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If you have divorce questions

Filing for Divorce in Georgia – What is the first step?

To initiate a divorce action in Georgia, one party must file a Petition for Divorce in the county in which their spouse resides, not where the filing party resides. For example, if the Petitionerlives in Fulton County, but the Respondent has moved to Cobb County, the divorce action must be filed in Cobb County. After the Petition for Divorce (and all other requisite documents, dependingon the county) has been filed, the Respondent must then be formally served with Petition. There are a few options for service of process in Georgia divorce actions (OCGA §9-11-4(c)):

1. Personal service by county sheriff or marshal – A uniformed officer personally serves your spouse with the divorce papers. This is the least expensive option, if anAcknowledgement of Service (discussed below) is not possible. However, this option may create the most animosity, particularly if your spouse does not know that you have filed for divorce.Additionally, a uniformed officer showing up to your spouse’s place of work unexpectedly, for example, may create other unanticipated consequences. OCGA §9-11-4(c).

2. Personal service by private process server – A plain-clothes person personally serves your spouse with the divorce papers. Though this is a more expensive option, there arecertain benefits. For example, if your spouse wants to make things difficult for you by trying to avoid service, you can give the private process server details about your spouse’s regularschedule, make and model of his/her car, and even a photograph to assist in perfecting service. OCGA§9-11-4(c).

3. Acknowledgement of service – An Acknowledgment of Service is a document your spouse can sign under oath swearing that he/she has received the divorce documents. In thissituation, personal service can be avoided altogether. This option is more likely if your spouse is represented by an attorney, because the attorney can advise your spouse that he/she is notgiving up any rights by signing the document but, rather, is just moving the divorce process along. OCGA§9-10-73.

Once your spouse is served or signs an Acknowledgement of Service, the divorce process will continue and your case will, hopefully, move toward a conclusion with which all parties are satisfied.


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