According to the latest US Census Bureau data, Georgia was among the top 25 states with the most divorced couples in 2018.
As a no-fault state, it isn’t necessary to have grounds, or a legal reason, to file for divorce, but understanding the process before diving into it can limit disputes and help streamline your divorce.
What’s Necessary for a Georgia Divorce
You might be looking forward to the prospect of getting out of your marriage, but you’ll need to start at the beginning before you can celebrate. There are certain qualifications before you can file for divorce in the state of Georgia.
Georgia’s Divorce Residency Qualification
To file for a divorce within the state of Georgia, you must be a Georgia resident for at least six months or an armed services member stationed in the state for at least a year.
When filing for divorce, you’ll need to identify a reason, or “grounds,” for divorce. While most couples apply for a no-fault divorce, citing that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” there are 13 grounds under Georgia law that you can use to support your “fault” divorce. Some grounds include:
- Incurable mental illness;
- Intermarriage between close relatives;
- One spouse deserts the other during the marriage; or
- The wife was carrying another man’s child at the time of the marriage, and the husband was unaware of it.
The grounds of your divorce can have an effect on the case outcome: If you filed for divorce because your spouse cheated, they might not qualify for spousal support. That said, there are pros and cons to citing fault when filing for divorce.
Filing For Divorce in Georgia
Once you’ve determined the grounds for why you want to file for divorce, you’ll need to inform the court. You’ll typically file the complaint and any attached documents in the county where the defendant lives (your spouse if you’re the one filing for divorce), unless they live outside of Georgia or they moved out of the same county where you reside within six months of filing.
The Divorce Complaint
If you’re the person filing for divorce, you are the plaintiff or petitioner. Your spouse will be served a summons, making them the defendant or respondent.
A complaint serves as a formal petition for divorce. It will have your name and address, your spouse’s name and address, your grounds for divorce, and what you’d like resolved with the court. Depending on the county you file in, there will be an administrative cost for submitting a complaint, anywhere from $200 to $300.
Matters like custody over children, distribution of property, or spousal support can be settled before the case goes to court, but there is often some disagreement between the parties about how these issues will be handled.
Divorce Summons After Filing in Georgia
Once you’ve submitted your complaint, your spouse will be served a summons. They will have 30 days to respond to the summons. If they don’t respond, they will waive their right to further notice, potentially losing their claim to their property or rights to property or visitation.
If they respond within 30 days, they can agree to the divorce and the terms listed in the complaint. If they disagree with the terms of the claims made in the complaint, they can file counterclaims in their answer to the complaint and have the opportunity to respond to each allegation.
What Happens After My Spouse Answers the Divorce Complaint?
If your spouse agrees to your divorce claims, you’ll likely reach a settlement without having to take the case to trial. Your divorce will be considered “uncontested” and will be valid 30 days after your spouse returns their answer to the court.
However, if they disagree, you’ll need to prepare to prove your claims against their defenses to find an equitable solution for all parties, especially if children are involved.
Timelines vary from case to case, but they can be expedited with the help of a skilled divorce attorney.
How Can A Georgia Divorce Lawyer Help Me File For Divorce?
Regardless of your individual situation, it is always advised to speak with an attorney about your divorce complaint. They’ll know what you’ll need to include on your complaint, what kind of approach you could take to the answer your spouse gives to the court, and any other helpful information you’ll need to support your claim. A lawyer with experience will listen to your story and help you work towards a solution when you need to file for divorce.
Contact the Gentry Law Firm For Your Georgia Divorce
The divorce lawyers with the Gentry Law Firm LLC, have handled hundreds of divorce cases, and they’re ready to help you through yours. Filing a complaint properly will help start your case on the right footing, and doing it correctly will benefit you and your family in the long run.