How long does the divorce procedure take?
I often hear this question. The answer is not straightforward, there is no time limit. A divorce is not a football match with two halves of 45 minutes each. Here, judges are not like referees using penalty cards, although I think they sometimes should. However, there are no less emotions than in the football stands, even though no one parades around the court room wearing club scarves.
The length of the divorce proceedings depends on the spouses’ expectations of each other. They can part amicably, like Czechoslovakia did once, disagreeably, like Yugoslavia or …continue to live together like Trinidad and Tobago.
I have been an attorney for a dozen or so years – the shortest proceedings I have ever conducted ended with a decree only two weeks after the petition had been filed, whilst the longest lasted 5 years and ended with a decree pronouncing the fault of both spouses.
In the Krakow Court, the longest proceedings were said to have lasted 8 years, and that was only the first instance of the litigation. Today, due to COVID-19 sanitary requirements, they will also take a long time, unless we move on to video conference arrangements. It might as well be that some of the parties involved will not be abandoned until death do them part. In that case, the situation will be resolved naturally. My uncle (grandma’s brother), an agent of several intelligence services, used to say to his wife (they were both over 80 years’ old at the time), “Darling, when one of us dies, I will get married.”
Well, he was not that sensitive any more after an unwanted stay in the prison at Lubyanka. The proceedings are always longer if one of the spouses permanently lives abroad. The very court service abroad, depending on the country of the addresse’s residence, can extend the case by many months. Therefore, it is advisable to have an address for service in Poland or appoint an attorney in the case.
In order to achieve the goal faster and regain the desired freedom, it is necessary to establish as many split-up conditions as possible. The speed of the proceedings is influenced by property negotiations – more than one fault has had its price!
If the spouses agree on everything before the beginning of the proceedings, file a mutually agreed petition for divorce and then a response thereto, the probability of having a date set in the Court for a hearing faster is high. There are judges who, after reading a petition with plenty of witnesses and lots of items of evidence, place the case at the very end of the waiting
list and often delay the date of the hearing. “Maybe they will get along”, the judge thinks,
“and if not, let them wait.”
And they wait and wait, and so the marriage lasts longer.
Nowadays, hearings are set for dates in five to six months!
The proceedings sometimes take longer than the spouses’ life together. However, the participants of the proceedings do not always want the case to be concluded quickly. On some occasions, the demand of guilt is intended to frighten, soften the spouse, and is part of a strategy designed to get better, more valuable conditions, including financial ones. If someone wants to protract a case, they should consider what arguments they have before filing a petition.
There used to be endless requests for hearing evidence (apparently, there was a case where half the inhabitants of a village were reported as witnesses). Currently, the Court does not admit more or other witnesses at a later stage of the litigation and evidence, including the witnesses, should be specified in the first pleading. An efficient attorney, however, will deal with the adversities of the law and fate.
Set your goals first when planning divorce proceedings. When the issue of a child’s well- being is in dispute and is the subject of a battle, the Court admits evidence in the form of the opinion of the Advisory Panel of Court Specialists (OZSS). Now, it is increasingly frequently that you need to wait for a date of an interview at the OZSS for several months.
Clearly, the divorcing partners have the right to be emotional, and they should not be judged on this. Many have fought to regain their lost dignity. Women, victims of domestic violence, deserve special protection. For them, divorce proceedings are of special importance, marking the end of their spouses’ domination, releasing their strength, showing that they can write a script, not only for divorce but for life too. They subscribe to Obama’s election campaign’s slogan “yes I can” – yes, they can, too.
For some people, court litigation in itself is attractive and provides more excitements than their married life. The parties present their stories, and the judges, overwhelmed by the huge number of cases in their section, sometimes get helpless. When you divorce, respect each other, your children and the Court of course too. This does not mean that you should give up your goals. Present your arguments in a balanced and clear way. Do not provide insignificant details. The narrative has to get across to the adjudicating panel – and the divorce, like a suit, should be tailor-made, matching our capabilities.