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Going through a divorce can be an emotional, stressful time, full of decisions you must make that can have far-reaching ramifications. Having a trusted, knowledgeable Georgia divorce attorney can make the process much easier, helping you understand all the issues, handling all the paperwork, and ensuring all deadlines are properly met.
First, you will determine whether you are filing a contested or an uncontested divorce.
Is Your Divorce Contested or Uncontested?
A contested divorce is one in which you and your spouse do not agree on one or more of the issues in your divorce (asset division, child custody, child support, spousal support). Your attorneys will negotiate these issues, or, if a mutually agreeable decision cannot be reached, the judge will decide. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are in agreement regarding all the above issues.
Filing for Divorce in Georgia
If you file the divorce papers, then the divorce papers will be served on your spouse, and he or she will have a specific amount of time to answer your allegations. Both parties will complete Discovery, meaning they will exchange financial documents and other documents related to the issues at hand. In the state of Georgia, you can file for a no-fault divorce, meaning you are not specifying “fault,” like adultery or desertion. A no-fault divorce simply states the marriage has irreconcilable differences.
The person filing for a divorce (petitioner) must have been a resident of Georgia for at least six months prior to filing. A nonresident petitioner can file for divorce if his or her spouse has been a resident of Georgia for at least six months. Also, it can be beneficial to be the spouse that files for divorce; that would give the petitioner strategic advantage and more control of the divorce timeline.
There is a downside to being the one who files for the divorce and that is that you will have to pay the filing fees associated with the divorce. Your spouse can also make “counterclaims” once he or she has been served with the divorce papers, and there may be unanticipated facts in the counterclaim that you must deal with.
Divorce Timeline in Georgia
Their are a number of factors impacting how long it takes to complete a divorce in the state of Georgia. Often it boils down to how much either party wants to litigate specific aspects of the divorce. Generally speaking, one could expect an “average” contested divorce in Georgia (if there is such a thing) to take approximately 1-2 years from the moment of filing, to completion. Here are a handful of driving factors to how long the divorce process in Georgia might take:
- Filing paperwork – Day 1: A spouse petitions the court for divorce.
- Answering the complaint – Opposing spouse has 30 days to formally respond.
- Standing orders – Once a spouse has filed for divorce, the court will automatically prohibit either spouse from familial or financial sabotage.
- Discovery –Both spouses are required to disclose things like their assets & income.
- Temporary orders –After Discovery, the process can take up to 12 months or longer to determine child custody, child support and spousal maintenance while the divorce is in process.
- Pretrial negotiation –This phase can take several weeks or months depending on the number and size of assets and debts.
- Custody proceedings –If children are involved you will be required to have a custody agreement and a co-parenting agreement in place. Custody proceedings can add on several weeks or months and considerable expense.
- Late case evaluation –Around 4 months into the divorce process, the court holds a status conference to determine if the divorce is going to trial or will settle.
- Trial –If there is no possibility of an equitable settlement, your divorce will be scheduled for trial. If you’ve reached this stage, you are already likely to have been in the divorce process for at least 6 months, and a divorce trial will add several weeks or months.
- Divorce Decree.
Post divorce actions may extend after your divorce. While not necessarily apart of the initial divorce process, there are likely to be motions and legal actions that come up after the divorce decree is granted, especially in a highly contentious divorce. This includes things like child & spousal support modifications, visitation modifications and the enforcement of asset division.
Grounds for Divorce in the State of Georgia
If you choose not to file a no-fault divorce, Georgia has statutory grounds for divorce which include:
- Intermarriage by those related to a prohibited degree
- Mental incapacity
- Duress, force, or fraud
- Impregnation of the wife by a man other than the husband at the time of the marriage
- Conviction of a crime of moral turpitude with a sentence of two years or more
- Chronic drunkenness or drug use
- Mental illness that is not treatable or curable
Division of Assets
Georgia is an equitable distribution state rather than a community property state. In a community property state, assets are divided 50/50 regardless of who made the money or bought the assets. In an equitable distribution state, the assets are divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Marital and separate property must first be determined.
If a judge must divide the marital assets, he or she will consider the separate assets of each spouse, the income and earning potential of each spouse, any conduct that resulted in dissipation of assets, the future needs of either spouse and all debts. The judge’s goal is to divide the assets in such a way that will make each person “whole” following the divorce.
Under Georgia law, alimony is authorized in limited situations, however, it is not the broad remedy it is in many other states. Alimony may be rehabilitative or permanent; permanent alimony is more likely to be awarded for a spouse in a long-term marriage. Rehabilitative alimony is a short-term measure that enables one spouse to get back on his or her feet following the divorce. It could be awarded to a spouse who needed to return to school or be trained to acquire necessary skills that would enable him or her to be competitive in the job market.
Other Georgia Divorce Issues
Child custody and child support are also determined during a divorce. Child custody is one of the more contentious issues, with courts determining what is in the best interests of the child when making these decisions. The courts operate under the assumption that children benefit from regular time spent with both parents. Legal custody could be given to one parent or shared.
Legal custody allows one or both parents to make decisions about such important issues as education, religion, and health. Physical custody can also be split or one parent can have primary custody while the other has regular visitation. If you are contemplating divorce, it is essential that you have a strong legal advocate in your corner who will ensure your rights and your future are properly protected.
Call Our Experienced Atlanta Family Law Attorneys
At Hobson & Hobson, P.C., our Georgia divorce attorneys know that divorce is never easy. There are numerous issues that can arise, further complicating the process. That’s why we work quickly to help our clients address those issues and navigate through them. We advocate strongly for our clients throughout the divorce process, so we can protect their futures.
Call us today at (770) 284-6153 to schedule a consultation now so you can review all your legal options.