If you’re considering a divorce in Georgia, you may be overwhelmed trying to figure out what steps to take. Are there any preliminary requirements? Where should you file – and what documentation is required?
We’ve provided a general overview of the Georgia divorce process to answer these and other questions. However, it should be noted that each court has different requirements and deadlines to adhere to. It’s always best to consult an experienced Georgia family lawyer to ensure that you provide thorough information and file everything correctly.
If you have questions or need legal advice, contact the experienced Douglasville divorce attorneys at Bardley McKnight Law, LLC. We offer a confidential consultation, so call (470) 308-5409 to schedule yours.
How Can Bardley McKnight Law Help With Your Divorce in Georgia?
The divorce process in Georgia can be daunting and time-consuming. An attorney can significantly ease your burden and alleviate your stress during such an emotional and trying time.
At Bardley McKnight Law, we’re dedicated to helping our clients move forward with their lives. We understand the difficulties and pain that a divorce can bring. That’s why we provide compassionate, personalized representation throughout your case. You can trust that we’ll be your fiercest advocates and obtain an outcome that best meets your needs and objectives.
Here’s how we can help you navigate the divorce process in Douglasville, Georgia:
- Listen to your goals and explain your rights and options
- Help you make decisions regarding critical elements of your case, including property division, child-related matters, and alimony
- Handle all communications and negotiations with your spouse or their attorney as we work towards a positive resolution
- Draft and file all pleadings and monitor relevant deadlines
- Represent you in court proceedings and at trial if necessary
Contact our family law firm in Douglasville, GA to discuss your divorce case and get preliminary advice and guidance.
What Are the Requirements for Divorce in Georgia?
Before you file a divorce petition, you need to ensure that you meet the state’s requirements:
- Residency requirement: You or your spouse must have resided in Georgia for at least six months prior to filing the petition.
- Separation requirement: There isn’t a specific time you must be separated before seeking a divorce in Georgia. However, you must show that you and your spouse have ended marital relations with the intent to dissolve the marriage.
If you meet the requirements, you must then decide the grounds for divorce and whether your action is contested or uncontested.
The Type of Divorce You File for Will Affect the Process
In Georgia, there are 13 grounds for divorce, one of which is no-fault – or the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you allege one of the 12 fault-based grounds, you’ll need to have evidence proving it. For example, if you’re divorcing your spouse due to their adultery, you’ll have to prove the extra-marital affair to the court.
If you select a no-fault divorce and agree with your spouse on all issues, you can seek an uncontested divorce. This will make the process easier, quicker, and more cost-effective.
It will also allow you and the other party to work out issues amongst yourselves based on your preferences. Otherwise, matters may be decided by a judge who doesn’t know your relationship or life as well as you do.
However, your divorce is contested if any of the following apply:
- It’s a fault-based divorce
- You and your spouse disagree on an issue (no matter how small)
- Your spouse doesn’t want a divorce
Contested divorces are more stressful, take longer, and cost more money to resolve. If the parties cannot negotiate an agreement on all issues, the matter will likely go to trial. This could significantly prolong the divorce process. It also takes matters out of your hands, allowing a judge to decide on important issues.
General Steps of the Divorce Process in Georgia
If you meet Georgia’s residency requirements and know what type of divorce you’re applying for, you can begin the process as outlined below.
File the Divorce Paperwork With the Appropriate GA Superior Court
First, you need to determine which county has jurisdiction over your divorce. You will typically file in the county where your spouse resided for the last six months.
However, in some cases, you can file in the county where you live.
For example, you can file in your county of residence if:
- Your spouse moved from that same county within six months of the date of filing for divorce; and
- That county was where you resided as a married couple at the time of separation.
Other scenarios may allow you to file in your county of residence, such as if your spouse consents to the venue.
Each county’s superior court has specific requirements regarding what documents to file. It’ll also depend on whether your divorce is contested and whether you have minor children.
You may need to file the following forms, depending on your situation:
- Domestic Relations Case Filing Information Form
- Divorce Petition/Complaint for Divorce
- Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit
- Acknowledgment of Service
- Separation Agreement
- Consent to Trial
- Parenting Plan (if you have minor children)
- Child Support Worksheet
Not all of these documents need to be filed right away, and courts in your jurisdiction may have additional forms to submit. It’s best to either check with the clerk of court or consult an experienced Georgia family law attorney for assistance. It’s crucial to file the correct documents with all pertinent information and keep track of important deadlines in your case.
You should take an original and two copies of each document to the court clerk. They will assign a case number, keep the original, and stamp two copies for you and your spouse.
You will also need to pay a filing fee when filing the initial divorce paperwork. It’s typically around $200–$300, depending on the jurisdiction.
The Petitioner Serves the Divorce Documents on the Other Spouse (Respondent)
Once the petition for divorce and other required documents are filed with the superior court, they must be served on your spouse (the respondent).
This can be done in a few ways, including:
- A certified process server hand-delivers the documents to your spouse
- A sheriff hand-delivers the documents to your spouse
- Your spouse signs an acknowledgment of service stating they’ve received a copy of the documentation
- Publication in a local newspaper if you don’t know where your spouse is (if you go this route, you’ll have to file additional “service by publication” documents with the court)
Your spouse then has 30 days to respond to the divorce petition. They respond by filing an Answer admitting or denying the claims in your petition. They can also file a Counterclaim if they’re asking for something (such as alimony) or proposing different terms.
Attend a Mandatory Parenting Seminar
If you and your spouse have minor children, Georgia courts require you to attend mandatory parenting classes. The court will not grant your divorce until you complete this requirement.
Many jurisdictions require the parenting course to be completed within 30 days of serving the divorce papers on the respondent. If you have children, check with the court to determine if there’s a deadline to complete the seminar.
The course must be court-approved, and you must file a proof of attendance/certificate of completion with the court.
Discovery, Negotiation, and Mediation Phase To Reach a Settlement Agreement
Once the respondent files an answer, your case will proceed to the discovery phase. At this stage, you and your spouse will exchange information, such as financial disclosures and other personal information.
Information may be gathered using interrogatories, requests for admissions, requests for production, and/or depositions. By learning each other’s views and objectives, you may be able to negotiate and reach an agreement outlining how everything will be handled.
Depending on your situation, you may need to resolve issues relating to:
- Property division, including marital assets and debts, retirement accounts, the marital home, bank accounts, and personal property
- Spousal support/alimony
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
If you reach a final settlement, it’s best to have an attorney draft it – or at least review it. The court will have specific requirements and may reject the agreement if it fails to meet them.
If you cannot settle all aspects of the case, the court may order you to attend mediation, arbitration, or a settlement conference. You may be able to resolve some or all issues during this process with a neutral third party’s assistance.
There may also be temporary hearings in court for the judge to rule on specific issues, especially if you’re waiting for a final hearing.
Georgia Divorce Trial
If you fail to settle any issues related to your divorce, your case will proceed to trial before a superior court judge. Each side will present their arguments and evidence, and the judge will issue a final divorce decree outlining their decisions.
Even if your case is uncontested, a judge will issue a final order. It will likely follow the terms of your agreement unless it is somehow defective.
Contact Our Douglasville Divorce Lawyers for Help Navigating the Process
As you can see, the Georgia divorce process has many moving parts. Making a mistake can affect your case and result in an outcome you don’t want.
If you’re thinking of divorcing your spouse in Douglasville, GA, contact Bardley McKnight Law to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney.