Divorce Lawyers That Care
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.
Our attorneys at the Law Firm of Caryn S. Fennell understand how difficult going through a divorce can be, and can help you through the process. We have handled hundreds of family law cases, and will fight for you every step of the way.
Our attorneys have a deep understanding of family and divorce law, along with extensive experience in and out of the courtroom which makes this law firm an excellent choice for those facing divorce or divorce related family legal issues in Georgia.
Our firm’s broad scope of experience covers a diverse range of circumstances surrounding divorce and marital law. When you need an advocate in your corner to fight for your rights and family, we are there to listen and fight tirelessly on your behalf.
Divorce Legal Services in Georgia
A contested divorce is a divorce proceeding in which the involved parties are unable to reach an amicable agreement as to whether or not to settle on terms and the details of the marriage dissolution, or whether or not to get a divorce in the first place.
Disagreements Often Occur Around:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Right to spousal support
- Allocation of assets
- Division of outstanding debts
- Parenting plans
- Disputes surrounding the reason for the breakup
- And more…
A contested divorce needs to be settled in a court of law, and often involves a nuanced process and complicated steps each party must go through before finalization of the divorce. Having an experienced attorney familiar with local GA law is prudent and can help make sure the process goes smoothly while strongly advocating for the best possible outcome.
Other Issues with Regards to a Contested Divorce
According to Georgia State Code (O.C.G.A. 19-5-3), there exist twelve “fault-based” grounds for divorce including:
- Mental cruelty
- Habitual intoxication
- And more…
Accusations surrounding any of the above or other “faults” may result in or impact an unfavorable settlement. Our firm takes these allegations seriously and are ready to prepare a solid defense strategy for your case in a way that best positions you for a favorable outcome.
Divorce can be an emotionally charged process, with a myriad of personal and legal issues complicating the matter. However, with an uncontested divorce both parties are in general agreement on both getting divorced and the overall terms of the divorce itself.
Issues in Uncontested Divorce Cases May Include:
- Asset division and marital property
- Spousal support
- Child custody and support
- Distribution of outstanding debt
- And more…
With an uncontested divorce the major terms of the divorce, including those items above, have been agreed upon by both parties, resulting in less negotiation, and an overall more streamlined process.
As it relates to Georgia law, “legal separation” is not acknowledged by the courts. However, in its stead one may file for a “separate maintenance action”. This action is defined as a judicial determination to separate spouses without legal termination of the marriage itself.
Benefits of Legal Separation May Include:
- Court mandated decisions and enforcement of: child support, alimony, custody and other items traditionally settled in a divorce;
- Legal separation without an actual divorce on file; and
- Both parties/spouses are by law married, but not responsible for one another
Divorce mediation is an often highly beneficial process couples can take before moving forward with their divorce proceedings. Mediation involves the use of an independent, unbiased third party, called a “Mediator”. This mediator consults with both parties individually and together, helping to negotiate and find amicable ground with regards to issues that will come up later in proceedings (such as distribution of assets).
When mediation may benefit their clients, attorneys often recommend this course of action as a means to reduce legal costs, expedite the process, and reduce the stress of emotionally charged negotiations later on.
In the event that mediation is unable to produce an agreement satisfactory to both parties, the case will proceed to divorce court as a “contested divorce”.
It is important to note that mediation is not an “all or none” process. Some items may be agreed upon in mediation, while others may require contention in court. Meaning that even if mediation is unable to resolve all issues on the table, it can still help reduce the total number of issues that require court proceedings to settle.
What to Expect in Divorce Mediation
Under the Georgia Code, those issues relating to the child custody and support, the division of marital property, and alimony payments are required to be resolved prior to the finalization of your divorce. Those couples unable to reach agreements on their own may be referred by the court to mediation.
During the process of mediation the goal is to open the lines of communication between you and your former partner, working to create solutions and facilitate productive discussions around important issues. The mediator may make suggestions and work to ease both parties into an amicable resolution, but the decision to agree or disagree is entirely in the hands of each separated party.
For many Georgia residents there is confusion surrounding the difference between a divorce and an annulment. In Georgia, an annulment is often an option when the goal is to have the marriage dissolved and any recording of it removed from public record. Divorce, by contrast, dissolves the marriage, but a record of that marriage having existed is still on file.
In order to file for an annulment in Georgia, certain circumstances need to be met. An experienced attorney such as Caryn S. Fennell can help you through that process.
No Fault Divorce
For a divorce to be considered “no fault”, one spouse must state a belief that the marriage is “irrevocably broken” or over. Under no-fault divorce law, each party has the freedom to sue for divorce under the singular claim of “irreconcilable differences”.
This concept of a unilateral divorce means that either party may, at any time, end the marriage and is free to leave. The majority of divorces in Georgia are no-fault divorces.
Unlike at fault divorces, a no fault divorce is filed on the grounds of irreconcilable differences rather than on fault such as desertion or adultery. However, this does not mean that marital misconduct did not occur on part of one or both parties, nor that the terms of the divorce are uncontested.
Although same sex partners have the same rights under Georgia law as any other couple, certain legal complications can still arise in the event of a separation or divorce. Caryn S. Fennell and her team of legal professionals can provide you with compassionate, friendly and sound legal advice and support based upon years of experience navigating the Georgia legal system. We can answer any questions you may have, and show you how we can use divorce law and proven strategies to help ensure the best possible outcome in your case.
Issues Regarding Same-Sex Divorce in Georgia
In 2015, the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same sex marriage across the country. Although the law applied to a same-sex couple is the same as heterosexuals, property division is sometimes more complex.
For example, same-sex couples often have significant joint holdings from their time together, sometimes requiring lengthy negotiations in order to address both pre-marital and post-marital division of property.
FAQ 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 Law Firm 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.