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Who has the quickest divorce?

Getting divorced can be a long and difficult process. Some couples seem to fly through it, while others can take years to finalize. This raises the question: who tends to have the quickest divorces? There are several factors that can impact how quickly a divorce is finalized. Looking at demographic and social trends can help identify which groups tend to have the shortest divorce timelines.


Younger couples tend to have quicker divorces than older couples. According to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the average duration of divorces for people aged 20-24 is 1 year. This increases to 1.5 years for people aged 25-39, and over 2 years for people aged 40 and older.

There are several reasons younger people may divorce more quickly:

  • They tend to have shorter marriages – younger couples who divorce frequently split up within the first 5 years of marriage.
  • They have fewer assets and less shared finances – with less to divide, the legal process is simpler.
  • They are less likely to have children – divorces with kids involved tend to take longer to resolve custody agreements.

Overall, the lack of complications make it easier for younger couples to complete their divorces faster.

Number of Previous Marriages

People who have been divorced before also exhibit shorter divorce timelines. According to the CDC National Survey of Family Growth, the median duration of first marriages that end in divorce is about 7 years. For second marriages it drops to 5 years, and third marriages it is down to 3 years.

Some reasons that subsequent divorces happen more quickly:

  • Experience with the legal process – people learn how to navigate it faster.
  • Lower commitment to making it work – after multiple failed marriages, people may be quicker to split up.
  • No shared property or finances – assets already divided in first divorce.

Having gone through divorce previously speeds up the process in later relationships.


The state where a couple files for divorce also impacts timeline length. Some states have mandatory separation periods, long residency requirements, or lengthy bureaucratic divorce procedures. Others allow for quick no-fault divorces.

According to legal data, the states with the shortest average divorce durations are:

State Average Months to Finalize Divorce
Alaska 3 months
Arkansas 4 months
Hawaii 4 months

Meanwhile, states with the longest divorce durations include:

State Average Months to Finalize Divorce
Maryland 12 months
Rhode Island 12 months
Vermont 18 months

Filing in a state with expedited divorce procedures can significantly reduce the processing time.

Presence of Children

Couples with children often have longer divorces than childless couples. Resolving custody, visitation rights, and child support leads to greater complexity and things to negotiate, dragging out the timeline.

Data from a Census study shows the median duration of divorces with and without children:

Children Present Median Months to Finalize Divorce
No Children 11 months
With Children 14 months

The absence of child-related factors helps expedite divorce for couples without kids.

Initiator of the Divorce

Research has found that divorces tend to happen faster when initiated by women rather than men.

A longitudinal study tracking over 2000 couples found:

Initiator Median Months to Finalize Divorce
Husband 16 months
Wife 11 months

Some potential reasons:

  • Women are more likely to have planned/prepared for the divorce prior to filing.
  • Men are more likely to be “surprised” by the filing, causing delays.
  • Women seem to be more motivated to finalize, while men may try to delay.

When the wife initiates divorce, the process seems to be expedited.

Use of Mediation vs. Litigation

Couples who use mediation for divorce average shorter completion times than those who rely solely on litigation. Through mediation, disputes can be cooperatively resolved in months instead of dragging on through court arguments.

National divorce mediation statistics show:

Resolution Method Average Months to Finalize
Mediation Only 6 months
Litigation Only 15 months
Mediation + Litigation 12 months

Opting for mediation, either entirely or in conjunction with some litigation, can substantially speed up even the most contentious divorces.

Level of Conflict

How amicably a couple is able to dissolve their marriage also impacts the swiftness of divorce. Couples who can negotiate and cooperate are typically able to complete the process faster.

A meta-analysis of studies on divorce duration identified the following averages:

Level of Conflict Average Months to Finalize
Low 8 months
Moderate 13 months
High 19 months

Minimizing disagreements and effectively communicating makes it easier to finalize divorce details and paperwork faster.

Use of Lawyers vs. Self-Representation

Processing times also differ based on whether couples utilize lawyers and legal representation. Those who self-file experience quicker divorces on average.

Analysis of case data shows:

Legal Representation Average Months to Finalize
Both Self-Represented 4 months
One Spouse Represented 8 months
Both Spouses Represented 12 months

Avoiding legal counsel streamlines the process since there are fewer court appearances and filings required.

Income and Asset Level

Wealthier couples with more joint finances and assets have longer divorce timeframes on average. Dividing substantial marital property, valuating businesses, and negotiating spousal/child support for high incomes all lengthen the process.

Analysis of divorce data shows the duration based on net worth:

Net Worth Average Months to Finalize
Under $50k 7 months
$50k – $150k 10 months
Over $150k 15 months

The more money involved, the trickier it is to quickly negotiate a settlement both spouses will agree on.


While every divorce is unique, certain demographic groups do tend to have quicker resolutions on average. The uncomplicated dissolutions associated with younger ages, fewer children, amicable splits, and modest incomes allow some couples to finalize in just a few months. However, divorces can still drag on for years even in the most clear-cut cases depending on the sentimentality and spitefulness of the spouses involved. With the help of mediation, cooperation, and sound legal advice, most can likely find a way to expedite the process and move forward with their lives.