Uncontested Divorce in GA
Uncontested Divorce in Georgia
Uncontested divorce is the most common way people end a marriage in Georgia. By the time someone files for divorce, both parties usually want to get a divorce. Read this article to learn about uncontested divorce in Georgia.
Uncontested divorce is usually the fastest and least stressful way to end a marriage. The cost for any divorce basically comes down to how well you and your spouse can minimize litigation (law firm hours).
Filing for divorce can bring unexpected outcomes. An article on the Forbes.com website mentions this, "Uncontested divorce is the simplest and easiest way to get a divorce. However, it can be hard to predict in advance if a divorce will settle or one party will not respond, so you may not enter divorce proceedings really knowing if yours will be uncontested." 1
Do I need to hire a divorce lawyer?
In Georgia, a person is not required to hire a lawyer to file for divorce. However, because of the complexities of divorce laws, challenges to prepare and file paperwork, meet time limits, and face a your spouse’s lawyer, it is in your best interest to hire your own lawyer. At the very least, you should consult with a divorce attorney to gain a reasonable understanding of potential outcomes. If you think hiring a lawyer is too expensive, you will be shocked at the long-term cost of making mistakes in handling your own divorce.
Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer is your best chance to achieve an optimal outcome. Keep in mind, you will have to live with the final terms of your divorce. If, after your divorce, you find yourself upset at the results, is there any real comfort in telling yourself, “at least I saved some money on my lawyer fees”?
Why hire a lawyer? You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know. A legal matter is not something you can Google your way through it. Dissolving the marriage is the easy part. Coming out of the marriage in optimal financial shape is the tricky part. You need an experienced divorce lawyer to put you in the best possible situation.
Basic Requirement to File Divorce
If you’re ready to file divorce you need to meet the basic residency requirement, and file at the proper court. Per the Georgia.gov website, "You must file for divorce with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where you or your spouse have lived for at least 6 months."2
The Uncontested Divorce Process
A person can file for divorce at any point in the marriage. Most divorces start with a consultation and then hiring a divorce lawyer. The divorce attorney will answer your questions and let you know what to expect.
Your divorce attorney will ask you to provide basic information they need to complete the papers to file for divorce (petition for divorce). This includes basic contact info for you and your spouse, your grounds for divorce, and more information about your situation.
The divorce law firm will also require you to pay a retainer. The retainer is similar to a deposit. The law firm will deduct the cost of billable hours and expenses from your retainer.
You may need to pay your lawyer more than the original retainer if the hours required to manage your divorce exceed the initial expectation.
Filing the Divorce Petition
Your divorce process officially starts when the Complaint (Petition for Divorce) is filed with the Clerk of Court’s office in the county whre you live. The Complaint contains a specific set of forms and documents. Your lawyer will prepare and submit the Complaint.
When the Complaint has been filed, a copy of the Complaint will be hand-delivered to your spouse (serving divorce papers). Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the Complaint. This means they have 30 days to submit a formal (written) reply to the issuing court.
After the Complaint and Response are filed the lawyers for each party can begin to litigate the terms of the divorce. One of the first things that may come into play are Temporary Orders.
The Initial Hearing
Do you have to have an initial hearing? If your divorce case is uncontested, you may not need to have an initial hearing. Your lawyers may be able to negotiate temporary orders and submit them to the court. If specific elements (i.e., child custody) are hotly contested there may be a need for a hearing before a judge. This is especially true if there are factors such as drug abuse, alcoholism, physical abuse that affect the welfare of minor children.
Temporary Orders are the best way to provide stability during a divorce. A Temporary Order is a court approved document that addresses key points in living during divorce. A Temporary Order can include many things, and most often covers:
- Who is allowed to live in the marital home, and who must live elsewhere.
- The temporary mothly amount to be paid for child support or spousal support.
- Who is obligated to pay certain bills (health insurance, car payments, etc.)
- Temporary custody of minor children and visitation schedules.
- Limits on liquidation of accounts, sale of personal property, etc.
An ugly fact is that, in most cases, both parties are going to experience financial challenges. With Temporary Orders, whether or not you like the terms, both sides at least know what to expect.
Litigation and Mediation
It is common for the divorcing parties to not agree on every single aspect of the divorce settlement agreement. From disputes over parental rights and child rearing, to financial accounts and property, you may need your lawyers to foster agreements.
All of the individual points will be assembled into a document known as your Divorce Settlement Agreement. This Agreement delineates the specifics on dissolving your marriage including: child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, awarding property and financial assets, and assigning related responsibilities and obligations.
Other Requirements in a Divorce
If you have minor children, you will be required to complete a Parenting Class. Per the Cherokee County, Georgia website, "This seminar is court ordered and mandatory for all couples seeking divorce, separate maintenance, paternity (once established), change of custody, visitation, legitimation (once established), and by specific order of the Court in Georgia that have children under 18 years of age."3
Important! Failure to complete this class will prevent your divorce from being made final.
In some divorces, especially when the welfare of children is at risk, the court may require completion of anger management classes, drug or alcohol recovery programs, and more.
The Final Hearing
When the lawyers believe they have successfully brought the parties together on the Divorce Settlement Agreement the lawyers can schedule a final hearing. This is an in-court appearance by both divorcing parties and their lawyers. The court will review the Settlement Agreement for general legality, fairness and thoroughness in addressing all issues. The presiding judge may ask questions, deny certain language, or require additional terms.
If there are areas that lack agreement the judge has the authority to make the final decision. This is not an ideal gamble for either party. The judge may invite you to leave court and promptly arrive at an agreement to avoid ugly surprises.
Finalizing Your Divorce
When the judge confirms all requirements have been met and signs off on the Divorce Decree Settlement Agreement your divorce is granted. The signed papers will be immediately sent to the Clerk of Courts office for processing. Your lawyer will provide you with copies of the signed documents.
It is a good idea to maintain several copies of the divorce papers. You may need them in the event there are future disputes or Settlement modification requests.
If you are not on good terms with your ex-spouse, it is advisable to keep a copy of the Parenting Plan in your vehicle. If there should be a dispute which involves police it will help you to have a copy of the Parenting Plan to show them.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in Georgia?
In Georgia, it’s possible, but not very realistic, for a divorce to be made final in 31 days. If your divorce involves minor children, substantial assets, or a business your divorce will probably take at least four to six months.
Changing the Terms of Your Divorce
In Georgia, either party may file for a divorce modification once every two years. This means that when your divorce is made final, you must wait at least two years to petition the court to change any point.
The sole exception to this is emergency matters affecting minor children. For example, the death or incapacitation of the custodial spouse mandates immediate attention for custody. A custodial parent parent who develops a substance abuse problem, becomes physically abusive or otherwise maintains an unhealthy environment would warrant attention of the family courts.
If you choose to file for a divorce modification you should contact a top divorce attorney. You need to things done well because you get only one shot every two years. Call 678-880-9360 to learn more.
CREDITS and FOOTNOTES
- 1 Janet Berry-Johnson, "What Is An Uncontested Divorce?", July 27, 2022, Available from Forbes.com
- 2 Staff Writer, "File for Divorce", April 20, 2020, Available from Georgia.gov
- 3 Patty Baker, "Divorcing Parents Seminar", March 17, 2019, Available from Cherokee County Court Clerk
- Photo by Alena Darmel, available at Pexels