In the state of Georgia there are 13 grounds for divorce. One of these is “irretrievably broken [marriage]”, or the no-fault ground. Unlike the other 12 grounds for divorce in Georgia, this means that one does not need to prove that there was any wrongdoing by one of the parties of the marriage. A couple must meet residency requirements and the couple must be considered separated. For a couple to be considered separated they may live in the same house, but they may not share a room and/or have a sexual relationship.
To fulfill the residency requirements before getting a divorce, a couple must have resided in Georgia for at least 6 months.
Filing for Divorce
Once a couple meets the residency requirements, and is separated, the next step is to file for divorce. The Plaintiff (the one that is seeking the divorce) will file a complaint with the superior court of the county of their spouse, or if the parties agree and file a venue waiver, in the county where Plaintiff resides. If the plaintiff’s spouse no longer lives in Georgia the complaint can be filed in the county of the plaintiff’s residence.
The complaint will explain information about the marriage, like the present living arrangements, children of the marriage, assets, debts and the specific grounds on which the plaintiff is seeking the divorce. Next, a copy of the complaint will be served on the Defendant (the other spouse) by the sheriff or other process server approved by the court. The defendant can avoid service by choosing to acknowledge the service by law. In some cases where a Defendant cannot be located, an affidavit of diligent search can be filed and a court may allow service by publication (that search must be extensive).
After the defendant receives the complaint for divorce, he or she may contest the reason claimed for the divorce, or contest the claims for alimony, child custody, child support or property division. The answer to the complaint must be filed with the court.
If the parties have reached an agreement and do not desire to proceed with a lengthy trial, they can use Rocket Lawyer’s easy interview process to complete a Divorce Settlement Agreement outlining all the details the division of property, assets, debts and liabilities and settling matters of child support, custody and visitation. If there are children, the state-mandated Excel support worksheet, financial affidavits and Child Support addendum are used in most counties.
While the filing is processed, and the couple waits to go to court to settle their divorce, either spouse may request a temporary hearing. This temporary hearing is meant to resolve the day-to-day issues of child custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, debts, and property possession while the couple waits for their divorce. The judge, after deciding the best course of action to stabilize the situation until the trial, will decree a temporary order that would temporarily resolve the issues at hand. This temporary order would also prohibit one party form selling assets, transferring money or interfering with the children.
During the final trail a lone judge or a 12 person jury (if one of the parties requests a jury) will resolve all the financial issues of the marriage (division of property, division of debts, alimony and child support) and any questions of child custody and parenting time. During the trial, both parties present testimonial evidence and may call other witnesses. Once the decision has been rendered by the judge or jury, a court order is written that is binding for both parties. Also, once the final decision has been made, the wife’s maiden name may be reinstated.
A Note about Forms
The Howard Law Group’s interview process will walk you through creating a Divorce Settlement Agreement for your uncontested divorce. Unfortunately the state of Georgia doesn’t offer the documents necessary to file a divorce online. You must obtain these documents from your local County Clerk of Court. Not all counties offer all needed forms, but several counties, including Fulton and Dekalb, have online forms that can be adapted to the counties where clerks do not provide court forms.
A Note about Going to Court
If a couple can reach an agreement that resolves all the issues that arise from ending a marriage, including the division of property and finances and the custody of children, then they may present a settlement agreement to the court. If the court approves, the settlement agreement can become a court order, and the court order concludes the lawsuit.
Note that many, but not all Georgia courts, allow the parties to waive a court hearing and present an uncontested case on the pleadings. Many counties have local procedures that must be followed as to the form to request waiver of hearings.
In cases with children, many courts mandate a parenting class prior to a final order, and most courts now mandate mediation in contested cases.
Whether you and your spouse are in agreement on the terms of divorce or not, you might consider finding a lawyer to help you with your divorce filing.