Do I need an attorney?

The first question that many couples sometimes ask themselves is whether they can get divorced without incurring the expense of an attorney.

The simple answer is yes, you could file for divorce on your own and others have done it. However, there are also those who thought about it but did not try to file on their own. One of the main documents that is attached to a Complaint for Divorce is what is known as the Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement is the guiding document as to who gets what and who pays for what. The Settlement Agreement is a legal document that parties can use if things do not go according to plan. The court and its staff are not allowed to give any legal advice, so if you create this document without an attorney’s legal knowledge, you could be writing something into it that may not be enforceable or that could cause problems later in life. And, if there are minor children involved, the language of the agreement must adhere to state standards of which you may or may not be aware. Therefore, hiring an attorney is the best way to ensure that any agreement that is prepared will be prepared properly and with all the necessary language that will reflect the intentions of the parties. 

What is an uncontested divorce?

Simply put, an uncontested divorce is where both the husband and wife pretty much know how they want to divide all of their assets and their debts. This is also the least costly form of divorce.

There are usually no minor children involved in these types of cases, and the parties probably have not accumulated many assets. This is not to say that if you do have minor children you will not fit into this category – that may very well be the case. Also, even if you have accumulated a large amount of assets, an uncontested divorce may still work for you.

For these and other reasons, it is important to seek legal advice from a Georgia divorce lawyer when creating a settlement agreement, especially when there are minor children involved.

What are the advantages of filing for an uncontested divorce?

The most obvious answer is cost. Uncontested divorces can cost much less than a contested one. Prices, of course, range from a low flat fee rate to one that can climb into the thousands. The cost to you will depend on variables such as your particular issues, whether and how much property is involved, and how many children there are. The other advantage is that if the parties can resolve their issues on their own, they will not have to go to court. Litigation can very quickly add thousands to legal fees. When an attorney puts you on the clock, you are paying for each minute used by the attorney, and he will also charge you for the time it takes to get to the courthouse and then back to his office. If you call him on the phone and start to chat, you will be billed for that time. Billable hours drive many law firms’ gross income into the stratosphere, which is something you probably want to avoid. Also, if you are called to appear at a hearing, your attorney will bill you for the time spent waiting to speak to the judge. 

Another advantage is the simplicity of the process. Flat fees charged in uncontested divorces control the attorney’s time. He will be more attune to your needs and will use his time wisely. 

Time is also an advantage in uncontested divorce cases. Generally, you will only have to wait about 31 days before going to a final hearing and having the judge sign off on a final divorce decree.

When is an uncontested divorce a bad idea?

If the husband and wife are not on speaking terms, then an uncontested divorce may not work. One of the more important aspects of an uncontested divorce is fluid communication. Both parties must be able to discuss their situation, their assets, their debts, and their children if applicable.      

If your relationship is one where you are constantly arguing over how to divide assets and debts, where to send the children to school, or when visitations are to be scheduled, you may want to consider either a contested divorce or a collaborative divorce. 

There has been a recent surge in a divorce process that puts litigation aside and facilitates a peaceful and collaborative effort to resolve problems. That process is called collaborative divorce.

How do I obtain an agreement?

The best way to approach this is for both parties to sit down and determine what property they have and how they want to divide that property. It could be as simple as listing the property on a sheet of paper with two columns, one side stating what one party wants and the other what the other party wants. Then, if there are some disagreements on what each party wants, a discussion will be required to make some decisions. Once it has been determined who gets what, the information may be used for a draft agreement.

What happens after we reach an agreement?

Once all of the issues between the two parties have been resolved, a draft agreement is written with copies provided to both parties for final review and corrections. Once both spouses are satisfied with the language of the agreement, the party initiating the divorce will file a complaint in the Superior Court along with the settlement agreement. Then it is simply a process of waiting 31 days and appearing at a final hearing.

Can an attorney represent both parties?

Obviously, if the case is a contested matter there will always be opposing attorneys and this question really does not need to be asked. The issue of dual representation arises only when the parties involved in the matter truly want to proceed with an uncontested divorce. The simple answer is no, the same attorney cannot represent both parties. It is unethical for an attorney to represent both parties in an uncontested divorce. If you think that you case does not fall into this category, then you may want to seek the advice of a divorce litigator.

What issues should we consider?

The general issues that both parties should address are those concerning any property owned by the parties, be it real or personal. You will need to decide who will take possession of which property and under what terms. Also, if there are children involved, you will have to decide who has legal custody, who has physical custody, and any requirements regarding financial support for the children.

What is physical custody?

Physical custody is where the children will spend the majority of their time. The parent who has physical custody will have control over the routine daily care, custody, and activities of the children.

What is legal custody?

Legal custody provides the right of the parent to determine how the child or children will be reared. For example, a legal custodial parent will determine where the children will go to school, where the children will go to church, and where and with whom the children will receive their health care.

How are retirement funds divided?

The division of retirement funds will depend on when the retirement funds were acquired and who acquired the funds. If, for example, the parties have individual accounts, they can decide to divide them equally, or they can simply keep what they have and not divide the accounts.

How long will the divorce take?

When the Settlement Agreement has been reached and the parties are ready to file the case in court, it will take approximately 30 to 40 days to secure a Final Judgment and Decree.

How much will a divorce cost?

The cost for a divorce can range anywhere from one hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the services you need and whether your case is uncontested or contested.

The cost for a collaborative divorce varies depending on the number of issues that remain unresolved and the length of time needed to resolve those issues. 

The filing fees for uncontested divorce cases vary from county to county.

SOURCE: DivorceNet