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How Does the Waiting Period for Divorce Work?

Some states impose mandatory waiting periods when parties file divorce. The specific waiting periods for divorces differ among states, but the range of time for waiting periods is usually six months to more than a year. What is the purpose of a divorce waiting period and what are the requirements by state?

The legislative and policy purposes behind mandatory waiting periods are to ensure that couples are sure of their intentions to terminate marriage.  As mentioned above, most waiting periods run six to twelve months, but the time period can be increased if issues or problems in the divorce have not been settled or resolved. Some states have considered lengthening waiting periods for divorce, particularly when a couple has children. (Proponents of legislation to increase mandatory divorce waiting periods point to higher divorce rates in jurisdictions where waiting periods are shorter.)


Most states require couples to undergo a separation period before they can obtain a divorce in instances when the divorce is based on fault. However, in no-fault divorces, the majority of states do not impose a mandatory period of separation for a couple prior to being able to file. Other states mandate separation periods prior to filing divorce or require separation before the court will issue a divorce decree.

Requirements by State

The mandatory waiting periods required before filing divorce or receiving a decree in each state are as follows:

  • Thirty-four states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have no specific statutory requirements for waiting periods prior to filing for divorce.
  • Kentucky requires a 60-day waiting period to receive a divorce decree.
  • District of Columbia requires a six-month waiting period before a couple can file divorce.
  • Louisiana and Montana require 180-day waiting periods before couples can file divorce.
  • Four states (Delaware, Illinois, Vermont, and Virginia) require six-month waiting periods before couples can receive divorce decrees.
  • Maryland and Nevada require one-year waiting periods before allowing couples to file divorce.
  • North Carolina requires one year of separation before allowing a couple to file divorce.
  • Three states (Ohio, South Carolina, and West Virginia) require one-year waiting periods before allowing couples to receive divorce decrees.
  • Connecticut requires an 18-month waiting period before allowing a couple to file divorce.
  • Arkansas and New Jersey require 18-month waiting periods before allowing couples to receive divorce decrees.