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Is the divorce process less complicated for shorter marriages?

Not necessarily. The duration of marriage might indirectly make divorce less complicated, but you can’t count on it. Sometimes short marriages end in the most complex divorce disputes.

Marriage length might indirectly affect common divorce topics

Intuitively, you’d think a brief marriage makes for a straightforward divorce. After all, the shorter the marriage, the less time there is to accumulate property, have children, grow a business together, open shared bank and brokerage accounts, and so on.

In a limited sense, that’s true. Divorcing couples who have few (or no) children, little property to divide, and minimal entanglement of their lives might expect to contend with less complication than an otherwise identical couple who have more children, property, and entanglement because of their marriage has lasted longer.

But it’s not a reliable way to predict complication in the divorce process

However, the flaw in that reasoning is that the passage of time has only an indirect impact on the potential for complication in a divorce. Oftentimes, other factors that cause complications directly in a divorce negate the impact of the marriage’s short duration. Consider:

  • Lots of couples have children right away after getting married. Others have children together before getting married. Some get divorced while one of them is pregnant. Just one year of marriage is plenty of time to bring a child into the world and, as a result, to face the complication that parental responsibilities and child support issues introduce in any divorce process. Figuring out how to share time with an infant or very young child can be more challenging that sorting out a schedule for an older child.
  • Couples can also accumulate property and liabilities quickly. Two people might get married just months before the business they co-own takes off, leaving them with a complex task when it comes to dividing their interests after the briefest of unions. Similarly, couples may go into debt together right away by purchasing a house or running up credit card expenses, creating potentially complicated financial obligations that they will need to resolve when they part ways.
  • Couples sometimes begin living together long prior to the marriage. As well, many married couples began acquiring things together or comingling their finances months or sometimes years prior to the actual wedding. That cohabitation or comingled finances may have an impact on the issues in the divorce.
  • Complex disputes can arise at the end of even the shortest marriages, particularly those involving high net worth individuals, over whether a spouse has breached the terms of a premarital or marital agreement

Also, the mindset with which each divorcing spouse approaches the divorce process can significantly impact complications that arise. The amount of time a couple spends married rarely predicts how well, or poorly, they will behave toward one another when they split, or how aggressively they will decide to fight over any issues that arise as they separate their personal and financial lives.

In other words, you can never simply assume that a short marriage will translate into an uncomplicated divorce. Experienced divorce attorneys know they must always prepare for complications to arise, no matter how brief their client was married.