Divorce can be daunting and draining – both financially and emotionally. However, having a clear idea of what the process will look like and having proper representation throughout it will save you stress and money. If you are like millions of other Americans, you are unsure of how to begin, who to turn to, and what you will need to do. The most important thing you can do is secure robust, effective representation that will lead you through the process. Once you have done so, here is a general timeline that will help you get an idea of the divorce process stages and what will happen in each one.
Day One: You will file the contested divorce complaint. Make sure to do so in the appropriate county’s Superior Court.
Approximately 3-10 days after filing: The other 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.
Within approximately 30-45 days of filing the contested divorce complaint: The other party will file their response. Then, the process of “Discovery” will take place. This means that your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer will exchange information and build their cases. You will be asked to provide information through Interrogatories (written questions), Requests for Documents (physical documents) and a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (a budgeting worksheet showing a snapshot of each party’s budgets and finances, etc.)
If you have minor children together, you will need to attend a parenting seminar as soon as you can.
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: 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 (Except for Fulton County, which uses the Status Conference system and the temporary case is heard before a Judicial Officer).
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. Depositions are a means by which to get an idea of how that person will testify in court and are less formal than court, but still require answering under oath.
– 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.
– After the trial takes place, the judge may make a ruling immediately from the bench, or may take the case “under advisement.” In the latter case, the judge will issue a ruling later, which can range from a few weeks to a few months.
– Once the judge has made a decision in the case, the court will issue a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce.