Uncontested Divorce With Minor Child in Georgia
Uncontested Divorce With Children in Georgia
This article discusses challenges in navigating through an uncontested divorce with minor children in Georgia including support payments, visitation, custody, and more.
Do I Need to Hire a Divorce Lawyer?
In Georgia,you are not required to hire a lawyer to get a divorce. Yes, you could save money, however; it takes only one mistake in a divorce to lose a LOT of money. As to whether or not you need to hire a divorce lawyer, the Southern Judicial Circuit has published a guide which states: "Different situations may require special procedures and courthouse personnel cannot advise you on how to proceed or what forms may be necessary in specific situations. Divorce can be very complicated. The only person allowed to help you in the preparation of these forms is a licensed attorney. "1
The guide goes further by stating: YOU MAY NEED AN ATTORNEY IF:
- The case is contested and your spouse has a lawyer.
- You cannot locate your spouse to serve him or her with your papers.
- You or your spouse has a house, pension, or large amount of property or income.
- You might lose custody of your children.
- You think you will have difficulty getting documents from your spouse about retirement funds, income, etc.
- Even if it is a friendly divorce, you should talk to a lawyer before you sign any settlement papers or file anything in court.
Hiring a lawyer is your best chance of having an acceptable outcome. Keep in mind that you will have to live with the final terms of your divorce. If you find youself (post-divorce) upset at the results, is there any real comfort in telling yourself, "at least I saved a little money".?
Filing Uncontested Divorce in Georgia
Although an uncontested divorce can be relatively simple, when minor children are involved, things can become contentious and complicated. Conflicts affecting children usually include emotional and financial factors that are challenging for both parents.
The role of divorce lawyers is to provide services that affect a specific outcome, in this case a divorce. As part of their services, divorce lawyers act as intermediaries to interact with opposing counsel to reach mutual agreement on all salient matters in the divorce.
Generally, the lawyers communicate to develop a Settlement Agreement which becomes part of your final divorce decree. Your Settlement Agreement could address anything you choose, however; most divorce law firms focus on the common items including:
- Legal Grounds for Divorce
- Preparing and filing a petition for divorce, or responding to divorce papers
- Temporary Orders (terms of living during the divorce process)
- Property division (home, vehicles, personal property, money, etc.)
- Child custody (sole or joint, physical, legal)
- Child visitation
- Child Support
- Spousal support
- Court representation
- Filing all papers to finalize your divorce
Divorce lawyers can also help you with Temporary Protective Orders, Guardianships, etc. In highly contentious divorces your lawyer may work with you to provide private investigators, financial advisors/auditiors, and other third-party services.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?
The answer to this question is as complicated as if asked about the cost of a car or house. The cost of an uncontested divorce when hiring a lawyer depends on a number of factors. Adivorce lawyer for an uncontested divorce with minor children will usually start around $5,000. Because you are effectively buying expertise and hours of time, and the amount of time varies, there really is no set price. It’s not uncommon for some uncontested divorces to run into five figures due to spouses bickering over a multitude of minor issues.
The GA Online Divorce website has more information abouot the cost of divorce. Per their website, ":The average total cost for a divorce in Georgia is $14,700 without children, and $23,500 if there are kids involved, according to the survey. An uncontested divorce costs at least $335 in total court and filing fees.":2. Keep in mind that their information is based on averages . . . which includes small and large cities, cheap and expensive lawyers, and simple to complicated divorce cases.
It is worth noting that people should be cautious about promises of a "cheap divorce". Many of the ads you see cover only the fees to prep and file simple papers, and the money increases quickly as you ask questions and need customization. Before hiring a divorce lawyer, you should ask a lot of questions and hire the attorney you trust.
How long does an uncontested divorce take in Georgia?
Georgia has a mandatory waiting period of 30 days before a divorce can be made final by the Court. Realistically, working through an uncontested divorce will take two to three months. If conflicts cannot be resolved easily, an uncontested divorce may take six months or more. The primary reasons for taking many months to complete an uncontested divorce are disagreements concerning child custody and visitation.
Do I have to go to court for uncontested divorce in Georgia?
An uncontested divorce typically does require a brief time in court. This is for the judge to be able to get answers to any last-minute questions, and make certain everything is in order.
If you and your spouse have agreed on every aspect of your settlement agreement your respective lawyers may be able to have the hearing waived. In this case you will not be required to appear in court.
If you and your spouse have specific points that lack agreement the judge will offer you one last time to come to an agreement or the judge will make the decision. If there are unresolved points you will need to be present in court to work through the matter(s).
Divorcing Parents Seminar
Most counties in Georgia require divorcing parents with minor children to attend a one-day seminar. The seminar reinforces the importance of parents to conduct themselves in a manner that best serves their children. The Cherokee County GA website has a page which offers the following information on the Parenting Seminar, "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. The seminar is designed to provide information to parents to assist them in dealing with the effects of the divorce on the children. Couples do not have to attend the seminar together. Judges will not grant a divorce final until certification is sent that both parties have attended the seminar."3.
Divorce Issues Related to Children
Child Custody in Divorce
In Georgia, before a divorce can be granted by the court, the issue of child custody of all of the minor children of the marriage must be settled. Child custody issues are applicable to children produced in a formal marriage or in dissolving a common-law marriage. In Georgia, the divorce court will consider the preferences of children over 11 years of age regarding their living arrangements. While the court must agree, children over 14 years of age can often choose their custodial parent and residence.
Regarding child custody decisions, Georgia courts do not necessarily favor mothers over fathers. There are a number of factors that are considered to determine custody matters. The core factor is, what best serves the best interests and welfare of the child(ren).. The Divorcenet. com sums up the process in this way, "Child custody laws in Georgia require a judge to consider the following factors, and any other factor that impact’s a child’s best interests: each parent’s home environment and ability to care for and nurture the child. each parent’s physical and mental health. each parent’s emotional ties to the child."4
Visitation rights are a very important part of child custody issues. In many cases a set visitation schedule documenting visitation for every holiday will be decided. When spouses cannot agree to a visitation schedule the court will make the determination. The court has the authority to apply restrictions including supervised visitations, no overnight visitation and more. In certain cases, usually where there is a question of safety, the court may deny visitation rights to a parent.
In Georgia, the State has a specific formula for calculating child support payments. The divorce court considers the income of both parents against a scale of state approved payment percentages for the number of children involved. Additionally the court may consider ages, special needs, and economic challenges of the children and parents. You can visit the Child Support Services website to get an approximation of your potential child support payments.
Eligibility for alimony in Georgia is not an automatic and guaranteed part of the divorce. Certain conditions, such as adultery, can completely nullify any rights to request spousal support. Generally speaking, spousal support is awarded in long term marriages, where one spouse has been the sole income provider and the other spouse has minimal or no income earning potential.
Whether you were never satisfied with your Settlement Agreement, or there are significant life changes, your lawyer can show you how to modify your divorce agreement. After your divorce, you must wait at least one year to file for a modification. You can file for a modification only every 2 years, so choose your battles wisely.
- 1 Staff Writer, "UNCONTESTED DIVORCE WITH MINOR CHILDREN", February 5, 2011, Available from Sothern Judicial Circuit
- 2 Staff writer, "The Average Cost of Divorce in Georgia", March 18, 2022, Available from GA Online Divorce
- 3 Patty Baker, "Parenting Seminar", May 3, 2021, Available from Cherokee County Clerk of Court
- 4 Kristina Otterstrom, "Georgia Child Custody Laws", October 28, 2011, Available from DivorceNet.com
- Photo by Bessi on Pixabay