How long does a divorce process take?

Family law

How long does a divorce process take?

Often in the context of divorce, the same or similar questions are asked to lawyers. In this series of articles “The most frequently asked divorce questions” our family law attorneys will answer some of these questions.


How long does a divorce proceeding take and can matters be settled as a matter of urgency?



Settling a divorce and all its consequences, whether you do it by mutual agreement (possibly through mediation) or whether divorce proceedings must be conducted in court, takes time.

If you settle a divorce by mutual agreement (possibly through mediation) then you can agree with each other what applies during the process you are in the process of settling. If the partners communicate well about a settlement with regard to all the consequences of the divorce, it often happens that they still live together during that process and let the financial household run as it did during their marriage until they have made definitive agreements about the division of income, assets and which arrangements should apply to the children. They themselves determine the effective date of the various arrangements. This effective date for the various arrangements does not necessarily have to be the same as the official divorce date. For example, even before they are officially divorced, parties can agree to live separately and make arrangements regarding the care arrangement for the children, the payment of child and/or spousal support, and they may even have already actually divided the assets or settled the prenuptial agreement and recorded all arrangements in an agreement.

How parties deal with the children, their income and/or assets during the process that they are in the process of settling matters with each other and making final agreements is called provisional arrangements. Sometimes these provisional arrangements are the same as they were during the marriage. But it can also happen that arrangements are made that are different from this situation and that these arrangements are also not yet equal to the final arrangements that the parties will make in the context of the divorce.

The process in which the parties consult with each other on a settlement regarding all the consequences of the divorce varies in duration from one to many months. We know from experience that the longer the process of consultation lasts, the greater the need to make interim arrangements as parties find it increasingly difficult to allow the situation as it was during the marriage to continue due to a variety of emotions.

If the parties manage to settle a divorce by mutual agreement, the arrangements are recorded in a divorce covenant and filed with the court with a joint petition for divorce. In that case, the judge only pronounces the divorce and no further substantive decisions are made by the judge on the various issues related to the divorce such as the children, child and spousal support and the division of the community of property or the settlement of the prenuptial agreement. The judge then adopts the decisions that the parties themselves have made regarding the various issues and that they have recorded in the divorce covenant. In case the parties cannot reach an agreement among themselves, this often leads to one of the parties filing a petition for divorce with the court through a lawyer. A proceeding is thus initiated. Below I explain what divorce proceedings can look like.

The procedure

In my article “I want a divorce, what is the best way to go about it?” I already explained that other requests can also be made with such a request. The so-called ancillary provisions such as a request for determination of child and/or spousal support, a request for division of the community of property or settlement of the prenuptial agreement and requests around the residence and care regarding the children.

Such proceedings take a great deal of time. If a request for divorce (the so-called petition) has been filed and served on the other party (or his attorney) by the bailiff, that party in principle has one month to respond. It regularly happens that this party asks the court for an extension to file a defense. In most cases, the court will grant an extension, so that the first response (the so-called defense) in many cases takes place at least two months after filing the petition for divorce with ancillary provisions.

If this defense is limited to only a defense and does not also contain an independent request, then the court will then schedule a date for the oral hearing of the case, which is also on deadline of one or more months.

Should the other party also submit his or her own request along with his or her defense, then the original requesting party is also given a response period of one to two months to this independent request which extends the proceedings.

In general, a decision is rendered four to six weeks after the oral hearing of the case in court.

Clearly, six to nine months will pass before you receive a decision of the court pronouncing the divorce and in which the court has given decisions on the issues mentioned above.

On top of that, the decision does not always work immediately. After all, most decisions such as those regarding spousal support and the decision regarding the division of assets/settlement of prenuptial agreements apply from the date you are officially divorced.

When are you officially divorced? And what if the other person doesn’t want to?

Many people do not know that you are not officially divorced with the court ruling pronouncing the divorce. You are only officially divorced once the court ruling pronouncing the divorce is entered in the marriage registry. Registration in that marriage register is in principle only possible once the three-month appeal period against the judgment has expired, without an appeal against the judgment being filed by either party. This three-month period can be shortened by both parties signing a so-called instrument of acquiescence before that time in which they indicate that they “acquiesce” in any case in the divorce that has been pronounced. With this, the divorce becomes final and can be entered in the marriage register.

However, it may happen that one of the parties does not want to cooperate in signing such a deed of acquiescence. In such a case, the registration can take place at the earliest after the three-month period mentioned above.

This makes it clear that, as a rule, almost a year passes before the divorce is registered and a number of decisions made by the court take effect.

What if one of the parties disagrees with the court’s decision?

It also happens that one of the parties disagrees with the court’s decision. In that case, that party can appeal that decision (within three months and sometimes even just before the deadline expires) to the court of appeals. If that appeal is filed, for example, because a party disagrees with the determined spousal support, in principle, the court’s decision on spousal support does not apply until the court has ruled on the issue. However, it regularly happens that a court declares one or more decisions “enforceable in advance. This means that even if the court’s decision is appealed by one of the parties, that decision still stands despite the appeal being filed, until the court decides otherwise.

In quite a few cases, proceedings take a long time and it can take a very long time before you have a (final) decision on a particular issue. But what if you cannot wait that long for a decision? In that case, you can apply for a “preliminary injunction. What that entails, I would like to explain below.

Partners who have often actually been apart for some time cannot in fact wait that long for a decision because something must apply anyway with regard to, for example, how income will be divided throughout the process. They also need a much earlier decision on, for example, the living situation, child and spousal support but also on who will take care of the children during those proceedings.

For this reason, the law makes it possible to ask the court for a so-called preliminary injunction in divorce cases. The court will then decide on matters such as child and spousal support and child care arrangements in a much shorter period of time than that outlined above. A preliminary injunction can also be requested regarding, for example, the use of the marital home. After all, in a number of cases, given the passage of time, it is not tenable that the parties still live together. One of the parties will then have to leave the marital home. If the parties cannot agree on this, the court will decide who can continue to live in the marital home for the time being and who must temporarily leave this home. The same applies to the provision of goods for daily use.

For this, a lawyer must file a so-called request for provisional relief with the court. After filing such an application, the court will in principle hear the case at a hearing within a month. The other (defending) party can submit a defense to the court until the hearing. In principle, the court makes a decision within two weeks after the hearing. In short, in principle, there is a decision from the court within four to six weeks on, for example, who may live in the marital home, what child and/or spousal support and what care arrangement applies until a final decision on those issues has been made in the divorce proceedings.

Because these are urgent proceedings, there is less time for the parties to put everything forward, and the court has scheduled less time than in normal divorce proceedings for oral argument. This means that a very precise decision cannot always be made. On the other hand, a decision can be made at short notice on what is to apply between the parties on certain points during a certain period of time.

It is important to note that if no divorce petition with ancillary provisions has been filed yet, this should be done as soon as possible after the preliminary relief decision. After all, the law stipulates that within four weeks after the decision in which preliminary relief is granted, the divorce petition (with ancillary relief) must be filed. If this is not done, the preliminary injunctions will lapse.

Also, with respect to specific issues, the law specifies when the preliminary injunctions end. This may be at the time the divorce is registered, but it may also be at the time that an appeal decision on a particular issue is rendered by, for example, the court of appeals, or any other time.

It is not possible to appeal from a decree of interim relief. However, it is possible to request a so-called modification of the preliminary injunction. After all, with reference to the above, it can happen that divorce proceedings take a long time, or at least it takes a long time before there is a final decision on an issue. If a preliminary injunction is granted at the very beginning of the case on the basis of the then prevailing circumstances, it is possible that so much time has passed and in the meantime all kinds of changes have taken place in the parties’ situation that the preliminary injunction granted earlier no longer does justice to the new situation. In that case, an adjustment of the preliminary injunction to the new situation may be requested. In order to avoid a plethora of proceedings in the preliminary injunction procedure, the legislator did include strict criteria in the law that must be met in order to request a modification of the preliminary injunction. For example, it is not intended to use this procedure as a disguised appeal option.

Picket mediation

In order to reduce so-called fighting divorces as much as possible and to allow parties to return to mutual consultation at the earliest possible stage, the so-called picket mediation has been developed within the court. The purpose of picket mediation is to limit further escalation of the conflict and to allow parties to reach a solution quickly. This mediation is used at the earliest possible stage. The judge selects which cases qualify for mediation based on the requests submitted. It is then ensured that a so-called picket mediator is present in those cases at the hearing. This is a mediator specialized in family law who meets the criteria set by the court and who has applied to be assigned to the preliminary relief proceedings.

During the oral hearing of the preliminary injunction application, the judge first discusses the substance of the case and then, after explaining it to the parties, asks them if they are willing to accompany a picket mediator on the spot. The picket mediator who is present at the hearing, does not know the case until the hearing and does not hear about the parties’ discussion until the hearing. The mediator can often also indicate at the hearing what his or her impression is regarding the possibilities of still settling the case through mediation.

At the court, there is room for the mediator and the parties to get to work immediately and on the spot to explore whether a provisional settlement is still possible.

The parties then have two weeks with the mediator to reach a provisional settlement. If successful, this settlement is valid and can be recorded by the court. Should the parties fail to reach a settlement within two weeks, the court will still decide shortly after those two weeks.

With regard to the costs of this so-called picket mediation, if parties qualify for an addition (in which case, depending on your income, the government pays part of the mediator’s or attorney’s fees) they will also receive an addition for the mediation. If parties do not qualify for legal aid, a so-called entry fee of € 90.75, including VAT, per person applies for the first two hours of mediation. If parties do not succeed in reaching a settlement within the two hours at court and still need to continue their mediation talks with the help of a mediator, the hourly rate of the mediator in question applies.

If you would like to read more about this so-called mediation in addition to jurisdiction I refer you to the website of the jurisdiction in which you can read about the principles of mediation, the costs etc.

For other questions on cases involving injunctive relief, please feel free to contact one of our attorneys/mediators.

Not married but living together

If parties are not married to each other and therefore no divorce proceedings need to be conducted, but parties do not agree on matters such as a care arrangement with regard to the children, child support or who should be assigned the joint home, or whether it should be sold, they can also submit these matters to the court for decision in proceedings. Again, these proceedings can take months while a short-term provisional settlement is needed. In that case, the interim relief regulations that apply in divorce proceedings do not apply, but an urgent measure can be requested from the court through so-called summary proceedings.

If you would like to know more about these specific topics, you can of course contact one of our lawyers.

The most frequently asked divorce questions

Often in the context of divorce, the same or similar questions are asked to lawyers. In this series of articles “The most frequently asked divorce questions” our family law attorneys will answer some of these questions.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in the next ” The most frequently asked divorce questions”, please let us know!

Geschreven door

Inge Mooren – van Weereld

advocaat & mediator
familierecht, erfrecht, mediation

inge mooren