Divorce will divide your assets, settle child custody and cut legal ties to the other party. It's a necessary, often stressful procedure that you'll likely handle better if you're prepared. While Georgia law gives you the right to represent yourself, divorce is a complicated process with laws that affect many steps along the way.
It's best to leave the heavy lifting to an attorney with the knowledge and experience to guide you through the process. If you've recently filed for, or are considering divorce here's what you can expect.
Time Limit to Respond to Divorce Complaint
In order to file for divorce, you or your spouse must be a Georgia resident for a minimum of six months. Once the appropriate paperwork is filed, the other party has a limited time to respond -- 30 days if they're a Georgia resident, 60 days if they live in another state and 90 days if they reside outside of the United States.
The court will proceed with the divorce if the other party fails to respond within the given time limit.
Final Divorce Versus Legal Separation
Under Georgia law, you can file two types of divorce -- a final divorce and a legal separation. When you ask for a final divorce, it represents a permanent dissolution of the marriage. If the court grants it, property claims are terminated and you're permitted to get remarried in the future.
A legal separation is a temporary type of divorce where you retain property claims unless otherwise outlined in the separation agreement. You're not permitted to remarry during a marital separation.
A legal separation gives couples time to live apart to see if they want to go through with a final divorce, while protecting assets and keeping some of the benefits of marriage, such as insurance coverage.
You'll need proof of your assets for the divorce process. To prepare, gather important documents pertaining to your finances and assets, including tax returns, mortgages, bank statements, stock portfolios, 401k plans, trusts, credit card statements, employment contracts, bills and life insurance policies.
Make a detailed list of your personal property, such as automobiles, jewelry, artwork, coin collections, antiques, collectibles, boats, furs, computers, and anything else of value.
If you own a business, gather all of the financial information pertaining to your business assets.
If you have children, you'll need to come to a custody agreement, unless you want the court to decide. Together with your spouse, you'll have to create a parenting plan that you both agree on. It's a good idea to create a tentative plan to discuss with your spouse.
When creating your parenting plan, consider what is in the best interest of your children. A good parenting plan includes a visitation schedule, an outline of how much time the children will spend with each parent, sleeping arrangements, discipline methods, school obligations, and dietary requirements.
Many Georgia counties require you to make a good faith effort at mediation before having a contested hearing in court. Mediation is designed to assist you and your spouse in coming to amicable divorce terms so that you avoid the unpleasantness of going to trial.
Mediation involves a neutral third-party that will help the two of you communicate your needs and wants and resolve outstanding issues.
Through a successful mediation, you'll create legally binding agreements that outline issues such as custody and property division.
This is a broad overview of some of the steps in the divorce process. Each divorce is different, you may have issues that come up pertaining to your specific situation that haven't been discussed here. To learn how we can assist you, contact Brimberry, Kaplan & Brimberry P.C. for a free consultation.