What is the Fastest Way to Get Unhitched?

What is the Fastest Way to Get Unhitched?

by Leanne Phillips, December 2009

What do you do if that looming divorce just keeps dragging? Perhaps the two of you can't agree on child support or the division of property. Maybe it's alimony that's causing the eternal delay. At some point, being considered "married" in the eyes of the law can start to interfere with moving on.

That's exactly why it might be time to explore an option like out-of-state divorce. Or even out-of-country divorce. Or follow in the footsteps of Les Moonves, CBS network head and Viacom co-president, who petitioned the court to speed things up.

In December 2004, Moonves appeared in a Los Angeles court. His request? Not to contest a parking ticket but to dissolve his marital status. Moonves' divorce from his spouse of 24 years, Nancy, had been dragging on for nearly two years. He wanted marital status to be separated from the rest of the issues and decided on in isolation.

Tired of waiting, Moonves' motion cited a "desire to return to the status of being single." Moonves foresaw a lengthy trial to settle the property and other issues. He argued that "terminating the marital status will aid in promoting settlement of this matter," and the judge gave his request the stamp of approval.

But, his desire for the swinging, single life didn't last long. Thirteen days after his court appearance, Moonves, 55, married 34-year old CBS anchor Julie Chen. Their quickie wedding ceremony took place in Acapulco on December 23, 2004.

The good news is you don't have to be a billionaire or head of a TV network to do the same thing. Your marriage might have left you with complex issues. For this very reason, many states will enter a judgment of dissolution as to marital status. This means you and your former spouse can work out remaining issues at a later date. And perhaps some high emotions might be calmed by then.

However, seeking a dissolution judgment shouldn't necessarily be a first step. This separation of issues only tends to speed things up for those who are expecting an unusually complicated and lengthy divorce. Most states have relatively long "cooling off" periods, ranging from three to six months. This means the earliest a court could dissolve marital status would be after the required waiting period.

But appearing in court wasn't Moonves' only speedy option. He could have rushed the process earlier by divorcing outside of California. While most states have residency requirements or long cooling-off periods, a few states offer a quick out.

Nevada isn't just the home of the drive-through wedding chapel. It's also the best state for a quickie divorce. When both parties agree on all the issues and file a joint petition, a Nevada divorce can be granted in as little as a week. The only glitch? Nevada does require in-state residency for at least six weeks prior to filing.

In the 1950's, a number of Hollywood movie stars popularized Nevada dude ranches to party and vacation while waiting out a quickie divorce. So, a six-week Vegas vacation could be just the choice to hurry up your divorce and celebrate singlehood all at once.

If six weeks is still too long, there are other options for the more adventurous divorce-seeker. Quickie divorces are available to U.S. citizens in a number of countries, including Guam and the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has no residency requirements. However, one party is required to attend the divorce hearing. A Dominican divorce can be processed start-to-finish in as little as 24 hours. The main reason couples don't explore this option? Many states may not recognize Dominican divorces.

Guam could be the overseas divorce paradise. If both parties agree and sign a "consent to jurisdiction" form, a Guam divorce can be finalized in a few days. An added bonus is neither party has to leave the states. Guam technically has a 90-day residency requirement. But thanks to loopholes, this requirement can usually be avoided. The best part is that Guam falls under U.S. jurisdiction. This means your divorce will be recognized as valid in any of the fifty states.

Foreign countries like Mexico and Haiti are no longer ideal for divorce. Mexico used to be a jump across the border for divorce. Now, Mexico enforces strict residency requirements. And Haiti, a once-popular quickie divorce spot, has been crossed from the list. One of the parties must appear in court to obtain a Haitian divorce. And in today's political climate, traveling to that part of the world is too dangerous.

So, getting unhitched doesn't have to unhitch your life. There's no reason to be trapped by your state's due process. And disagreements between you and your spouse don't have to keep you from settling marital status separately. A quickie divorce only means trying to legally reflect what has already happened in your life.