What Happens When You File For Divorce?

According to the Census Bureau, 14.9 out of every 1,000 marriages ended in divorce in 2019, the lowest divorce rate in 50 years. Despite a declining divorce rate, the fact of the matter remains that divorce is still a reality for some relationships. Most people understand that the result of a divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, but many people have questions about the process from start to finish. At the Platt Family Law Firm, we are here with you at each step of the process, ready to explain how the process will work and what will likely happen in your case.

In Georgia, marriages can end by either divorce or annulment. In other states, there are steps toward divorce like legal separation. In Georgia, there is no such thing as legal separation. Instead, courts permit something called separate maintenance.

Separate Maintenance

To the non-lawyer, separate maintenance looks essentially the same as legal separation. The court can rule on marital issues related to the marriage but does not grant a divorce.

Before pursuing separate maintenance, a couple needs to create an agreement indicating the desire for separate maintenance. This agreement should also address other issues surrounding the marriage. A separate maintenance agreement is a legal contract after it is signed by both parties and approved by the courts.

Sometimes, separate maintenance is the best course of action if there is some kind of legal benefit, like insurance benefits, to remaining married. During separate maintenance, each spouse has to take responsibility for their own financial decisions and is not responsible for those that the other person makes.

Grounds For Divorce

The goal of a divorce is to end a marriage legally. At the end of the process, the court will issue something called a final divorce decree. During the process, the marital assets are divided and issues like child custody and alimony are resolved.

In Georgia, divorce can either be based on fault or no-fault. There are many different grounds for divorce. In 1973, Georgia added no-fault divorce as an option. In a no-fault divorce, the law requires only that the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that reconciliation between spouses is not possible. There are still 12 fault-based reasons for divorce. These include:

  • Adultery
  • Cruel treatment
  • Desertion
  • Illegal marriage to a close relative
  • Mental incapacity at the wedding date
  • Impotency at the wedding date
  • Duress used to procure the marriage
  • Pregnancy by someone else at the wedding date
  • A conviction for a crime of “moral turpitude” with at least a two-year jail term
  • Habitual controlled substance drug or alcohol addiction
  • Mental illness that is not curable

One of the first things to discuss with your attorney will be the grounds for divorce. In most cases, parties can finalize a divorce faster with a no-fault divorce. However, in complicated situations where alimony and/or spousal support are at issue or where there is spousal misconduct a lawyer may recommend one of the fault-based grounds for divorce.

The Process of Divorce

Once you have discussed the type of divorce with your lawyer you will need to complete some initial paperwork to start the process. We will sit with you during this process to gather information and fill out the forms necessary to file for divorce.

The first document filed will likely be a divorce petition. This is filed whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. If you and your spouse still live in the same county, your petition will likely be filed in that county. Otherwise, the divorce petition is usually filed in the county in which your spouse lives. The petition will be accompanied by a filing fee.

In an uncontested divorce, your spouse can also agree for the petition to be filed in your county of residence even if you do not live in the same county. An uncontested divorce petition asks the court to incorporate any agreement made between the parties into the final divorce decree. In a contested divorce, the petition must be verified and notarized. A contested divorce petition can make demands about issues like alimony, custody, support or distribution of assets.

The petition must be served on the other party by mail, sheriff, process server or publication. After the petition is filed, the other party can file an answer and/or counterclaim.

There are forms that both parties to a divorce will likely have to complete like a domestic relations financial affidavit and a child support guidelines worksheet. These help determine how to divide the property and to determine any child support amounts.

The discovery period is next. During this part of a divorce, each party can submit questions to the other spouse about information related to the divorce or request documents from each other.

After discovery, the court will hear motions filed by the parties. After the motions are resolved, the case will be set for trial. A trial can take place with or without a jury. After a trial, the court will issue a final order and then a divorce decree. A divorce does not always have to go to trial. During the process, the parties can try alternative dispute resolution or mediation to resolve issues without court involvement.

How Long Will a Divorce Take?

Typically, an uncontested divorce can be complete in as little as 31 days after paperwork is filed. However, it is more typical that an uncontested divorce will be final in 60-90 days. In contested divorces, the time frame may be much longer than a few months. Of course, the impact of Covid-19 over the past year has taught us that things can take longer than usual because of court delays or lack of in-person meetings.

A divorce decree is the court’s final order that ends a marriage. It provides a summary of the rights and responsibilities of each party, including financial responsibilities and a division of assets. it also covers child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and other similar issues.

Once the divorce decree is issued, parties are legally free to marry another person.

At Platt Family Law, we want you to have support throughout your divorce. We understand the process and know how important it is for our clients to understand how the divorce process works.

Rachel Platt

Rachel Platt

Founding attorney, Rachel Platt, is a highly respected attorney among her peers and clients. Since 2014, Ms. Platt has been selected as a Georgia Super Lawyers in the field of family law. Additionally since 2018, Georgia Super Lawyers named her to the Top 100 Attorneys and to the Top 50 Women Attorneys for the State of Georgia. Previously, Ms. Platt was an honoree on the Georgia Rising Star list in the field of family law from 2010-2013, voted by her peers as one of the best young lawyers in the state. She has also been recognized as one of Georgia’s Legal Elite in 2009, 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2019 in the area of family law by Georgia Trend magazine. Ms. Platt also currently holds a “Superb” rating on avvo.com.Ms. Platt has been practicing law for the last 18 years and is currently concentrates her legal practice in the areas of family law and special education law, and as outlined below, she frequently lectures on both topics.

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