Think your marriage is over, but you and your spouse cannot agree on how to end the marriage? Well, then you may have a ground for contested divorce. Instead of moving from point A to point B and wrapping up your marriage, in Georgia, there are more steps that need to be taken prior to obtaining the divorce.
What is a Contested Divorce
A contested divorce is a lawsuit like any other. This process involves pleadings, discovery, motions, mediation, and potentially a trial before the judge. Unlike uncontested divorces however, contested divorces are time consuming. A hard fought domestic action consists of heavy discovery, a temporary hearing, an unsuccessful mediation, and an ultimate trial, which can run from 100 to 200 hours in attorney time, or more. While most contested divorced settle in mediation before ever going to trial, a contested divorce contemplates the possible need for the court to make the final decision regarding custody, child support, alimony, property division and division of debts.
Grounds for Contested Divorce
In Georgia, there are defined grounds for filing for a contested divorce. The established grounds for filing contested divorce in Georgia are (See O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3 – Grounds for Total Divorce):
- Marriage between close blood relatives
- Mental incapacity at the time of marriage
- Impotency at the time of marriage
- Adultery occurring during the marriage
- Habitual intoxication
- Willful and continued desertion
- Incurable mental illness
- Cruel treatment including willful infliction of pain, which reasonably justifies concerns of danger to life, limb or health.
- Criminal conviction requiring incarceration of two years or longer
- Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the husband.
What to Expect
During the initial stages of the divorce, you will experience wide range of emotions. You will need an experienced divorce attorney who can help you make logical decisions at the time when you may not be thinking with a clear mind. Generally, people going through divorce can make irrational choices due to the anger, misplaced trust, or even a desire to “just get it over with.”
Preliminary Process for Filing for Contested Divorce
Prior to filing for contested divorce, you must be a resident of Georgia for 6 months. After filing for the contested divorce, there will be a period to explore possible mediation. If the spouses decide to go through mediation, they will be likely able to avoid a lengthy divorce battle. After the petition is filed, there is a period for discovery, when spouses get the opportunity to learn what each party is seeking. Contested divorce petition should only be filed in Georgia when you and your spouse are entirely sure that you have a compelling case for proving fault and will be able to afford the legal fees that will be accrued, when pursuing litigation. In Georgia, the court’s filing fee for a contested divorce is approximately $215 for most counties, in addition to the expenses associated with serving divorce papers to the other spouse. Lastly, the attorney fees will be required to be paid.
Timeline for Contested Divorce
Day One: Contested Divorce complaint is filed with the appropriate Superior Court.
3-10 Days after Filing Divorce Complaint: Opposing party will be served with the contested divorce papers. This can be done by the county sheriff, private process server, or, if you have given them the papers, they will need to sign an acknowledgement of having received them in the presence of a notary.
30-45 Days after Filing Contested Divorce Complaint: Within 30-45 days of the filing, the other party will file their response. Then the process of “Discovery” will take place. During the discovery process, your lawyer and spouse’s lawyer will exchange information and build their cases. You will be asked to provide information through interrogatories, Request for Documents, and Domestic Relations Affidavit. If you and your spouse have minor children together, you will need to attend a parenting seminar as soon as you can. If the case is filed in Fulton County, there will be a 30-day status conference during which temporary arrangements will be made regarding the case.
Within ninety (90) days of filing the complaint: Within 90 days of filing complaint, Mediation will generally take place during this time. Specifically, in Fulton County, there will be a 60-day status conference.
Within approximately 15-90 days of filing the contested divorce complaint: Generally, a Temporary Hearing will be scheduled during this period.
Within approximately 4 to 18 months of filing divorce complaint:
Parties may be called to attend a 120-day status conference in Fulton County.
– If the case has not yet been resolved by negotiation between the parties and/or their attorneys, mediation, or a Late Case Evaluation (Fulton County), it will likely be set down for trial during some point within this period.
Depositions may also be held, both with the parties involved and with potential witnesses. Before the trial, the court will hold a pre-trial conference and implement some other procedural
measures such as requiring exchange of witness lists, updates of evidentiary change, etc.
Once the judge has made a decision in the case, the court will issue a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce.
Is Attorney Required for Contested Divorce?
Having your own attorney is strongly recommended for a contested divorce cases. Generally, a specialized attorney will be able to assist you in proving fault in contested divorce and will be able to minimize the mistakes you may make that will reflect poorly on you. Legal fees may be minimized by working with an attorney on a divorce agreement that is suitable to both you and our spouse or entering a mediated divorce that does not involve assigning fault. The Court is required to certify all divorces, but contested divorces usually take much longer, in terms of making cases and following procedure. Often times, it is generally advised to resolve disputes amicably if possible, so additional costs can be avoided. It is advised for anyone to consult with an experienced divorce attorney before choosing to file a contested divorce.
If you are facing a contested divorce, or just have questions in general about divorce, call 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced contested divorce law attorneys.