Our Marietta Georgia divorce lawyers and Cobb County GA divorce attorneys are here to help you with your questions about how to get a divorce in Georgia. What are your rights? What are your likely obligations? What procedures are there to get you to a final divorce? This article containing information from Atlanta Legal Aid, discusses briefly the basic process of a contested divorce case and an uncontested divorce case.
It is always a good idea to have an attorney represent you when getting a divorce.
If you do not have an attorney, then you are representing yourself in court and are applying for a divorce “pro se” (pronounced “pro say”). You may be able to find forms and instructions on how to file for a divorce in the Clerk’s office or the courthouse law library. A few courts have a specific pro se section that will help you.
(1) File the Complaint for Divorce. First you file a Complaint for Divorce and tell the court why you want a divorce. You must tell the court why you want a divorce. There are specific reasons that the law will allow you to get a divorce. You must say which of the reasons you are asking the court to grant a divorce. In the Complaint you must also tell the court what you want the court to do. Do you want custody of any children you and your spouse have? Do you want the court to award you child support so that you can have money to take care of the children? How do you want the court to divide the property that you and your spouse have? There is a fee to file for a divorce.
You generally file the Complaint for Divorce in the Superior Court of the county where your spouse lives. You may file in the county where you both lived if your spouse moved to another county within six months of the date you are filing. If your spouse has moved out of state, you can file in your county.
(2) Service of Process – the Legal Way to Give the Complaint for Divorce to Your Spouse. You must have a copy of the Complaint for Divorce “served” on your spouse. This means that the sheriff or another “process server” will give the divorce papers to your spouse in the way that the law requires. This is called “service of process”. There is also a fee to have the Complaint served.
(3) Hearing or Trial. After your Complaint for Divorce is served on your spouse the spouse may file an answer. If your spouse does not file an answer, your divorce is considered to be “uncontested”. If there are no issues to be decided (such as child custody, child support, division of property, etc.) then the court will schedule a hearing where the court will make a final decision. If the divorce is contested by your spouse (when they file the Answer), the court may schedule the case for a temporary hearing or a trial.
Courts have different schedules for trying divorces. The court may require that the parties attend mediation. Check with the Clerk of Court concerning your court’s requirements.
Again, it is always a good idea to have an attorney represent you when getting a divorce.
I Have Not Seen My Spouse For Years and I Do Not Know Where My Spouse Is. Can I Still Get a Divorce?
Yes. You will need to tell the court that you tried to find the defendant. You give the court a signed, statement (an “affidavit”) where you:
- swear that to the best of your knowledge the whereabouts of your spouse (the defendant) are unknown
- swear that you have used reasonable diligence in trying to find out where the defendant is currently
- state what the last residence of the defendant was.
A notice must then be published in the newspaper that the court designates for such notices for four (4) consecutive weeks. If your spouse does not file an Answer within 60 days after the notice is first published, the court can grant the divorce at a hearing. NOTE: In a divorce by publication the court cannot award alimony, child support, or property situated outside of Georgia.
If your spouse does file an Answer, the court will schedule a trial.
My Spouse Now Lives in Another State, Can I Still Get A Divorce In Georgia?
Yes. If your spouse was a resident of Georgia at one time, you can request child support, alimony and property division. You will have to arrange to have the petition for divorce “served” on your spouse in the new state.
My Spouse Has Never Lived In Georgia, Can I Still Get A Divorce?
Yes, if you have lived in Georgia for six months or more. But if the court cannot get personal jurisdiction over your spouse then it can not award alimony or child support, or award property in another state. “Personal jurisdiction” means that there are enough connections between your spouse and the State of Georgia that the Georgia Courts have the power to make decisions that will affect your spouse. This is a complicated area of law.
Again, it is always a good idea to have an attorney represent you when getting a divorce.
SOURCE FOR POST: Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc
The Superior Court Family Division uses Status Conferences to help parties resolve legal issues and possibly reach settlements prior to trial. There are 30-day, 60-day, and 120-day status conferences within the Family Division. During status conferences, parties meet with Judicial Officers or the Court to check jurisdiction and discuss issues in dispute and methods to resolve those issues. Discovery obligations are also reviewed and questions regarding temporary financial arrangements, possession of marital home, and child custody are discussed. During status conferences parties may also attempt mediation to resolve issues.
View a video clip of a 30-Day Status Conference
30-Day Status Conference on Contested Cases
Parties meet with Judicial Officers to check jurisdiction, venue, and to discuss issues in dispute and methods to resolve those issues. The Judicial Officer assigned to the case will check to ensure discovery obligations have been met. Questions regarding temporary financial arrangements, possession of marital home, and child custody are discussed. Mediation may be offered to resolve issues being discussed. A Guardian ad litem or Social Services Coordinator may be asked to investigate questions of child custody.
It is essential to the process that parties are prepared for their 30-day Status Conference. This will enable the Judicial Officer to move forward with the case. Parties subject themselves to the risk of having the 30-Day Status Conference rescheduled if the following items are not completed prior to the 30-day Status Conference.
Parties MUST complete the following documents and BRING to the 30-day Status Conference:
- Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. Click here to download a PDF copy of the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit for completion.Note: If Child Support is a legal issue in your case, the Georgia Child Support Commission’s Website has Excel Calculators and downloadable forms to assist in completing the calculations for Child Support.
- Answers to Interrogatories. Interrogatories are nothing more than questions. Each party must provide written answers to all Interrogatories (questions) and bring to the 30-Day Status Conference. Click here to download a PDF copy of the Interrogatories for each party to provide written answers.
- Required Documents to be Produced. It is mandatory that each party obtain certain documents and bring to the 30-Day Status Conference. Click here to download a PDF copy of list of the Required Documents to be Produced.
It is imperative that prior to the 30-Day Status Conference parties have thought about some of their issues and be able to clearly communicate these issues and wants to the assigned Judicial Officer.
For example, in a Divorce action, the Judicial Officer might cover with the parties the following: (this is not an exhaustive list)
- Any child custody issues?
- Parenting time? Should there be any restrictions on parenting time?
- How much for Child Support?
- Alimony? If so, how much?
- Retirement accounts to be divided? Bank accounts to be divided?
- Any property to be divided? What is the property?
- Any debt need to be divided? Any joint credit cards?
- Are there cars involved? Does each party own a car? Who will keep which car? Who will pay for each car? In whose name is it each car titled?
- Are there homes involved? Are there time shares involved? In whose name is each home or time share? Who will keep each house or time share? Who will pay each mortgage? In whose name is the mortgage, lease, or time share?
30-Day Status Conference on Uncontested Cases
At the 30-Day Status Conferences, cases in which the parties reached agreement before filing are presented to the Judicial Officer for review and entry of a Final Order. Some parties with contested cases are able to reach agreement at the status conference through the guidance of the Judicial Officer and the help of on-site mediation. The agreements are also presented to the Judicial Officer for review and entry of a Final Order.
SOURCE: Superior Court of Fulton County, Family Division
A person seeking a divorce in Georgia must establish jurisdiction. He or she is required to have been a resident of the State for at least six months before a Complaint for Divorce can be filed. The complaint must be filed in the county where the other spouse resides. Typically, this will be the county where the parties lived together.
The Complaint for Divorce must state the reason the divorce is sought. There are 13 statutory grounds for divorce in Georgia. The most commonly used ground is “irretrievably broken” (sometimes referred to as the “no-fault” ground). The other 12 grounds for divorce in Georgia are “fault” grounds.
To obtain a divorce on this basis (irretrievably broken), one party must establish that he or she refuses to live with the other spouse and that there is no hope of reconciliation. It is not necessary to show that there was any fault or wrongdoing by either party.
To obtain a divorce on one of the 12 “fault” grounds, one must prove that there was some wrongdoing by one of the parties to the marriage.
As an example, one fault ground is adultery. Adultery in Georgia includes heterosexual and homosexual relations between one spouse and another individual.
Another “fault” ground for divorce in Georgia is desertion. A divorce may be granted on the grounds that a person has deserted his or her spouse willfully for at least a year. Other “fault” grounds include mental or physical cruel treatment, marriage between persons who are too closely related, mental incapacity at the time of marriage, impotency at the time of marriage, force or fraud in obtaining the marriage, pregnancy of the wife unknown to the husband at the time of the marriage, conviction and imprisonment for certain crimes, habitual intoxication or drug addiction, and mental illness.
SOURCE (and for more basic information): State Bar of Georgia
A. The Court
The judge, often referred to as "the Court", is the decision-maker. Show respect for the office of the judge even if you disagree with the particular judge. Be prepared for the possibility that the judge may not share your view or your lawyer’s opinion of what constitutes justice in your case. Some judges are wiser than others, and, being human, they all have good days and bad days.
Never contact a judge about your case. Judges are not allowed to communicate with either party without both parties being present or notified. Any attempt to influence the judge in this way will backfire.
Courtesy to the court staff is also essential.
1. Your side
Early in the preparation of your case, you and your lawyer should have a conversation about what experts may be needed, which ones are available and the merits of the different choices. Once you and your lawyer agree to hire an expert, you should give that person your full cooperation. Unless there is a different arrangement, you are financially responsible for the fees and expenses of your expert witnesses.
If you are sent experts’ reports for your review and comment, discuss them with your lawyer, not with the expert. Conversations you have with your lawyer are privileged and may not be disclosed to third persons. (See Chapter X, Confidentiality.) However all conversations you have with the expert witness and any communications in writing by you to the expert witness may be obtained through discovery by the other side and used in court. You do not have the right to dictate to the expert what the expert’s opinion will be.