If you are filing for divorce in the state of Georgia, you likely have a number of questions about the process. The months prior to a divorce can be stressful.
Crystal Wright Law has been representing families in divorce actions for nearly a decade. We’ve devoted our practice to resolving pressing family law issues for individuals and families in Lawrenceville, Georgia. We’ve received the Avvo Client’s Choice Award in recognition of our services to clients.
If you are considering divorce, you need a Lawrenceville family law attorney by your side. We can help you come to a satisfactory resolution for divorce issues like property division, child custody, child support, and alimony.
Below, we answer the most frequently asked questions we receive from our clients. Want to learn more? Contact Crystal Wright Law for a free consultation with one of our divorce attorneys in Lawrenceville.
What is the Process for Obtaining a Divorce in Georgia?
Before beginning the divorce process, the most important thing you can do is retain the services of a family law attorney who specializes in divorce and understands Georgia divorce laws.
While every case is different, the process for obtaining a divorce in Georgia usually follows these steps:
- First, you must meet the six-month Georgia residency requirement in order to file a complaint for divorce. The complaint for divorce is a document given to the court explaining why you are filing for divorce and also explaining the decision you would like the court to reach. Issues that can be brought up in the complaint include child custody, child support, and division of assets.
- Once the complaint has been filed, it must be served on your spouse. This will often involve a process server such as a sheriff who will serve your spouse. Your spouse then has thirty days to respond.
- If your spouse chooses not to file a response to your complaint within 30 days, the case is considered uncontested. If your spouse does file a response, the case is considered to be contested.
Different courts have different requirements, so it is important to hire an attorney who has experience in this area of law and understands each specific court’s rules.
What is the Difference Between a Contested Divorce and an Uncontested Divorce?
A contested divorce means the following:
- There is at least one element on which you and your spouse disagree
- The court will have to decide any unresolved issues
Generally, a contested divorce will take longer and cost more money than an uncontested divorce. Contested issues require hearings, litigation, and negotiation, each of which can increase your attorney’s fees and costs.
An uncontested divorce means the following:
- You are both in agreement regarding all elements of the divorce
- Generally much quicker and a shorter process overall
- Less expensive
Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, there are still legal steps involved. An experienced Georgia divorce lawyer can ease the burden and handle the legal matters expediently so you can move on with your life.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Georgia?
Georgia residents can file for divorce on a number of different grounds. Filing on the grounds that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” means the divorce is a no-fault proceeding.
In the alternative, there are many different fault-based grounds for divorce laid out by Georgia law:
- Intermarriage by people who are too closely related
- Mental incapacity
- Force or fraud in obtaining the marriage
- Pregnancy of the wife by another man other than the husband at the time of the marriage
- Committing adultery
- Desertion or abandonment
- Conviction of a crime carrying a two-year sentence or greater
- Regular intoxication (alcoholism)
- Regular drug use (addiction to a controlled substance)
- Cruelty and abuse
- Incurable mental illness
In the case of an at-fault divorce, you must prove misconduct occurred and that it was the factor that led to the marital breakdown.
How is Child Custody Determined in Georgia?
In the state of Georgia, there are two different kinds of child custody: physical and legal custody. A parent has physical custody of a child if the child lives with that parent. A parent who has legal custody of a child can make major decisions (legal, medical, religious) on the child’s behalf.
It is possible for parents to share joint physical custody and joint legal custody of their child. In such an arrangement, both parents have roughly equal time with the child, and both parents have a say in major decisions regarding the child. However, one parent is usually designated as the primary custodial parent who will make the final decision in the event the parents cannot agree.
Georgia state law requires judges to make custody decisions according to the best interests of the child. The judge will determine a custody arrangement that will best suit the child going forward.
When making this determination, the judge will consider:
- Home environment of each parent
- Mental and physical health of each parent
- History of drug or alcohol abuse
- Financial capabilities of each parent
- Criminal histories of each parent
- History of child abuse
- Each parent’s involvement and familiarity with the child’s needs and activities
- Each parent’s relative stability
- Emotional ties with the child
In Georgia, the court will require divorcing parents to submit a parenting plan detailing how they will account for the child’s time and needs. In addition, children aged 11 or older can tell the court which parent they would prefer to live with full time, but the court does not have to rely on their preference.
How is Child Support Calculated in Georgia?
Georgia courts use a child support calculator for an initial recommendation on the appropriate amount of child support. The formula for child support is calculated by taking into account the total gross income of both spouses, as well as the needs of the child.
The calculator recommends a presumptive child support amount encompassing the total cost each month for the care and maintenance of the child or children. It is important to keep in mind that the court has discretion to deviate from this amount based on additional considerations such as costs of healthcare and child care.
Child support is strongly enforced in the state of Georgia by the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). The DCSS will collect on overdue child support payments by filing liens, withholding money on paychecks, and suspending driver’s licenses.
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also called spousal support, refers to financial payments from one spouse to another. The purpose is to provide economic assistance to a spouse in need.
Alimony may not be awarded in every case and does not even need to be court ordered. If you and your spouse can agree on monthly support payments, you can avoid a contentious court battle. However, your agreement must still receive the court’s approval.
Alimony payments typically begin after the divorce but may be awarded during the divorce proceeding, depending on the need.
How is Marital Property Division Determined in Georgia?
In determining property division, the court distinguishes between marital property and separate property. Under Georgia law, marital property is considered to be any property obtained during the marriage, while separate property is any individual property owned prior to the marriage. Marital property is divided between the spouses, while separate property is not.
There is no set formula for property division. It is not as simple as dividing the property in half.
The court will take a number of factors into account when determining the division of property:
- Assets and financial capabilities of each spouse
- Waste of assets
- Total income and earning potential
- Conduct towards one another during the marriage
Spouses do not have to rely on the court. They can come to an agreement on their own as to how the marital property should be divided.
How Long Does it Take To Get a Divorce in Georgia?
There is a mandatory waiting period when your divorce is filed with the court—even for a no-fault divorce. In an uncontested divorce, a court could potentially grant your divorce 31 days after you served the complaint on your spouse. However, it will take time for you and your spouse to agree to divorce terms. Likewise, the timeline may also depend on the court’s availability.
Realistically, an uncontested divorce may take between 30-60 days for a Final Order to be issued.
If the divorce is contested, the court will only issue a divorce order after hearing both parties present evidence on all contested issues. This process can be quite lengthy as it involves discovery, motions, negotiations, and more. As a result, contested divorces may take anywhere from 6 months to several years.
Contact a Lawrenceville Divorce Lawyer For More Information
Are you contemplating a divorce? Having a strong divorce lawyer on your side can be a game-changer for your divorce settlement agreement. Crystal Wright Law LLC can advocate for your rights and ensure a satisfactory resolution to your family law issue.