Getting divorced is stressful for most people. Even if you do not anticipate that things will get ugly, divorce is still a significant life change. Knowing what to expect could help ease some of the tension and anxiety you may be experiencing.
The Atlanta, GA divorce process depends mainly on whether you and your spouse agree about relevant issues or still have decisions to sort out. In either case, a trusted divorce attorney from our firm can help guide you through each step.
A marriage is a financial relationship. When spouses divorce, they must agree on how to untangle their financial lives. If they are parents, they also must agree on arrangements for their children. When they agree on all these issues, they could file for an uncontested divorce. However, when there are areas of disagreement, the divorce is contested.
In either scenario, there are some standard requirements. For example, if you have children and are divorcing in Fulton County, you and your spouse must complete the Families in Transition Program before a judge will grant your divorce. Additionally, there is a mandatory waiting period of 31 days for an uncontested divorce and 46 days when the dissolution is contested. Different counties have different requirements. Our Georgia family attorneys can ensure that a couple understands their rights and obligations so their divorce process can proceed without delay.
You could get an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse agree on all of the following:
You must have a signed, written agreement covering all these issues to move forward with the uncontested divorce process in Atlanta. You must also complete a detailed parenting plan discussing how you will co-parent your children. Once you and your spouse reach a consensus, an attorney can either write the agreement and parenting plan for you or review yours to ensure compliance with legal requirements.
Once you reach a settlement, one spouse submits a petition requesting divorce, provides any supporting documents, and signed agreements, and pays the filing fee at the Superior Court. They must arrange with the Sheriff or a process server to hand-deliver the documents to the other spouse. Couples could avoid that expense by having the other party sign an Acknowledgement of Service before the petitioner files the paperwork.
The respondent has 30 days to “answer” the petition. If they do not answer it, a family judge will review the agreements the petitioner submitted. If the couple has children, the judge will scrutinize the parenting plan to ensure it promotes the children’s best interests. The judge may schedule a hearing and is likely to do so if one party does not have a lawyer. Unless the judge objects to some aspect of the agreements, Georgia courts usually issue the divorce within 60 days of the petition filing date.
If you and your spouse do not agree on every issue at the time of filing, your divorce is contested. The initial process is the same as for uncontested divorce in Georgia, except that when the respondent receives service of the petition, they submit an answer asserting their claims.
Once the family court receives the petition and answer, it will schedule a hearing. An Atlanta attorney representing your spouse might file one or more motions, including requests for the following:
Depending on the issues in the case, sometimes parties ask for drug or alcohol screens or psychological evaluations at the initial hearing.
After the initial hearing, the parties begin the discovery process. Discovery involves exchanging comprehensive financial disclosures and other information necessary to resolve outstanding issues. Depending on how complex a couple’s finances are, the discovery could last for months as attorneys verify all the information the other side submits.
Spouses might negotiate through the discovery process. Judges often order couples to try mediation to reach an agreement. If both parties reach a settlement, they submit their written agreements to the court. The judge will review them and incorporate them into a divorce decree.
Divorce trials are rare, but they happen. The family court will hold a trial if a couple cannot agree. Most divorce trials are before a judge, but a party could request a jury trial. Attorneys for both sides present evidence and witnesses.
If the trial was before a judge, the judge decides all the issues and incorporates them into the divorce decree. If a jury hears the evidence, the jury can decide all matters related to property, but the judge has the final say on child custody.
Getting divorced may never be easy, but knowing what to expect and being prepared can make it less stressful. Additionally, advanced preparation can set you up for an uncontested divorce, which is usually quicker and less expensive.
It makes sense to speak with an attorney from our firm about the Atlanta, GA divorce process when you are considering whether to end your marriage. Call today to schedule a free consultation with a qualified member of our team.