Merriam-Webster cites that the origin of the word “divorce” is linked back to 14th century middle English word “divorse” meaning “to leave one’s husband”. If it were as simple as leaving your spouse these days, there would be no divorce attorneys. Whether you think it fortunate or not, the legal process of divorce is a complicated and time consuming process which varies state-to-state and even sometimes county-by-county.
I often meet with people planning or just thinking about getting divorced who want to know more about the process. Consider this post as a brief and oversimplified tutorial on the process of divorce in Georgia.
Step 1. The Complaint: Someone files a Complaint for Divorce letting the Court and their spouse know that a dissolution of the marriage is desired.
Step 2. The Answer: the party who did not file the divorce (Defendant) gets an opportunity to respond or not.
Step 3. The Temporary Hearing: If there are contested issues that need to be resolved immediately, the Court hears from both parties and enters a Temporary Order. Due to current budgetary constraints, sometimes “immediately” is three to four months after the divorce is filed. If you do not have minor children or issues of spousal support that need to be address quickly, a temporary hearing may not be necessary.
Step 4. Discovery: The parties exchange all the information they have on everything relating to the marriage so they can each confirm exactly what it is in the marital estate.
Step 5. Negotiations & Mediation: This is the part where the parties have a chance to choose their “divorce destiny”. Negotiations can occur at any phase before or after the complaint is filed and is encouraged by the Court.
Step 6. Settlement: If the parties can agree on everything, a Settlement Agreement outlining the terms of the Divorce is drafted and signed.
Step 7. Final Trial: If the parties cannot agree on how to resolve all or any of the issues of divorce, each party goes before the Court and the Court decides it for them.
Step 8. Final Judgment and Decree: The request for Divorce is granted and the parties are officially no longer husband and wife. If the Judge accepts the Settlement Agreement it is incorporated into the Final Order and Decree. If there is no Settlement Agreement, the decision of the Court is made a Final Order.
Step 9. The Post- Divorce Clean Up: If ownership of assets and liabilities didn’t change hands prior to this, it changes hands now. For instance, retirement accounts can be split only after the Final Order of the Court and with the filing of the proper orders to plan administrators.
A divorce in Georgia can be completed in as little as 31 days or take years to resolve. It all depends on how easily the parties can resolve their differences. While Torriente Marum will zealously advocate your position in cases where judicial intervention is necessary, we believe that it is in the best interest of most clients to have their cases settled amicably outside of court.