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Complaint for Divorce

What is a Complaint for Divorce?

A Complaint for Divorce in Georgia (also called a Petition for Divorce) is the legal document that initiates divorce proceedings. The complaint formally asks the court for a divorce. It generally must contain certain items to be legally permissible. Below we have listed out several items that must be found in the complaint for divorce for it to be valid. To begin divorce proceedings, the plaintiff, usually through his or her attorney, must file the original complaint or petition with the Clerk of the 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.

What Must be Included in a Complaint for Divorce?

To be legally sufficient, a complaint must contain or allege the various elements. For example, a complaint must allege:

  • That the court has jurisdiction over the parties.
  • That the action is being brought in the proper venue.
  • The date of the marriage.
  • The date of separation.
  • The grounds for divorce.
  • Verification by the plaintiff.
  • A specific demand or prayer for the relief sought.

Please note - each divorce is unique and cases vary from case to case, therefore this list is not intended to be a complete list of every requirement for your individual complaint. It is advisable to speak with a divorce lawyer about your complaint to ensure it includes everything necessary for your divorce.

What is a verification? In Georgia, every petition or complaint for divorce must be verified. For a verification to be legally sufficient there are three requirements that must be met: 1) there must be a written oath embodying the facts as sworn to by the affiant. This oath normally takes the form of an oath stating that everything in the complaint or petition is true and accurate to the best of the plaintiff's knowledge; 2) the verification must be signed by the plaintiff; and, 3) the verification must be notarized.

In addition to the verification, Georgia law requires that every complaint state a specific demand or prayer for relief. Satisfying this element normally involves providing a short statement at the conclusion of the complaint that states what the plaintiff would like the court to grant or to order. Prayers for relief normally include requests that the court grant the plaintiff a total divorce, that child support be awarded to the plaintiff, etc.

Jurisdiction in the Complaint for Divorce

A complaint must allege that the court has jurisdiction over the parties and their divorce. For a Georgia superior court to have jurisdiction over a divorce, it must shown that a valid, subsisting marriage exists. If for some reason the marriage that the parties are attempting to dissolve is not valid, the court would not have jurisdiction to grant a divorce. The plaintiff must have been a resident of the state of Georgia for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.

Venue for the Complaint for Divorce

In addition to jurisdiction, the complaint must show that the divorce is being brought to the proper venue. Venue determines the most appropriate location for the proceedings to occur. In Georgia, divorce cases are tried in the county where the defendant resides, if a defendant is a resident of Georgia. If the defendant is not a resident of this state, then in the county in which the plaintiff resides.

Failure to Respond to the Complaint

A defendant has 30 days from the date of service to answer a complaint for divorce. What happens if they fail to answer the complaint for divorce? The result can be particularly disastrous. If the defendant does not file an answer within 30 days of being served with the complaint, he/she waives all future notices regarding the trial of the case, including the time and place of the trial, the entry of judgment, and any notification of the decision. Basically, the whole divorce trial may go on without the defendant.

Additional Resources 

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