Divorce can be one of the most stressful periods in your life. In addition to the emotional drain it causes, the uncertainty of what lies ahead adds to the stress you are facing. While we address the four major issues you will need to resolve in your divorce (alimony, equitable division, child custody, and child support) on our home page, it is often the process itself that really takes a toll. That is why we have developed this short guide to the divorce process. Please understand that in reviewing this material, nothing replaces the guidance of an experienced attorney to help you navigate the difficult path of your divorce.
In general, there are two “types” of a divorce – uncontested and contested. In an uncontested divorce, the parties have come to an agreement on all major issues and just need to properly present a settlement agreement and related required documents to a court for approval (or modification) as the judge requires. Given that this process usually only takes 30-60 days once the proper paperwork is presented, we will not address it in this article. Instead, we will be focusing this material on what happens in a contested divorce.
Contested v. Uncontested
If you are thinking about filing for divorce and you contact an attorney, one of the first questions they will ask you is whether your divorce is going to be contested or uncontested. Often, the answer to that question is … (continue reading).
A contested divorce starts when one party files a “complaint” for divorce. A complaint is a formal legal document that explains to the court that you are seeking a divorce and generally lays out your requests as part of that process.
In order to begin proceedings, the plaintiff, usually through his or her attorney, must file the original complaint or petition with the Clerk of Court in the appropriate county, along with the appropriate filing fee. Additionally, a copy of the complaint or petition must be served on the defendant. To be legally sufficient, a complaint must contain … (continue reading).
Once filed, a complaint must be served upon the other spouse to formally start the process. In order for service of process to be considered proper, the plaintiff must comply with the procedural rules of the Georgia Civil Practice Act. According to the Civil Practice Act, if the defendant is a known resident of the … (continue reading).
Once a party is formally served with a complaint for divorce, he/she usually has 30 days to respond to the filing with an answer. The filing of the answer formally starts the discovery period … (continue reading).
The discovery process generally lasts for six months, subject to shortening or lengthening by the court. During this time period both parties can send written questions to each other (called interrogatories), request documents from the other person (requests to produce), ask the other party to admit that certain statements are true (requests to admit), and formally sit down with a court reporter and ask the other party (and others) questions that are relevant to the divorce (depositions). The goal of this process is to learn information related to the case that will likely influence the ... (continue reading).
As an important side note, anytime along the way, either party can request a temporary hearing to address immediate concerns prior to a final trial. Often, questions of who will live in the marital residence, interim child support or alimony, and temporary custody/visitation decisions are made at this type of hearing.
Alternatives to Trial
In addition, anytime during the course of a case, the parties can attempt to reach a settlement. Often, the formalized process of mediation is used to help the parties resolve their disputes themselves without the need for court intervention ... (continue reading).
After the Complaint for Divorce and Answer have been filed, discovery has been completed, and mediation has been attempted to no avail, the next step is the final trial or final hearing. Commonly, the vast majority of Georgia divorce or family law matters are resolved through settlement without the necessity of going to trial. However, if the parties are unable to agree on all aspects of the divorce matter, even after attempts to settle the matter via mediation,arbitration or settlement conferences, taking the matter to trial is the final alternative. ... (continue reading).
Once discovery is completed, the court will schedule the case for a final trial. Even after a trial, the case may not be over as parties can file post-trial motions such as a motion for a new trial or a motion for reconsideration and even appeal the trial results to a higher court, such as the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court of Georgia.
Finally, please note that most counties in Georgia have slight variances that can significantly impact this timeline. The most notable one is Fulton County (where downtown Atlanta is located). The process in that county is partially governed by additional rules and procedures ... (continue reading).
For many, the first time that they are ever exposed to our litigation system is with a divorce. Without having any background, the divorce process itself can seem overwhelming. We address a few basic common questions about divorce in this section … (continue reading).