The divorce process begins with the determination of residency. The party filing for divorce must have been an actual and bona fide resident of the State of Georgia for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition for divorce. The Petition is then filed in the Respondent’s county of Residence.
In Georgia, there are 13 grounds for divorce: incest; mental incapacity at the time of marriage; impotency at the time of marriage; force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage; pregnancy of the wife by one other than the husband at the time of marriage, unknown to the husband; adultery by either party; willful and continued desertion by either party for one year; conviction and imprisonment for at least two years for a crime of moral turpitude; habitual intoxication or drug addiction; cruel treatment; incurable mental illness; and the no-fault ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If a divorce is based upon the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, there is a waiting period of at least 31 days from the date of service upon the respondent before the divorce can be granted.
An action for divorce is filed with the Superior Court in the Respondent’s county of residence. The action initiating the divorce proceeding is the Petition, while the Order granting the divorce is referred to as the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. The filing party is called the Petitioner or Plaintiff, while the other spouse is referred to as the Respondent or Defendant.
Most divorce proceedings usually include some version of the following components:
- Petition. The filing of some form of petition document formally initiates divorce proceedings.
- Summons and Response. Formal notice to your spouse about your intent to pursue court action to obtain a legal divorce. The response is the other parties’ acknowledgement that the divorce procedure has begun.
- Motions. A formal request to the court to order some type of action before the trial. For example, in situations involving domestic abuse, it is not uncommon for a motion for a protective or restraining order to be filed.
- Discovery. The phase of the proceeding where each side gathers information in support of their legal arguments. This is an important phase in contested actions, particularly if you believe your spouse is hiding assets. It may include depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents.
- Hearings and Temporary Orders. In some instances there are questions or situations that need to be temporarily resolved before the final divorce agreement is reached or ordered by the court. For example, if the couple can’t agree about where their children should live during the divorce process they would ask the judge, during a hearing, to decide. Temporary Orders generally remain in effect until the final decision is made at the end of the divorce process.
- Trial. A critical court appearance before the judge where the case will be decided. The trial may include witnesses, such as friends, financial experts, psychologists, as well as other types of evidence including financial records.
- Judgment. The final decision is a judgment. It is not a verdict in the sense the judge assigns blame to either party. It is simply a legal statement of the judge’s rulings on all the issues in question during the trial, such as custody, visitation, support, and property division.
During the divorce process, issues such as alimony, child support, child custody and visitation, and distribution of property will be addressed, as well as the restoration of a maiden name.
In addition to the above components, if you reside in a county with an alternative dispute resolution program, the court may refer contested petitions for divorce to those programs. In addition, in counties without such programs, the court may still refer any disputed divorce case to participate in any reasonably available alternative dispute resolution program as it sees fit.