- by Mary Stearns-Montgomery
- in Divorce
A contested divorce will be your most expensive option because of the time it takes to draw up your complaint, collect information, and argue your case. Fortunately, a variety of options exist as alternatives to a contested divorce.
What are my less costly alternatives to divorce?
An uncontested divorce significantly reduces your divorce time and expenses. In an uncontested divorce, you and the defendant agree upon the terms including:
- Division of property
- Child custody and visitation
- Amount of child support
- Entitlement to alimony
- Attorney Fees
In most uncontested divorces, a spouse will waive his or her right to be served. After the waiving or after the complaint is served to the spouse, the court may grant an uncontested divorce as soon as 31 days have passed. Usually though, based upon court availability, uncontested divorces most often happen within 45-60 days of the waving or serving.
Statistics show that mediation leads to better post-divorce relationships between spouses and better situations for children. Unlike an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse may still disagree about the outcome but decide to undergo mediation with a neutral third party to settle differences.
In fact, most counties require that you attend mediation because there is such a high chance of settling your case. Because you are not spending time in court and paying for many hours of attorney time through a contested divorce case, the mediation process can consume significantly less time and money. It’s still costly, but less costly than litigation.
During the divorce mediation process in Georgia, you and your spouse will discuss and attempt to resolve important issues such as:
- Child custody
- Division of assets
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Attorney fees
With mediation, a neutral third party mediator will listen to all points of view, examine the evidence, and help facilitate negotiations to reach an amicable solution satisfactory to both you and your spouse. The mediation process is also designed to encourage both you and your spouse to work together on creating a common solution rather than vehemently fighting each other in the court system.
If mediation produces no agreement, your case will go to divorce court as a contested divorce. Some divorce cases at least will resolve some of your issues through mediation. So, even if you do not settle every issue, settling some issues helps reduce your overall costs and the time it takes to try a case before the court.
Legal separation (or “separate maintenance action”)
Technically, a legal separation does not exist in Georgia. However, you can file for a separate maintenance action, defined as a judicial determination to separate spouses and provide support without a judicial termination of the marriage.
With a separate maintenance action:
- The court makes the same decisions about child support, child custody, and alimony as in a divorce.
- You and your spouse are legally separated but not divorced.
- You and your spouse are still technically married but not responsible for one another.
You might wonder “Why not just get a divorce?” We find that a separate maintenance action works best when:
- You want time to decide if you and your spouse truly want a divorce.
- You want to retain benefits (such as health benefits) that a divorce would terminate.
- You want to adhere to your religious beliefs.
Filing for a separate maintenance action in Georgia is similar to the process of filing for a regular divorce.
While a divorce terminates a marriage that existed, an annulment undoes a marriage as if it never existed. Know that you can only seek an annulment in Georgia under limited circumstances such as:
- You did not consummate the marriage. You can seek an annulment if you and your spouse never had sexual relations after the intended marriage.
- You or your spouse committed fraud.
- You or your spouse did not have the legal or mental capacity to enter into marriage. For example…
- You or your spouse were not of age to consent to the marriage.
- You or your spouse did not have the mental ability to understand that you were entering into a marriage.
- You or your spouse were still legally married to another person.
- You and your spouse find out you are related too closely to be legally married in Georgia.
If you have had children as a result of the marriage, an annulment is not likely to be granted in Georgia.
Talk to Us
To explore which option works best for you, talk to one of our experienced family law attorneys.