Getting Started in Divorce
What Should I Know Before Starting A Divorce?
If you come to the conclusion that a divorce is what's best for you, there are several things to take into consideration before you think about filing for divorce in Georgia. You must first decide whether your divorce is contested or uncontested - this will affect the length and most likely the cost of your divorce. Whether a divorce is contested or uncontested comes down to the what the parties can agree on. Next, you'll want to determine the grounds for your divorce. The most common ground for divorce in Georgia is that "the marriage is irretrievably broken". Other grounds may apply in specific situations. Next, you or your lawyer will have to draft a Complaint for Divorce and file it with the court and serve it onto the opposing party. The opposing party will then have the opportunity to file an answer and get the divorce action underway.
Contested Divorce Vs. Uncontested Divorce
We disagree on at least one part of our divorce.
Unresolved issues will have to be decided by court or mediation
This will take longer.
This will be more expensive.
We agree on all aspects of our divorce.
Both parties can agree on all 4 aspects of divorce and submit agreement to the court.
This is shorter and faster.
This is cheaper than contested divorce.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Georgia?
Each person's case has unique facts and circumstances that make it different. This makes predicting exactly how long a divorce will take a bit more difficult. However, your divorce will be shorter if it is uncontested. Uncontested divorce means that both parties agree on how to resolve all aspects of child custody, child support, alimony and equitable division (property division). The only thing left to do in that scenario is to have a lawyer draft a settlement agreement that encompasses your agreed upon terms and file that agreement with the court. This process can move quickly. In some cases it can take just over 30 days. If your divorce is contested, there will be a more formal procedure to follow. The parties will go back and forth attempting to come to an agreement on the 4 aspects of divorce in mediation. If mediation/negotiation is unsuccessful, they will have to get on the court's trial calendar and have a final hearing in court. This process can take anywhere from several months to over a year.
Grounds for Divorce in Georgia
In Georgia there are 13 grounds for divorce. To file for divorce, you must allege one of the 13 grounds for divorce as the reason for your divorce filing. The most common ground for divorce in Georgia is that "the marriage is irretrievably broken". This is a general ground that essentially means that there is no hope for reconciliation. This is also a "no-fault" ground for divorce meaning that it is not necessary to allege fault if the marriage is irretrievably broken. Not every divorce is filed on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Some situations may necessitate considering different grounds like adultery or cruel treatment.
Filing a Complaint for Divorce
A Complaint for Divorce (also called a Petition for Divorce) is the legal document that initiates a divorce. When filing your divorce papers, the complaint will be one of the first documents prepared and filed. The complaint will allege the grounds for divorce, and ask for a divorce and any other relevant relief sought.
File an Answer
I've been served, what do I do? Upon being served with the complaint for divorce, you will have 30 days to file an answer. Don't fret, 30 days should be plenty of time to hire a lawyer, draft an answer and file said answer with the court. The answer will respond (admit or deny) to each of the plaintiff's allegations and to assert any defenses that may be necessary.
Does it Matter Who Files First?
It depends on the situation. You are not more likely to win because you filed first. However, filing for divorce affects the timing of when documents must be filed throughout the case. For this reason and others, there may be circumstances where filing first is important.
Service of Process
A divorce cannot be initiated until the complaint and summons are served onto the defendant. The idea of service is grounded in the theory that the other party must have proper "notice" of the lawsuit so they can take the appropriate measures needed to respond. Service is a formal process governed by the Georgia Civil Practice Act.