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What is a Cooling Off Period?

The waiting period for a divorce is also called the "cooling-off period." Sometimes couples who want a divorce rush to file for divorce out of anger and unhappiness with their marriage, but later on regret that they did. This is why many states have imposed a cooling-off period that allows couples to reconsider and choose to stay married. 

The waiting period also allows a spouse who didn't file for divorce time to think about the situation and the consequences involved and also gives both parties an amount of time to find alternative living arrangements, if necessary.

Some states impose mandatory cooling off periods before parties can file for a divorce. The specific cooling off periods for divorces differ among states, but the range of time for cooling off periods is usually 6 months to more than 12 month. Some courts will insist on enforcing a cooling off clause before issuing a divorce decree.

This shouldn't be confused with separation, as the decision to separate is different from filing for divorce. While separation can often come before filing for divorce, a separation is not required. Also, separation is different from a legal separation. In order to be legally separated, the couple must file the papers with the court. But a separation without notifying the court has no legal hold and means that, in the eyes of the law, you are still married.

Why is a Cooling Off Period Important?

A cooling off clause is important because it allows couples to re-think the situation and time to cool off instead of filing for a divorce out of anger and distress. The waiting period also gives a spouse who didn't file for divorce time to adjust. It gives both parties an amount of time to find alternative living arrangements. 

The idea behind a cooling off period to discourage impulsive divorce that is later regretted. The hope is that if the problems can be worked out, some way to do so will be found within that cooling off period. Either way, the court wants couples to take time to determine if they truly want to take the next step of divorce.

How Long Does a Cooling Off Period?

The length of a cooling off period differs between the contract, state requirements, and other factors, such as whether young children are involved. The specific cooling off periods for divorces differ among states, but the range of time for cooling off periods is usually 6 months to more than 12 month.

Can the Cooling Off Period Be Waived?

The answer to this question depends on the state law and how the state treats the cooling off period. States that allow courts to waive the waiting period often allow it for good cause or if there was an emergency. Other states will only waive the cooling off period if both parties have agreed on all the issues and consent to the waiver. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The court process for obtaining a divorce can be very confusing, so it may be wise to consult with a family law attorney to help explain your rights and to protect your interests. Moreover, a lawyer can help you negotiate a waiver of a cooling off period if necessary.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-22-2017 02:15 PM PST

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