventory

●      Affidavit of Consent

●      Counter-Affidavit


Master Appointment, Hearing, and Recommendation

Once all of the appropriate documents are filed, a Master is appointed and pre-trial statements and hearings are conducted. After the last pre-trial hearing, the Master’s hearing is held, with all exhibits and witnesses taken into consideration.

The Master’s hearing is then transcribed and the Master will make recommendations in a report. Both parties will then have another 20 days to file exceptions. After that, an official record is transmitted and you will receive the final Divorce Decree, which will lay out the parameters for every decision made from transferring real estate to switching the title on vehicles. Once everything outlined in the Divorce Decree is finalized on time, the file can be closed and your divorce is completed.

Alternative Timelines

If you both agree to the terms of the divorce on your own, you can bypass the pre-trial and Master’s hearing phases and go straight to requesting a Divorce Decree after you have filed agreements. For more information about some of the alternative divorce methods, see our articles on mediation and collaborative divorce. Additional factors that can impact this timeline and chain of events include discovery, contempt, custody and child support, alimony, and the need for a PFA.

The divorce process can be long and complex. An experienced family law attorney at Shafer Law Firm can support you in making the process and painless and quick as possible. Contact us for more information

About the Author: Elizabeth L. Spadafore

Elizabeth was raised in Meadville, PA and was a local small business owner before attending Duquesne University School of Law, where she received her Juris Doctorate degree in 2010.  She focuses her practice on family law matters such as divorce, custody and support. Her background as former County Solicitor for Crawford County Children and Youth services, combined with her experience in bankruptcy actions and personal injury actions, allows her to successfully navigate matters that are both highly sensitive and legally complex.

This content is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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