How Long Can a Spouse Drag Out a Divorce in California?

Divorce can be an emotionally and financially draining process for both parties involved. Sometimes, one spouse may drag out the divorce proceedings, causing additional stress, costs, and delays. 

Why Do Spouses Try to Delay the Divorce Process? 

A spouse may try to delay a divorce for a variety of reasons, including:  

  • Emotional factors. One of the fundamental reasons for delaying a divorce is emotional attachment. Even when a marriage ends, feelings of love, fear, guilt, or hope for reconciliation can make it difficult to sever ties completely. Moreover, divorce signifies a significant life change, and some individuals may need extra time to emotionally prepare for this transition.  

  • Financial considerations. Financial concerns are another significant factor. A spouse may delay the divorce to maintain their lifestyle, especially if they're financially dependent on their partner. For instance, they may continue to benefit from shared health insurance, joint tax benefits, or other financial perks associated with being married. It is also important to note that one spouse may use delaying tactics to buy time to hide assets or manipulate finances to their advantage, which is a serious legal offense and could lead to penalties if discovered. 

  • Legal considerations. In some cases, delaying a divorce can be part of a legal strategy. A spouse may wish to remain married longer to meet specific requirements that may affect alimony or property division. Moreover, a spouse may delay proceedings to gain an upper hand in child custody battles. They may hope that the additional time will allow them to demonstrate their commitment and capability as a parent, thus improving their chances of securing favorable custody arrangements. 

  • Familial concerns. Concerns over children's well-being could also prompt a spouse to slow down the process. Divorce can be traumatic for children, and some parents may want to postpone it to provide their children with more time to adjust.  

  • Narcissism. Narcissists typically have an inflated sense of self-importance, lack of empathy, and an insatiable need for control and admiration. In a divorce scenario, these traits can manifest in various ways designed to prolong the process and inflict distress on the other party. Common tactics include false accusations, blaming the other spouse for the breakdown of the marriage, and intentionally dragging their feet during legal proceedings. For instance, they may refuse to provide necessary documentation or respond to legal inquiries in a timely manner. They might also use the children as pawns in their game, attempting to turn them against the other spouse or leveraging custody disputes for their advantage. These behaviors aim to maintain control and portray themselves as the victim, thereby gaining sympathy and support from others. 

Delaying Tactics in a Divorce 

The length of time it takes for a divorce to be finalized in California depends on several factors, including the complexity of issues involving child custody, property division, and spousal support. If both parties agree on these issues, the divorce can be finalized in about six months. If not, the process may take much longer. However, a spouse who wants to drag out the proceedings can make the process even longer. 

One way a spouse can drag out a divorce is by not responding to a divorce petition. Under California law, a spouse has 30 days to respond to a divorce petition served to them. If the spouse decides not to respond, the court can grant a default judgment after several months. However, if the responding spouse files any motions, the process would continue until the court resolves the issues raised in the motion. 

Another way a spouse can prolong divorce proceedings is by filing numerous motions to dispute rulings made in the case. The court can grant various motions, including motions to modify child support, spousal support, and custody arrangements. This tactic can cause delays that can stretch the proceedings by several months or even years. 

In some cases, a spouse may choose to stall the proceedings by refusing to cooperate with discovery requests. Discovery is a legal process that enables both spouses to exchange information about the assets, liabilities, and other relevant issues related to the divorce. If one spouse refuses to provide the information requested, the other spouse can file a motion in court, which can take months to be resolved. 

Another tactic a spouse can use to prolong divorce proceedings is by making unreasonable settlement demands. A spouse who demands more than they are entitled to can cause the other party to refuse the settlement offers, which may prolong the litigation process. 

How an Attorney Can Help If Your Spouse Is Dragging Their Feet  

In divorce proceedings, a spouse's delaying tactics can be frustrating and emotionally draining. An experienced attorney, however, can mitigate these issues by employing various strategic measures. Initially, your attorney can file a motion to set a specific timeline for the proceedings, which would limit the extent to which the other party can prolong the process.  

Furthermore, they can request the court to impose sanctions if these deadlines are not adhered to. If the opposing party continues to delay, your attorney can petition the court for a 'default judgement', essentially asking the court to rule in your favor due to the other party's non-compliance.  

Throughout this process, your attorney would keep you informed and involved, alleviating any concerns you may have and ensuring that your interests are protected. If needed, your attorneys can also help you:  

  • Petition for temporary spousal and/or child support  

  • Petition that the other party pay your legal fees (if they have delayed)  

  • Reduce the delays by asking that the other party be found in content of court if they do not adhere to court orders 

Get Help from Our Skilled Attorneys  

At The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc, we are committed to helping our clients smoothly, efficiently, and swiftly navigate the divorce process. We also handle a wide range of divorce-related matters, including:  

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