Contested or uncontested, divorce can be a painful and traumatic experience for all parties involved. For many, the subject may remain taboo, and there may be a lot of guilt and shame surrounding the event. However, if you’re struggling with these feelings, it’s important to recognize that divorce, well, happens. In the United States, about 50% of married couples divorce, with the average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old. 

Divorces are more or less likely based on a variety of factors, but according to a survey from U.S. Census Bureau, the top three reasons for divorces are incompatibility (43%), infidelity (28%), and financial issues (22%). Moreover, divorce rates tend to spike in March and August every year, an estimated result of partners’ attempts to push through family-heavy events like end-of-year holidays and summer break. 

Whatever the data shows, divorce can sometimes feel alienating and overwhelming. If you are planning to file for a divorce, here are some common questions clients typically ask before moving forward. 

Who can file for divorce in Georgia? 

The divorce laws in Georgia require at least one spouse to be a state resident for six months. Divorce in Georgia is no-fault-based, which means that either party can file. One of the most common grounds for divorce in Georgia is that the marriage is irretrievably broken, in which either party states that there is no chance of reconciliation. Other grounds include adultery, habitual intoxication, and abandonment. 

A quick note: Georgia courts require 45 days from the filing of a divorce before a final divorce can be granted.

How is a divorce in the state of Georgia granted? Will I have to appear in court? 

In uncontested cases, a divorce in the state of Georgia is granted after all the necessary paperwork is filed with the court. Either party may appear for a short, uncontested final hearing in court or may do a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

In any event, if minor children are involved, a Superior Court judge must review child support, custody, and visitation provisions to determine the best interest of the children are being met.

In contested cases, courts require mediations to attempt to settle all or some issues before trial. In Georgia, a party is entitled to either a bench (judge) trial, or a trial by jury. However, issues regarding children must be tried to a judge. In most cases, even hotly contested divorces are settled between the parties before trial.

Is Georgia an Equitable Division State? 

Yes. Under Georgia state law, each spouse is entitled to an “equitable” share of the marital property. As you’re moving forward with your divorce, this means that a judge will divide the property fairly based on each partner’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage, instead of dividing the marital property equally, Additionally, you can expect a judge to agree to a “fair” split between the parties. 

Does Georgia require spouses to separate?

In the state of Georgia, spouses are not required to physically separate before filing for divorce, e.g., live in separate places. Under Georgia law, the only requirement to file for divorce is that both parties must discontinue “marital relations” with the intent to divorce. As such, there is no specific timeframe of separation required within the state of Georgia to get a divorce.

How much does a divorce cost?

It depends. Some of the factors include how complex your case is and where you file (e.g., the state and city). A completely uncontested divorce with no minor children can be simple, straight-forward, and relatively inexpensive.

An uncontested divorce with minor children still requires a lot of documents to be filed to help a judge determine the best interest of the children.

A contested divorce with or without children can, frankly, be very expensive and take years to finalize. 

Debranski & Associates, LLC handles divorces on a retainer against hourly billing arrangement. We always consult with the client free of charge and quote a retainer based on the individual situation. 

How long does a divorce process take?

The time for the divorce process greatly depends on the case’s complexity or the couple’s situation. For instance, a totally uncontested case can be finalized in 45 days. Contested or partially contested cases are lawsuits that require filing, 30 days for the other party to file an answer, and then a discovery period, usually 6 months. In or at the end of the discovery period, the parties mediate. Then, if the parties cannot resolve their issues, a trial is held. This can take months and years.

How Does The Court Decide On Child Custody During A Divorce?

The custody of children is decided by a judge based on many factors. Sometimes, during the case, temporary custody is primarily assigned to one party to allow the child(ren) to continue having a stable routine. Judges can be tentative in changing these plans when taking permanent custody into account, as they do not want to remove stability from the child’s life. 

Additionally, judges consider the well-being of the child over everything else. A judge may appoint a guardian ad litem, a lawyer with knowledge of custody issues, to look into the issues on behalf of the children and recommend to the judge what the guardian ad litem believes is in the best interest of the children. The GAL will look into any history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, mental illness, and financial stability of each parent to determine the best place for the child. Courts tend to favor the spouse who can put their differences and issues aside for the betterment of the child, and a solid attorney will advise this as you enter custody proceedings. 

For more answers to your questions about the divorce process in the state of Georgia, reach out to our office. We can guide you through the different divorce processes, help you see what issues need to be resolved, and help you move forward in the next legal steps.