What is the legal process for Divorce?
In Georgia, the process for filing divorce starts with one spouse filing a Complaint for Divorce in the Superior Court in the County that has proper venue (see “where do I file for divorce in the State of Georgia”). The Complaint for Divorce must be signed and notarized by the party filing the complaint.
Thereafter the Complaint for Divorce is put out for service of process. Service of Process can be accomplished either by sheriff service, service by special process server, service by Acknowledgment of Service, or service by publication in the local county newspaper. The manner of service will vary from case to case, and it must be done properly, or you do not have a case.
After service of process, the other spouse has 30 days to file what is called an Answer.
Thereafter, what is usually done is paper discovery, such as interrogatories and document production requests, along with subpoenas to discover information from employers, and other third parties who may have information relevant to the proceedings. Most often these documents will be financial in nature, but in child custody cases, or cases where adultery is an issue, the nature of documents being requested can vary substantially. Yes, even paramours, mistresses, etc., can be brought into the case and discovery done against them, where the information sought is relevant.
NOTE: complying with discovery in a timely fashion is critical to a case. Parties who refuse to comply with discovery often end up paying attorney’s fees to the other side, have their cases materially harmed, and even in a few cases will be ordered to jail until they do comply with discovery responses. Discovery is serious business.
The case may also involve depositions. Depositions are another means of discovery, but taken under oath, with a court reporter, where live witnesses are questioned about information relevant to the case. Depositions can be extremely valuable in proving up your case, in discovering financial assets, in building child custody cases, and in cases where adultery is relevant.
Conducting discovery properly is often the key to winning cases. You will be working with your attorney to plan and execute discovery in the case. Discovery must usually be completed within 6 months of the Answer.
A Georgia divorce may also have what is known as a “temporary hearing”. Temporary hearings do not happen in all Georgia divorce cases, but they are very common. After a divorce is filed, but before the case is settled, there are often many temporary issues that have to taken care of, such as temporary possession of the home, temporary child custody issues, temporary child support and temporary alimony issues, temporary attorney’s fees, temporary debt and temporary asset issues, and other issues that arise. If the parties cannot agree on these issues, a court will hear an abbreviated hearing, called a “temporary hearing”, and resolve the issue for the parties. In many cases the temporary hearing will be a very key event, as it will be the first time evidence is presented before the judge who will hear any final trial. What a court decides at the temporary hearing is not necessarily what will be ordered at a final hearing, but in many cases that is what happens
Mediation. MOST DIVORCE CASES in the State of Georgia will settle prior to final trial. Mediation is a process that helps settle cases. Most cases will involve mediation, and most cases will settle. But even if a case does not settle at mediation, mediation can be a very valuable process as it enables a party to better learn about their own case, and better learn about the other side’s case. Mediation is an important and valuable part of the divorce process in the State of Georgia.
Final Trial. In the end, after discovery is done, after mediation and other settlement talks have failed, you go to a final trial in Georgia Superior Court. Some issues in a divorce can be tried in front of a jury (if one party chooses to do so), but most divorce cases are tried in front of the judge. At trial, live witnesses will be necessary, as affidavits will not be admissible (like they are admissible at a temporary hearing) and all the rules of evidence, including the hearsay rule, will be in place and strictly enforced. It is possible to have some issues settled, and other issues tried. But whatever issues remain not settled will be tried in the end.
Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.
Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.