Child Custody – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Posted by on Nov 7, 2017 in Divorce, Family Law | 0 comments

Child Custody – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Who will typically get custody?

In most cases, both types of custody (legal and physical) are shared by the parents. The court determines custody by deciding what type of arrangement is in the best interest of the child.

What is joint custody?

This is when parents share decision making authority over the child. Typically, there are four areas in which the decisions are to be made jointly: religious upbringing, education, medical care and extracurricular activities.

If both parents share custody does anyone pay child support?

Child support is calculated based upon income, so the parent with the higher income will most likely need to pay child support regardless of the custody situation. However, in an uncontested divorce, usually the parties can settle / agree on a child support amount, and if its reasonable the court will likely approve it.

Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?

No, these are two separate issues. In addition, withholding visitation can cause you

Can my child decide who to live with?

If your child is fourteen or older, they can elect to live with one parent. If the court believes their election is not in their best interest, it can overrule it.

Do grandparents have custody / visitation rights?

No. Absent death, mental incapacity of both parents, or other special circumstances the grandparents will not be awarded custody and have no visitation rights in Georgia.

Do I need a parenting plan?

Yes! It should detail parenting time, set forth a visitation schedule as well as designate responsibilities for care of the child. It should also cover visitation for holidays and extended visitation time during the summer.

Will the terms of my separation agreement carry over into my divorce?

Georgia does not typically recognize legal separations. But the general answer is yes. Most courts will keep the status quo unless a burden of proof that circumstances have significantly changed can be met.

When is child custody typically decided?

Generally, custody will be decided twice – once at the temporary hearing and again at the trial of the case.

When can I file a modification action?

There are no time restrictions; however, there must be significant evidence as to the need for modification.

What if my spouse and I cannot agree?

The judge will make the determination in this case. The court can appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests.

If you facing child custody issues or just have questions about family law issies in general, call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with an attorney.

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Georgia Divorce: Service By Publication

Posted by on Nov 3, 2017 in Divorce | 0 comments


What Is Service by Publication?

Georgia Divorce Service by Publication AttorneysWhen you file for a divorce in Georgia you must first file a divorce complaint with the court. In the divorce complaint, you will set forth the basic facts of your marriage and divorce, such as date of marriage, date of separation, the grounds for divorce and prayers for relief. Then, your next step is to serve the complaint – along with the summons – to your spouse. Your divorce case can proceed only after your spouse is served properly with the divorce documents. But what if your spouse has moved out of the state or even out of the country and you have no idea where the spouse went? One way of reaching your spouse in such cases is to make use of “service by publication.” Georgia has its own specific rules regarding how service may be accomplished by publication. Below will give you some idea of service by publication in Georgia.

What Is Service of Process?

Service of process is a legal way by which a plaintiff gives an appropriate notice of the filing of a lawsuit to a defendant. It makes sure that the defendant knows that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against him or her. Under Georgia law, the plaintiff is required to serve both the summons and complaint upon the defendant personally if he or she is an individual, or upon an registered agent, president, other officer or managing agent if the defendant is a business entity. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(1)]. A “summons” is a legal document that informs a defendant of a lawsuit filed and that requires the defendant to appear in court. Once the plaintiff files a petition in the county’s clerk office, the clerk’s office will usually give the plaintiff a summons. In divorce cases, a plaintiff spouse must serve the summons and complaint on a defendant spouse in order to initiate a case.

Until the defendant has received officially and properly the copy of the summons and complaint, the lawsuit cannot proceed. It is only after proper service of process has been made on a defendant that the court obtains personal jurisdiction over the defendant to impose an enforceable judgment of liability and damages. Without proper service of process, therefore, the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case and the lawsuit must be dismissed.

Common Types of Service in Georgia

The most common type of service is “personal service.” Personal service is delivering the copy of the summons and complaint directly to the defendant. Pursuant to [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(c)], service will be made by sheriff of the county where the lawsuit is brought or where the defendant is found, or by private process server. In a divorce action, you provide the sheriff with your spouse’s address and physical description and pay a small service fee. The sheriff will then go to the address provided to deliver the copy of divorce paperwork to your spouse. If the spouse refuses to answer the door or takes other evasive action and avoids service, you can hire a private individual to track down your spouse and hand him or her the papers. Georgia law requires you to obtain a court approval before you hire such private individual. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(c)].

Although service has to be personal (that is to serve the defendant directly), if the defendant is not home the summons and complaint can be left with someone who lives in the home (a non-party adult or child over the age of 14). This is called “substitute service,” which means that service is made by leaving copies at the defendant’s dwelling house or usual place of abode with a person who is over 14 and resides therein. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(7)] Different jurisdictions allow different types of substitute service. So be sure to check with your local court clerk’s office or an attorney before attempting substitute service.

Often in divorce cases, the defendant spouse may agree to sign a “Acknowledge of Service” form that confirms he or she has received the copy of the summons and complaint and waives further personal service. In this case, you can simply send the summons and complaint together with an Acknowledgment of Service form to your spouse by mail. If your spouse sends the form back to you, you can file it with the court.

Service by Publication in Georgia

Sometimes, however, you cannot locate your spouse because he or she have moved out of the city or state without telling you a forwarding address. Also, in other cases you may not know where your spouse is because you and your spouse has lived apart for a long time without filing for divorce and you have lost contact with your spouse. If you do not know where your spouse lives or work, neither a sheriff nor a private process server will be able to serve the spouse. In these situations, Georgia courts may allow you to complete “service by publication.” By using service by publication, a plaintiff can notify a defendant of a lawsuit by publishing notice in a court-approved newspaper or other publication. Publication satisfies constructive notice to the defendant, meaning that publishing information is sufficient to fulfill the notice requirement and the lawsuit may proceed even where the defendant have not actually received notice.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(f)(1)(A), courts require a plaintiff to attempt “personal service” before allowing service by publication. In addition, the plaintiff must complete and submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search form stating all efforts the plaintiff has made to locate the defendant. If the court is satisfied with the plaintiff’s effort and convinced that the spouse cannot be found, it will issue an Order of Publication authorizing service to be published in the official, legal newspaper. The notice must appear four times within the first 60 days after filing a lawsuit and the publication must be at least seven days apart. [O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(f)(1)(C)]. The publication is often in the county where the action is filed. The defendant has 60 days to answer the petition.

After the 60 day period, the case can proceed whether or not the defendant has responded. In Georgia, the court can grant a divorce or enforce judgment against the defendant on his or her property situated in Georgia without personal jurisdiction over a defendant (in other words even if the defendant did not respond to service by publication). However, it cannot make any decisions regarding child custody, child support or division of property situated outside of Georgia without personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

You need to properly serve the divorce document to your spouse or otherwise your divorce case can be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. In most cases, a sheriff or private process server may personally serve your spouse. But in cases where your spouse cannot be located or is missing, Georgia court may allow you to complete service by publication. In order to properly serve your spouse by publication, you must comply with the procedural rules of Georgia. Also, if you later find out where your spouse lives, then you may be required to amend your petition to be served personally on the other side and have that person personally served (by a sheriff) with a copy of your petition. Because service of process directly relates to a court’s jurisdiction and dismissal of your case, be sure to consult with a local attorney.

How to Obtain Help With Your Case

If you are facing divorce and cannot locate your spouse, it is important to speak with an experienced divorce and family law attorney early in the process to narrow down your options.  it is possible that serving your spouse by publication will be your best option. Call us today at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced Georgia divorce and family law attorneys.  Contact >>

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What is a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit?

Posted by on Oct 5, 2017 in Divorce, Family Law | 0 comments

What is a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit?

If you are in any divorce action for child support or alimony, or if you are in any action modifying child support or alimony, or if you are requesting for attorney’s fees, you must complete and file a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (commonly referred to as a “DRFA”).

A Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is mandated by the Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.2. Failure to provide the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit may subject you to the penalties of contempt or other sanctions deemed appropriate by the court, and may result in the postponement of the hearing until you provide the financial information.

A DRFA is a sworn statement under oath. This means that you must swear that the information contained in the DRFA is true and accurate. If the information on your DRFA is false or misleading, you may be subject to court ordered punishment for making false statements under oath. It is therefore most important to provide true and accurate information. You will be required to summarize your assets, monthly income and monthly expenses.

Sample blank Domestic Relations Financial Affidavits are provided by the Georgia Supreme Court and Georgia Superior Courts.  Below are links to several blank DRFAs are listed below:

You must file your DRFA with the court and serve it upon the opposing party at least fifteen (15) days before any temporary or final hearing. In an action filed during emergency situations, the fifteen (15) day rule may not be strictly adhered to and filing a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit may be delayed under the Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.2. “Emergency situations” typically refer to the possibility of domestic violence, abuse, or kidnapping.

Filling out a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is very time consuming and may seem like a waste of time, but it is important to take your time to accurately report your assets, income, and expenses. In a divorce action, the amount of child and spousal support is based on the financial circumstances of the parties, and most Georgia courts look to the financial information provided in the DRFA to determine the proper amount. Thus, the accuracy of your DRFA is critical to the outcome of your divorce actions. If you are completing a DRFA, we recommend you give full attention to each and every question and take time to go over your answers with an attorney. Below are a few tips you can keep in mind when completing your DRFA.

Do Not Leave Blank Spaces on the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit

You can either complete the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit electronically or hand-write the information in. Do not leave any blank spaces on the form. When you are completing all fields in your DRFA, use “n/a” if a field is not applicable.

Fill out your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit with figures that can be proven

The Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit will require you to list details of your assets, income, expenses and debts. You must limit your response to figures that you can prove by using receipts, bank statements, or other financial documents. Try not to guess or speculate. Save your receipts, saving bank statements, and other financial documents in case the figures are challenged. Some of the items in the “Expenses” section of the DRFA may be difficult to know the average monthly amounts. For example, it may not be easy for you to figure out how much you spend every month on “gifts” to others. In such cases, please consult with your attorney.

Assets include non-marital, separate property

Non-marital property and any income or assets kept in a separate account must be listed on your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. Non-martial property is property acquired before the marriage as gift, inheritance or pre-marital ownership. If you have a bank account or safety deposit box that your spouse does not know about, you must also list it on your DRFA.

Health insurance cost for the children must be included separately

The Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit specifically requests the cost of health, dental, and vision insurance for the children. You may not list the full cost of your monthly premium if that includes insurance for yourself. If you pay your monthly premium for both you and your children together, you can ask your office manager or administrator and find out the sole cost of the children’s insurance.

Debts are any other expenses not already mentioned on the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit

The “Debts” section of the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (“Payments to Creditors” section) asks for all other expenses not mentioned in the “Expenses” section. This include student loans, payments for back taxes, credit card payments, and any other outstanding money that is owed. The “monthly payment” should be the full monthly payment, even if you are not currently making full payments.

Complete your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit as soon as you can

You need to complete your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit as soon as possible and provide it to your attorney with two current pay stubs attached. The DRFA must be filed with the Clerk of Court at least fifteen (15) days prior to the temporary hearing or trial. Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.2. Failure to comply with the fifteen (15) day rules, however, does not mean that the court is estopped from admitting a lately filed DRFA as evidence. Hendry v. Hendry, 292 Ga. 1 (2012) (holding that a court may decide to review a lately filed DRFA as evidence even if a party failed to comply with the fifteen-day rule under Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.2). Failure to file a DRFA, on the other hand, may result in the penalties of contempt, the postponement of the hearing or trial, and other sanctions deemed appropriate by the court. Rule 24.2. It is, therefore, most important to complete and file your DRFA.

Make sure your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is notarized

You must sign the completed DRFA in the presence of a notary. This is because the DRFA by definition is an affidavit, and affidavits have to be notarized to be admissible in court.  The notary will first confirm your identity by checking your identification. Then you may sign the DRFA in front of the notary.

Revise your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit anytime your financial circumstances changes

You can update your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit when there is a change in circumstances. If you get a raise or lose a job, you need to revise your DRFA accordingly. However, revising your DRFA too many times may question the validity or credibility of your DRFA.

Be honest on the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit

DRFA - Coleman Legal Group, LLC

The most important thing to remember when filing out your DRFA is to be honest. You may want to lower your income or increase your monthly expenses on your DRFA. However, doing so will only allow the opposing party’s attorney to attack your credibility during cross-examination. Because you swear under oath that when you submit your DRFA, you may also be subject to court ordered punishment for making false statements under oath. Refer to our other article titled “Why the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is Important” for further reasons why you have to honestly and accurately complete the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit.

If you are facing divorce in Georgia and have questions or need assistance, call us at 770-609-1247 to schedule a meeting with one of our experienced divorce and family law attorneys.

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Child Custody in Georgia

Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 in Divorce, Family Law | 0 comments

Child Custody in Georgia

Child custody will be a major issue if you are in the process of going through a divorce. Divorce proceedings can become overwhelming, especially when there are minor children involved, as a divorce can have a tremendous emotional impact on children. Similar to other states, Georgia has its own rules when it comes to making a custody determination. Georgia court’s focus on the “best interest” of the child. This article is written for educational purposes and it will highlight the basics of child custody. The main focus of the article will be on how child custody is determined. As always, it is generally advised to consult your local experienced family law attorney before determining what custody arrangement will be most suitable in your child’s case.

Basics of Child Custody in Georgia

In an event of a divorce, a custody order determines who has the legal right to keep the child. A child custody order transfers responsibility of care for a child to parents or someone in place of parents who keeps best interest of child in mind.

Child custody can be divided into two different parts:

1) Legal Custody

Under Georgia law, legal custody determines which parent has the authority to make major decisions on behalf of a child. The decisions pertain to areas such as: Medical treatment, Education, Religion, Extracurricular activities.  Legal custody can further be divided into: Sole legal custody and joint legal custody.

  • Under the Sole Legal custody, only one parent gets the primary authority to make the decisions concerning child’s major life areas.
  • On contrary, under the Joint Legal custody, both parents equally get a say in the important areas pertaining to the child’s life.

2) Physical Custody

Under Georgia law, physical custody determines with which parent the child will primarily reside with. In the state of Georgia, most courts give one parent primary physical custody, while the other parent is deemed to be the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent is generally provided with the visitation rights.

However, often times, the visitation rights are confused with the custodial rights. Under O.C.G.A. § 19-9-22(a), visitation is not the same thing as custody. The non-custodial parent is provided with the parenting times under which the non-custodial parent may visit the child. Furthermore, under the Court’s discretion, the visitation may be supervised depending on the external factors.

The joint custody can come in both legal and physical custody and it focuses on the responsibilities of each parent separately instead of both parents together. Unmarried parents who live separately have joined custody. Full joint custody allows both parents to make decisions together and have physical control of the child.

Determining Child Custody in Georgia Courts

In Georgia, custody is determined under the “Best Interest of Child” standard. Under O.C.G.A 19-9-3, the judge has the discretion to determine custody. If the child is 14 years or older, he has the right to select the custodial parent. Further, under O.C.G.A 19-9-3, if the custody of the child is issue between the parents, there is no “prima-facie” right for father or mother to claim the custody of the child. “Prima-facie” right is defined as legal presumption, which means on face of it at first sight. The Court should not favor one form of custody over another, nor should the Court favor either parent. Furthermore, during the custody determination hearing, the judge will have the sole discretion to make the decision, and Jury shall not hear the matter.
In determining the “best interest” of the child, the judge will take into consideration all the circumstances surrounding the case.

In determining what is likely to fall under the best interest of a child, the Court evaluates the standard under the following factors:

  • Child’s age
  • Child’s health
  • Emotional ties between the child and parents
  • The ability of each parent to care for the child
  • The child’s ties to home, community, and school
  • History of family violence (if any)

Sometimes, if custody harms the child, the court can give custody to somebody else because it is in the best interest of a child. This is called guardianship, where a person who is not the parent asks for custody.

Non-custodial parent cannot be denied right of visitation, if the non-custodial parent were never married to other parent, or because the non-custodial parent has a disability, or a different lifestyle.

Child Support Orders

When awarding the child custody, the Court also awards child support orders to the primary custodians. It is important to keep in mind the child custody and visitation isn’t the same as the child support order. Therefore, just because a parent cannot be stopped from visiting the child because he or she is not making the court ordered payments. On the contrary, a parent is still obligated to make the payments, even if the custodial parent is not allowing the non-custodial parents visitation rights. The Court in Beasley v. Lamb held that, “in an order changing child custody from one parent to another, the court can provide therein that the child support shall be payable to or by the person to whom the custody is awarded.”

Once the child support order is in effect, the Court has the discretion to modify the child support order, if the circumstances call for it. The Georgia courts are likely to modify the child support order if there has been substantial change in financial circumstances.

Going through a divorce is a roller-coaster ride, but it can be made less painful with the help of a professional. When minor children are involved, it is important to keep your child’s well being in mind, as well. A child demands affection of both parents, and nothing should come in between. Child custody determination can become complicated.

When child related matters are at stake, it is important to seek an experienced attorney who can assist you in your matter. Call us today at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced divorce and family law attorneys. You do not have to go through this alone, and we are here to help.

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Child Custody Modification Basics

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 in Family Law | 0 comments

Child Custody Modification Basics

Facing a child custody modification issue? Now is not the time to sit on your rights and gamble away your child’s life. Now is the time to take an action that will serve the “best interest” of your child. “Best Interest of Child” Standard is the common standard used when determining the basis for custody and parenting orders.

Different Requirements for Modifying Visitation and Custody

A Court can generally modify a visitation or parenting time once in each two (2) year period following an initial entry of judgment without the show of change in circumstances.  Child Custody Modification can be allowed on the basis that significant change in family circumstances has taken place since the original order. If the change impacts the best interest of the child, Court will likely find the Custody modification to be appropriate. The parent requesting the custody change is required to submit a new proposed parenting plan to the court.  See O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3

Factors constituting Changed Circumstances

1. Relocation of Custodial Parent

Child custody may be modified if a custodial parent plans to move to a new residence. Under Georgia law, custodial parent may be allowed to move with a child unless non-custodial parent can show that the move will be detrimental to the child.

If the custodial parent plans to change the residence, non-custodial parent must be informed of any planned change in the residence. Under Georgia law, a custodial parent must give anyone with visitation rights or court-ordered parenting time at least 30 days advanced notice before planning a move. Lastly, in addition to the 30 days advanced notice, full address of new residence should be provided to the non-custodial parent.

2. Child’s Request to Change Custodial Parent

In Georgia, if a child is 14 years or older, he/she may choose the parent to live with. Judge is likely to honor that decision as long as it is in the child’s best interest. If the child is over 14, and requests a change in custodial parent, that will automatically be sufficient change of circumstances for custody re-evaluation. Judge gives consideration to child’s wishes, but has the discretion to evaluate other factors relating to the best interest of child standard.

If a child is at least 11 years old, the child may have discretion to choose which parent to live with, however the judge will review the overall circumstances closely. In some cases, Court is likely to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), a neutral third party to represent the child and assist the judge in making a decision as to custodial preference. The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is likely to monitor child’s environment: home, school etc.

A judge has the discretion to grant temporary change of custody for period of 6 months if the child is between ages 11-14. If a child has an older sibling and wishes to accompany that sibling, to preserve family unity, judge is likely to honor a request for a change in custodial parent. Parent may also request a judge to modify custody orders for younger kids on the basis that an older child has requested change in custody.

If non-custodial parent can meet its burden in proving that custodial parent has become unfit or unable to take care of a child, custody modification may be granted. Furthermore, if the situation is serious as in custodial parent has mental illness or drug dependency and this will affect child’s safety, custody modification may be granted.

Process to modify child custody can be very complex. A child needs affection of both parents. When it comes to modifying child custody, it can be a roller coaster ride. Therefore, it is advised to consult your local family law attorney with any questions or concerns you may have.

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Uncontested Divorce in Georgia

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Divorce | 0 comments

Uncontested Divorce in Georgia

Thinking of getting an uncontested divorce, and not sure how to proceed further?  Uncontested divorce may be a suitable option for you, but it may also not be an option at all.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

If you think uncontested divorce may be suitable route for you, then it is important to understand what happens during an uncontested divorce proceedings. In an uncontested divorce, both parties are in total agreement as to the division of their marital property and all other terms prior to filing the petition for divorce. However, uncontested divorce may not always be the right route for everyone. While it is likely to be appropriate for a couple with no minor children and no significant assets, under the right circumstances, it is an available remedy for couples with children and significant property, as well.

Things to consider during an Uncontested Divorce

Couples should consider and agree upon all material terms of the settlement agreement before filing the petition. Material terms include such categories as: (1) child support; (2) custody and visitation (this includes agreement to a parenting plan); (3) debt allocation; (4) spousal support; and (5) division of real and personal property. After an agreement is reached, either party may file the petition for the divorce. Any name changes that either party wants to make, needs to be included in the petition. As with a contested divorce, the petition must be filed in the county where the couple reside or if the couple lives in different counties, where the non-filing spouse resides. The person who files the petition for divorce is the plaintiff and in an uncontested divorce, this is the party being represented by the attorney. The same attorney will not represent both parties but because the divorce is uncontested it is unnecessary for both parties to have representation.

Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce

There are several benefits of getting an uncontested divorce. This is the quickest, easiest, and the least expensive way to obtain dissolution of marriage. Since the parties in an uncontested divorce have already agreed to the terms of the settlement agreement, the agreement is filed at the same time as the original petition. In state of Georgia, few additional forms are required to be completed, including a detailed statement of each party’s financial situation. Filing fees are around two hundred twenty dollars ($220), and there may be additional administrative fees that vary from county to county. In some limited circumstances the filing fee and administrative fees can be waived.  If the judge agrees that there are no discrepancies as to the terms and other information within the paperwork, he or she will sign off on the agreement. The divorce is then generally granted 31 to 60 days later. Since there is no trial, much less personal information is made public and neither party has to fear an airing of “dirty laundry” within a public forum. Most attorneys charge a flat fee for the most basic uncontested divorce cases because there is limited and predictable required work in the case and the end date for the case can be estimated. This makes uncontested divorce, far and away, the most affordable option.  However, assets, debts and complex child custody issues can make an uncontested divorce more complex and more costly than the simplest of cases.

Disadvantages of an Uncontested Divorce

While there are many benefits to filing for an uncontested divorce, there are also potential pitfalls. A quick divorce process may tempt couples to make a rash decision that is not well thought out thus leading to disputes in the future. A later modification of the settlement agreement will require going back to court. This is why it is essential that couples truly agree on the terms at the time of filing.

Uncontested divorce is a solution for a very specific group of couples. If either one or both parties are acting irrationally, an uncontested divorce is absolutely not an option. If there is any history of domestic violence or abuse in the marriage, the couple is not on equal footing and therefore, an uncontested divorce is not appropriate. This process requires complete diplomacy from both parties and is best suited for couples that have reached a mutual understanding and wish to walk away amicably. In order to reach a settlement agreement prior to filing, the couple will have to cooperate and each person will make compromises for the luxury of being able to walk away from the marriage quickly.

If there are major issues concerning property division or child custody, the divorce inherently is not uncontested because these are issues that will need to be litigated. This is not to say that couples with large assets or children cannot get an uncontested divorce. Indeed, if the couple is capable of exhibiting the requisite diplomacy and peaceful negotiation, this option is truly in the best interest of the children because it is over quickly and quietly. Although uncontested divorces are easier to obtain, it is never advisable to represent yourself. Divorce proceedings cause emotions to run high and the uncontested divorce presents the temptation of making hasty decisions in an effort to quickly move the process along.

For these reasons, it is very important to hire an attorney in order to have an objective party advocating for your best interests. If you are the unrepresented party in an uncontested divorce, there are some measures you can take to ensure you are equally protected:

  • Do significant independent research on the process of uncontested divorce;
  • Speak with a trusted friend or advisor and tell them your goals in coming to a settlement agreement;
  • Have that same friend act as a consultant and look over the final agreement before you sign. The above measure taken by both parties will ensure the divorce is done properly so that both parties can peacefully move on with their lives.

Based on the information presented above, an uncontested divorce may or may not be the proper route for you. An experience divorce attorney can help you determining whether you should go ahead with uncontested divorce or not. This article is written for general informational purposes only and highlights some of the things to consider in an uncontested divorce.  It is advised that people seeking an divorce contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney before making any major decisions.  Call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced uncontested divorce lawyers today.

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FAQs: Divorce in Georgia

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 in Divorce | 0 comments

FAQs: Divorce in Georgia

Do I have to live in Georgia to file for a divorce in Georgia?

Yes. At least one of the parties (spouses) must live in Georgia for at least six (6) months to file for divorce in Georgia.

What if my spouse does not want a divorce?

This does not matter. If one party wants a divorce, that party may file for the divorce regardless of the other party’s position. This will be a contested divorce and may take longer to resolve.

What are the grounds for divorce in Georgia?

Georgia does not require a finding of fault for divorce. Parties commonly cite “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for the divorce.


>>>> A complete list of the grounds for divorce can be found here. >>>>


What if one party is at fault?

Georgia allows for fault-based divorce on several grounds, including: adultery, drug addiction, and imprisonment. A finding of fault will likely impact support order and custody agreements. For example, in Georgia adultery is a complete bar to an alimony award.

Do I have to hire a divorce attorney?

It is possible to appear pro se (without an attorney) but it is not advisable, particularly where children are involved. A later modification to the agreement is very difficult (and likely expensive) to obtain and then only support agreements may be modified. The division of property will never be available for a modification once the judge signs the final decree. It is best to have the divorce done properly the first time to avoid going back to court later.

Do both parties need their own attorney?

That depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. Uncontested divorces are where the parties agree to all terms prior to filing for the divorce. Uncontested divorces often do not involve children or significant assets. In this case, one party may hire an attorney to draw up the agreement and both parties will sign the agreement.

A contested divorce requires negotiation over the terms before the parties can come to an agreement. In the case of a contested divorce, each party must be represented by their own attorney because the dispute will likely need to be resolved through mediation or litigation.

I have only been married for a short time. Can I just get an annulment in Georgia easily?

Annulments are rare and usually on granted in cases of fraud.

Do we have to be legally separated to file for divorce in Georgia?

Yes, but a “legal separation” does not necessarily mean the parties are not living together. In Georgia, it depends on whether the couple considers themselves to be separated at the time.

Can I get alimony in Georgia?

Alimony or spousal support is available in Georgia but is decided on a case-by-case basis. The court will look at each party’s income and debts amongst several other factors to determine which, if any, party will pay alimony.

How will the court decide how much child support is to be paid?

Georgia courts universally use a child support worksheet to determine which party pays child support and how much will be paid. The worksheet balances the income and debts of each party to generate an amount of support.

What happens if I need more child support later?

Modifications can be requested every two years if a party has a “significant change in circumstances”. In the event that the paying party experiences a job loss, the request can be brought almost any time regardless of the two year time limit.

How will the court divide our property?

Georgia courts use equitable division to divide marital property. Marital property is anything purchased with marital funds. Property division is complex because some things will be considered marital property by the court, even where the parties do not consider the property to be marital. For this reason, couples with significant assets should always hire an attorney.

How do I change my name in Georgia?

A woman may return to her maiden name by including such a provision in the uncontested divorce agreement and courts order, or by asking the court for a name change in a contested action. This will be reflected in the final divorce decree, which the woman may then use as proof of the name change in order to change her name on her bank accounts, passport, social security card, etc.

How long does it take to finalize a divorce in Georgia?

The finalizing of the divorce proceeding is really up to the parties. An uncontested divorce is much shorter because the parties already agree on the terms but contested divorces are much more common. Often couples will blame courts and attorneys for drawing out the process but the reality is, the parties have total control over the length of the divorce proceeding. As soon as the parties can come to an agreement, the proceeding is over. Once the agreement if filed with the court, the judge will usually issue the final decree within forty-five (45) days.

Do I have to wait until the divorce is finalized to start dating?

Yes. Once the divorce is final, the parties are free to pursue new relationships. However, this is strongly discouraged while the divorce is in process.

Do you have more questions about divorce in Georgia and the divorce process?

If you have any questions about the divorce process in Georgia, contact us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced divorce and family law attorneys.

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