What’s the Process of Divorce in Georgia?
Divorces in Georgia are settled through a trial or a written settlement between the parties. It is a way to end a marriage and decide issues like child custody, parenting time, child support, alimony or spousal support, and division of property and debt.
Here are the six steps involved in a typical divorce proceeding:
- The Petition – A divorce starts with the formal filing of a complaint or petition for divorce in Superior Court. If appropriate, the complaint outlines what you want out of the divorce in terms of child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, property division, debt division, and attorney’s fees. After a complaint is served, your spouse is entitled to file a response that admits or denies each paragraph of the complaint. In Georgia, if you are served with a divorce complaint, you must file your response within 30 days from being served or acknowledging service.
- Temporary orders – Divorce takes time, and there are things that need to be done immediately. At this point, either party can request a temporary hearing to take care of things like temporary child custody or temporary responsibility for bill payment.
- Discovery – Essentially, discovery is when you and your spouse share information that is pertinent to the case. The most common way to do that is by using a Notice to Produce certain documents; a set of Interrogatories which are questions that must be answered by the other side under oath; or a formal deposition, which is the process of asking questions of a spouse or other witnesses directly, under oath, and with a court reporter recording the responses for possible use at trial.
- Mediation, Arbitration, and Negotiation – It is always better to resolve a case through agreement of the parties without going to trial because they have more control over the outcome. So, most judges require an attempt at an agreement in order to help the divorcing parties as well as to decrease their own caseload.
- Mediation – The parties meet with an expert mediator who attempts to help them come to an agreement. Since the mediator can’t give legal advice each party needs to have representation.
- Arbitration – The parties submit their issues to an arbitrator who acts as a judge and whose decision is legally binding.
- Negotiated settlement – Both parties sit and talk out a mutually beneficial arrangement.
- Trial – If you can’t work it out any other way then the judge will schedule you for a final trial. You should be aware that even in a final trial, the judge will not get to hear everything you want to tell them. You only have a limited time to present your case and the attorney has to focus on the evidence most likely to win your case. If possible, you want to avoid your case going to the judge because they don’t know all the details or the history of the case, therefore you may not receive the outcome you desire.
- Appeal – You have a limited window of time to appeal your case to a higher court, but only if a grave error occurred at trial which must be corrected. You can’t file an appeal simply because you didn’t get what you want.
Filing for Divorce in Fulton County
Fulton County has the only dedicated Family Court system in Georgia. Since Fulton Family Court judges hear only divorce and family law cases, they have special expertise. They also have a special method of administratively handling these cases that is unlike any other court in Georgia.
If you will be filing for divorce in Fulton County then you should contact our legal team immediately. We can explain the differences in the divorce process and guide you through it from start to finish.