Divorce is the legal process by which a marriage is terminated. Issues regarding assets and debts, as well as custody and visitation with children, are settled.
Do you need an attorney?
Getting a divorce is a stressful time. You can represent yourself pro se, meaning that you do not use the services of an attorney, but the divorce process is complicated and a divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process.
Getting a Divorce
There are several ways in which you can end your marriage in Georgia:
- Annulment voids the marriage contract.
- Separation must occur first, before a divorce. Your separation agreement can carry through to the divorce agreement.
- Divorce ends the legal connections between spouses. In Georgia, you must reside in state for six months before filing for divorce.
The divorce begins when you file divorce papers. Spouses must exchange financial affidavits, written disclosures detailing personal financial details. You must agree on custody and a parenting plan. Georgia requires that parents attend a parenting seminar. In some counties, you can attend online. You must make a good faith effort at mediation, a process during which a neutral third party tries to help spouses come to a mutual agreement outside court. Georgia does not have a cooling off period after filing for divorce.
Type of Divorce
Georgia offers options for grounds for divorce. You can choose between fault grounds, no-fault grounds, and abandonment. “No fault” does not assign blame. Fault grounds may give a spouse an advantage in custody situations, in the division of marital property, and with alimony issues. You can file on grounds of abandonment if you and your spouse have lived apart for at least two years.
A contested divorce is one that goes to trial. This is an unpleasant, time-consuming and expensive process. Both spouses usually benefit from settling matters through mediation or by collaborative law. If they can do so, the divorce is uncontested. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement outside court, a judge will decide the terms of your divorce during a court proceeding.
Court Orders During Divorce
Your attorney may file for pendente lite orders on your behalf during your divorce. These temporary orders must be approved by a judge and they address several issues:
- Protective orders prevent one spouse from harming the other.
- Maintenance orders provide for financial support during the divorce.
- Orders for educational support allow for continued payment of tuition and related school expenses.
- Healthcare orders allow for continued health insurance coverage and may offer assistance with paying premiums.
Other orders can address child visitation schedules, property issues, responsibilities for paying marital bills, and resolution of other issues.
The Divorce Agreement
A divorce agreement typically includes several features:
- Property and debts are distributed equitability in Georgia, but not necessarily equally. Gifts given to one spouse and property acquired before the marriage are usually not allocated between spouses in a divorce.
- Alimony may be awarded based on financial need. It can be periodic or paid in a lump sum.
- You must file a parenting plan if you have children. This plan delineates terms for custody and visitation, and it decides how you will approach issues regarding your child’s welfare post-divorce.
- Custody, either legal, physical or both, can be joint or given solely to one parent. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions in the child’s best interests, such as those relating to education and religion. Physical custody refers to which parent a child resides with. In Georgia, children 14 years old or older can decide which parent they want to live with.
- Child support may be awarded for children born to the marriage.
After you have agreed to the details of your divorce, or after the court has decided issues for you, a judge signs a legal document incorporating the terms and the agreement becomes law.
Consult a Georgia Divorce Attorney
Divorce law is complicated and it changes often. Speak with a divorce lawyer to make sure that your best interests are represented.