Contested Divorce in Georgia
What is a Contested Divorce in Georgia?
A contested divorce is where parties cannot reach an agreement on whether to get a divorce or settle on the terms and details of the dissolution. The details usually center around distribution and allocation of assets, finances, alimony, child support or custody.
A contested divorce is settled in court and there are numerous and often complicated steps that the parties will have to go through before a divorce is adjudicated and finalized. An experienced attorney that can advise and handle legal rights issues will help ease the complexity of a contested divorce.
As opposed to an Uncontested Divorce, whereby both parties agree to all terms prior to submitting to a third party to decide (a trial court, an arbitrator, etc), a Contested Divorce is generally a more time intensive and intricate process as disputed matters cannot be addressed without a Court ruling. Matters such as property division, alimony, custody of children, and child support are typically what require a judge or jury to ultimately decide, assuming of course that all county and court prerequisites are met.
Some divorcing couples are able to reach agreements on pertinent issues. In contested divorce cases, there are disputes over the reasons for the breakup and complications in terms of other divorce-related issues.
The Process of Contested Divorce in Georgia
In a Georgia contested divorce a respondent has 30 days after receiving a Complaint of Divorce to respond.
The Discovery phase of your divorce can be one of its most intense times. During the Discovery phase, you must disclose many personal facts about your life and finances.
In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a mediator to discuss the issues on which you can come to agreement before continuing the divorce process.
When alternatives to trial have not worked, spouses will need to prepare for going to trial in their divorce. This can be a long and complex process.
It’s important to understand that while the Georgia contested divorce process often requires much more long-term attention by way of pleadings, discovery, mediation, and potentially a trial; it is completely possible to settle during the process, or even come to a partial settlement agreement. After all, there may be a few items in the contested process that parties can agree upon, prior to presenting the case to a judge. If both sides can agree on certain terms of the divorce, the length of time to get a divorce and the expense of the divorce is considerably lessened. Counterbalance that with the possibility that strategically it may be best to submit all of the issues to the judge or jury for decision. Decisions like this should not be made without a thorough discussion with an attorney who has expertise in such matters. Further, without a settlement, a contested divorce in GA could demand the expertise of forensic accountants with regard to the financial matters or a guardian ad litem with regard to child custody evaluations, thus slowing the entire process.
What to Expect When You Contest a Divorce
Unless you and your spouse agree to part ways amicably, either or both of you have the right to file a divorce petition based on fault grounds in an effort to bolster your legal positions. Under the Georgia State Code (O.C.G.A. 19-5-3), these involve issues such as adultery, abandonment, mental cruelty, or alcohol and drug abuse. If you dispute these allegations or any of the terms outlined in the petition, you can contest the divorce by filing an answer or even a countersuit, alleging your own version of the facts in the case. In some situations, disputes do not center on the grounds for divorce but instead on the terms under which the divorce is granted. Contested issues, which often relate to property settlements, alimony, or child custody, can be negotiated through your attorneys. If a settlement cannot be reached, the judge may order mediation. If you are still unable to reach an agreement, you may present evidence and contest the divorce before the judge in your case.
Issues in a Contested Divorce
Under the Georgia State Code (O.C.G.A. 19-5-3), there are 12 fault-based grounds for divorce, including adultery, mental cruelty, habitual intoxication, and desertion. Our attorneys know that If one of the spouses files for divorce on the basis of these grounds, it could have significant impacts in any eventual settlement. We take these allegations seriously, using tried and true strategies to defend your interests in these cases. Even if you file on the basis of irreconcilable differences, there are still important issues to resolve before your divorce becomes final. Disputes in contested divorce cases often involve:
Division of marital property, assets, and debts
Issues involving child custody and support payments
The rights to spousal support and alimony payments
How Much Does a Contested Divorce Cost in Georgia?
Our Georgia divorce attorneys know that, in any divorce, keeping your expenses down is a priority. "How much does a contested divorce cost," is in fact a question we hear quite often. In a contested divorce case, this can be a challenge. While each situation is different, the following highlights some of the typical contested divorce costs and expenses you can expect to pay.
Expenses in a Contested Divorce
Certain court expenses apply in any divorce case. These includes basic filing fees and the cost to serve your petition on your spouse. These are filed with the superior court in the district where you live, and charges vary. In the Fulton County Superior Court, as well as in most other Georgia counties, these costs are in the vicinity of $250. In an uncontested case, no additional filings may be necessary. A contested divorce generally involves added fees. These include additional court filings and the costs for your attorney to represent you in negotiations. If a divorce settlement cannot be reached, the judge may order you to attend mediation. These fees vary greatly from one case to another, depending on the issues that need to be resolved. All of these expenses run up your overall costs, but you may be entitled to claim their reimbursement as part of your settlement.