Divorce in Georgia
Divorce is generally an emotional issue, even when both parties agree that parting is in their best interests. The process can be handled in different ways and often depends on the mindset of each person. An overview of how the different processes work and what issues need to be resolved will assist you when determining how you want to proceed.
Divorce, Separation, and Annulment: What is the Difference?
There are three ways in Georgia in which spouses can detach from each other and go on to live separate lives without having any legal responsibility for the other one. That term is used loosely because as you will see each of these options involves a solution including Court Orders setting out the parties’ legal responsibilities.
A final divorce decree ends the marriage, and the parties are free to remarry. Child support, child custody, spousal support, and all other relevant decisions are made either by agreement of the parties or pursuant to a court order after litigation.
Georgia provides for a “Separate Maintenance” action. The court settles many of the issues the same way as in a divorce, but the parties remain married. There are financial and other benefits to this arrangement.
Annulment occurs when a court enters an order declaring there never was a marriage. It is as if it never happened. There are several grounds for obtaining an annulment, including fraud.
Divorce Attorneys in Georgia
If you have decided to begin the divorce process, chances are this is a complicated time for you. Finding an experienced, professional divorce attorney can be the first step to understanding divorce proceedings and finding resolutions that work for you.
Georgia Divorce Laws & Requirements
Georgia has the following legal requirements for obtaining a divorce.
Residency - At the time a party files a divorce petition, he or she must have been a resident of the state for at least six months.
Grounds for divorce - The main ground for a divorce in Georgia is that “the marriage is irretrievably broken.” This means the couple has differences so great, they will never be able to solve them and the only solution is for them to divorce. This is a “no fault” divorce.
Waiting period - The earliest a divorce will be granted is 30 days after the respondent has been served with the divorce petition.
Division of assets - Georgia is an equitable division state, not a community property state. This means that any property acquired by the couple during their marriage, including retirement plans and bank accounts, will be divided in a way the court believes is fair and just. Each party retains his or her own separate (non-marital) property.
Resolution of child custody and visitation - If the issues cannot be resolved between the parties and they are unable to come to an agreement, the court will make the decisions based on what it determines is in the best interest of the children.
Child support and spousal support - If the couple is unable to agree between themselves on these issues, the court will resolve these issues for them.
Divorce Process in Georgia
The divorce process in Georgia begins when one party files a petition in the court requesting a divorce and ends when the court issues its final divorce decree. Between those two events, there are many other factors involved in the process. At any point in time, the process may change to from contested to uncontested, or uncontested to contested, or partially contested and partiality uncontested, and so on.
If there are children, child custody, visitation, and support issues must all be resolved. Marital property will be divided according to equitable distribution principles.
The spouses may come to their own agreements on all or some of the issues with the help of mediation, or the divorce may proceed in an adversary manner according to standard litigation.
At Stearns, Montgomery & Proctor, we guide you through each step of this process. We are always mindful of the emotional toll divorce takes and we work to give you the best possible start to your new life when the divorce is final.
Our Divorce Services
An annulment declares the marriage invalid, as if it never even occurred. The goal is to return the parties to the same legal position they were before the marriage occurred.
The divorce is contested when the parties cannot agree on the issues and may not even agree that they want a divorce. The issues are decided by the court after an evidentiary hearing in which both parties present evidence.
High Asset Divorce
This occurs when the parties have accumulated a lot of assets. They may own several real estate properties together, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and a professional business, for just a few examples.
Separate Maintenance Action in Georgia
Technically, Georgia does not have a legal separation available. However, the parties may obtain a separate maintenance order, which provides for many of the orders obtained by a divorce but allows the parties to retain the financial benefits of being married.
Georgia Divorce Mediation
Mediation provides a way for the parties to divorce amicably. They meet with a neutral third-party mediator who does not take the side of either party but directs their discussions toward coming to mutual agreements about the issues. Issues that cannot be resolved between the parties are presented to the court for resolution.
Marital Property & Asset Division
If you are planning a divorce, one of the things you will want to consider is how you are going to divide your marital property and assets. If there is contention, a divorce attorney can help mediate and provide guidance throughout the process.
Many aspects of divorce requirements are different for military divorces even for those who are residents of Georgia. For example, issues that must be resolved include whether the non-military spouse will be eligible for military benefits, how custody is resolved when a military spouse is deployed, and other questions that only arise when one or both spouses are in the military.
No Fault Divorce
In Georgia, there is no need to allege fault by one party. The most common ground for divorce is simply that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no hope for repairing it or for reconciliation.
Although same-sex marriages are entered into under the same laws as heterosexual marriages, when divorce takes place there are some complex issues that may arise if there are children involved or if the couple were married in another state prior to the time same-sex marriage was allowed or recognized in Georgia.
An uncontested divorce is when the parties agree they need to divorce and agree about the resolution of all issues.
Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Georgia
How much does a divorce lawyer cost in Georgia?
In short, there is no standard fee. Each case is different. If cost is a concern, read our tips about how to afford a Georgia divorce lawyer.
How much does a contested divorce cost?
Much like any type of divorce, forecasting costs can be difficult because every case is different. There are many different types of expenses in a contested divorce, which vary from case to case.
How do I find the best divorce attorney?
Typically, we recommend looking for an experienced divorce attorney to manage any major legal case, like a divorce.
Will my financial situation change after the divorce?
Typically, the parties in a divorce will be taking one household and splitting it into two different households. By definition, unless resources are unlimited, a divorce will be changing your financial situation. That is why it is especially important to plan properly. For those of you who aren’t planners, you should contact an attorney to get an idea on how to get organized. For those of you who are planners, you could save yourself a tremendous amount of time and money by contacting an attorney to learn what else you need to know to plan for the transition.
How does the Georgia divorce process work?
There are many steps in the Divorce process, but listed below is a simple list of some processes:
1. File and serve Divorce documents
2. Answer Divorce
3. Discovery process – including depositions
4. Temporary hearing
6. Evaluations pertaining to children and assets, if the issues are contested
7. Motions hearings for various issues that come up along the way
8. Final Hearing
9. Appeals or other post judgment rights
What are the grounds for divorce in Georgia?
How is property equity divided in a Georgia divorce case?
The standard used to divide equity in marital property in Georgia can be described as “what is fair?” It is a broad standard. So either party can say that the property should be divided one way or the other, and it will be relevant. However, it should be noted that most cases in Georgia are divided by the parties sharing the equity fifty-fifty. That is not a specific law. It is more a matter of what judges and juries have traditionally awarded when put into a “he said, she said” situation.
How does an affair impact a Georgia divorce case?
Other than to bar alimony, claims of adultery will not have a devastating effect on the issues in a divorce case. In other words, the law specifically prohibits alimony if you are the one asking for the alimony and are guilty of having an affair.
That is not to say that an affair will not have an effect on the other issues presented in a divorce. For instance, if you are married having an affair and your child or children are having contact with the person you are having an affair with, the Courts could look at this as harmful to the child and not in the child’s best interest, which is a factor in determining custody to the other parent. You should also take heed that having an affair during the marriage may affect the property division, as the law provides it is a factor to consider. In other words, it is permissible for a Court to use this as a reason to award the other party more money or property.
What happens post divorce?
After a final decision is made, the parties have several options if they are unhappy with the results. Some of the options involve returning to the Court to ask it to reconsider or to point out possible errors in the results. Other options involve appealing to another set of judges to ask them to reverse the final decision. Yet other options may involve filing a new action, such as a change of custody or modification. Final divorce decrees are final when it comes to the division of assets and debts. However, divorce decrees are not final when it comes to periodic alimony, child support, and custody issues.
What type of counseling is right for me?
We often hear that clients are hesitant to seek counseling because they are concerned it will make them look like there is something “wrong” with them. That is simply not true. Most courts look at the marriage as being a partnership that is sick and needs help. Marriage counselors or individual counseling is the best place to go to get help for the marriage. The partner who is willing to look at his or her part and work on the changes necessary to make the relationship better for the sake of the children will be favored.
Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor is here to help you with all of your divorce needs. Contact us for a free divorce consultation today and get all the information you need to move forward in your divorce process.