DIVORCE IN GEORGIA
A divorce can be an emotionally and physically draining experience that brings up a wide range of emotions. It can become a long, stressful process that leaves you feeling angry, upset, and lonely. Attorney Caryn S. Fennell understands how difficult going through a divorce can be, and can help you through the process. She has handled hundreds of family law cases, and will fight for you every step of the way.
Here are some frequently asked questions about divorce in Georgia.
What’s the difference between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on everything, such as child custody, child support, property division, alimony, and visitation, and do not need the court to divide assets and make determinations. An uncontested divorce can work when both parties can come to amicable terms. An uncontested divorce is often less complicated, less time-consuming, and less costly.
A contested divorce is the exact opposite. In a contested divorce, the parties cannot agree on all the issues, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. One of the spouses also might not want the divorce. They might have to come to an agreement through a divorce mediator or a judge making the final decision.
What are the 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia?
Georgia is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that neither spouse is required to prove any “fault” on the part of the other spouse when filing for a divorce. The spouse just has to assert incompatibility or irreconcilable differences.
Georgia became a no-fault state in 1973 when they added the 13th ground for divorce, which is “The marriage is irretrievably broken.” Before then, Georgia had 12 “fault” grounds for divorce, meaning one spouse had to prove that the other was at fault for the marriage breaking down. Georgia has still kept these 12 grounds, which have mostly been part of the law since 1850.
Here are the 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia, as stated in O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3:
- Intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity;
- Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage;
- Impotency at the time of the marriage;
- Force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage;
- Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the husband;
- Adultery in either of the parties after marriage;
- Willful and continued desertion by either of the parties for the term of one year;
- The conviction of either party for an offense involving moral turpitude, under which he is sentenced to imprisonment in a penal institution for a term of two years or longer;
- Habitual intoxication;
- Cruel treatment, which shall consist of the willful infliction of pain, bodily or mental, upon the complaining party, such as reasonably justifies apprehension of danger to life, limb, or health;
- Incurable mental illness.
- Habitual drug addiction, which shall consist of addiction to any controlled substance as defined in Article 2 of Chapter 13 of Title 16; or
- The marriage is irretrievably broken. Under no circumstances shall the court grant a divorce on this ground until not less than 30 days from the date of service on the respondent.
Do “fault” grounds still make a difference in divorce?
Yes. Fault, such as adultery, cruel treatment, or desertion, can be can be considered by the court when determining alimony, child custody, and dividing the property.
The Divorce Process
What are the residency requirements for filing a divorce in Georgia?
You must have lived in Georgia for at least six months before filing the divorce.
How do you file for a divorce in Georgia?
When you and your spouse are separated legally, you then can file for a divorce. You should file your complaint for divorce with the superior court of the county of your spouse. This complaint will cover information about the marriage, such as current living arrangements, children of the marriage, assets, debts, and the specific grounds on which you are seeking the divorce.
Your spouse is expected to respond to either acknowledge or dispute the request. If you present your spouse with divorce papers, he or she will have 30 days to respond, providing they live in the state of Georgia. If the petitioned partner does not reside in Georgia but does live in the United States, they are granted 60 days to respond to the claim. Parties who reside outside America have a total of 90 days to respond to divorce papers filed against them by a resident of the United States.
How do you serve divorce papers in Georgia?
There are three ways to properly serve your spouse with a notice of your divorce in Georgia: Acknowledgment of Service form, by Sheriff, or by a private process server.
If you believe your spouse will accept service of the complaint, then the Acknowledgment of Service form is the best option. He or she will receive the paperwork in the mail and sign the Acknowledgement of Service form in front of a notary, which will then be filed in court.
If you believe it’s unlikely he or she will acknowledge service and not cooperate, you will have to serve your spouse by Sheriff a private process server in order to move your case forward.
What happens while I wait for the divorce to be finalized?
While the divorce is pending, it may be necessary to request a temporary hearing for certain issues. This temporary hearing will temporarily resolve issues such as child custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, debts, a restraining order against abuse, and property possession until the final trial.
What is discovery?
The discovery process occurs in contested cases. Discovery is the act of gathering information which the Court may deem valuable when attempting to reach a final ruling in divorce proceedings. Discovery is a complex process and generally has major implications on the Court’s decision should the divorce go to trial, which means included evidence must be presented in an appropriate manner. We will use all evidence gathered during the discovery process to craft a compelling argument almost certain to guide the client to their desired outcome.
Do I have to go to court to get a divorce?
You will likely won’t have to go to court if your case can be resolved in an uncontested manner. Many Georgia courts let both spouses waive a court hearing and present an uncontested case on the pleadings.
However, if you reach a settlement agreement with your spouse, then you will have to present your settlement agreement to the court. Once the court approves the settlement agreement, the court’s order concludes the lawsuit.
What is decided at the final trial?
At the final trial, both parties will present testimonial evidence and can call other witnesses. The judge solely will decide on child custody and parenting time; the judge or a 12-person jury can resolve financial issues, such as division of property, division of debts, alimony and child support.
Once the decision is rendered by a judge or jury, it is written into a court order that is binding upon both parties. After the final decision is made, the wife’s maiden name can be re-established.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
This varies case by case. If the divorce is uncontested, it can be resolved quickly, while contested divorces can take months.
How much does a divorce cost?
While there isn’t a way to predict the total cost, having a litigation plan will help you control and reduce fees.
Do I really need an attorney?
Divorces are complex and emotionally distressing. Having an experienced, knowledgeable, and objective attorney will ensure all matters are resolved for both parties.
Call Our Atlanta, GA Lawyers Today For Legal Help With Your Divorce
The divorce process is a trying one, regardless of the circumstances surrounding each particular case. In certain instances, both parties may amicably agree to all terms and there will only be a few formalities to tend to. Oftentimes, however, proceedings become heated and the result is a series of court battles to determine which party takes what.
The Law Firm of Caryn S. Fennell will be there to file your paperwork and walk you through the many intricacies the process. We will fight for you until a final decision is reached and you can proceed with your life.
If you have questions about getting a divorce, call our law firm today at (770) 479-0248 for a free consultation.