Frequently Asked Questions
What does an uncontested divorce mean?
An uncontested divorce does not simply mean that both parties have agreed to divorce. It does not take consent of both parties to get a divorce. An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse have reached a complete agreement on all issues, including division of property, allocation of debt, payment of child support, custody, visitation, and alimony. That agreement has to be drafted into a legal Settlement Agreement and signed by both parties.
What should I do to prepare for divorce?
The first thing you should do is schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney and bring as many financial records to that initial meeting as you are able to obtain. This helps your attorney understand the assets, debts, and income of the marriage.
What financial records should I gather?
Financial records which show the household income, assets, and debts of the marriage are all helpful. This includes tax returns, closing settlement statements for the purchase of real estate, recent loan applications submitted to any financial institution, bank and brokerage account statements, current retirement account statements (401K, IRA, Defined Benefit Plan, Pension and Profit Sharing, Deferred Compensation), records showing stock options and stock grants (if applicable), and a spreadsheet of the average monthly household expenses.
What is the process to get divorced?
A Complaint for Divorce is filed in your county of residence. You must have been a resident of the State of Georgia for at least six months preceding the filing. Once the divorce complaint has been filed and served on your spouse, discovery begins to determine debts, assets, income, and needs of the parties. If custody is contested, the Court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem for the children and/or order a full custodial evaluation.
How long does it take to get divorced?
Once there is a signed Settlement Agreement, the parties can be divorced 31 days from the date the divorce complaint has been served. However, without a signed Settlement Agreement, the length of the legal process depends on your county of residence and the judge assigned to your case. Some divorces involving complicated issues or custody of young children can take several years to resolve through settlement or trial.
What will a divorce cost?
The cost of the divorce is dependent upon the issues to be developed and the willingness of the parties to compromise and resolve those issues. Hourly billing rates range from $140 for paralegal time to $450 for attorney time. Retainers can range from $2,500 to $25,000 or more depending upon the case. The hours spent on your case each month are billed against the retainer, and a billing statement is sent so that you know the balance held in escrow and what has been charged for all expenses and services incurred by the law firm on your behalf that month. If money remains in escrow after the case is resolved on a final basis, it is refunded to the client. The client is responsible for expenses such as court costs and fees, depositions, private investigation, and employment of experts in their case.
How is property divided?
Georgia is an equitable division state. Equitable division does not necessarily mean equal division. Equitable means what two people consider to be fair. Marital property is defined as all property accumulated from the date of marriage to the date of divorce, which is not separate property. Marital property is subject to equitable division. Separate property is property that a party brings into the marriage, or receives by gift from someone other than their spouse, or inherits during the marriage. In deciding who gets what property, many criteria are considered, such as the separate estate of each party, the contribution of each party to the marriage, the causes for the dissolution, the household income and lifestyle, and the duration of the marriage.
How is custody determined?
Custody is always determined based upon the best interests of a child. In cases where the parties cannot agree on custody, a judge always makes the determination. There are two kinds of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is generally shared and provides that both parties should discuss all major issues which impact their child, such as healthcare, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. In the event the parties cannot agree, there should be a tiebreaker. Physical custody is where the child actually resides day-to-day. One parent can have sole physical custody and the other visitation rights, or joint physical custody, where each parent has 50 percent of the child’s time. A child who is 14 years of age may elect which parent that child wishes to live with primarily, provided their selection is determined by the Court to be in the best interests of the child.
How is child support determined?
Georgia has a comparative income approach, which means that the parents have a shared responsibility to support their children until each child is 18, graduates from high school, dies, marries, or otherwise becomes emancipated. The guidelines require a calculation of child support based upon the number of children for whom support is being paid and the income of both parents. Generally, each parent’s child support obligation is based upon their pro rata share of the parents’ combined income, taking into account certain expenses related to the children.
How is alimony determined?
Alimony is support paid to one spouse. It is based upon the income of the paying spouse and the needs of the dependent spouse. There is no formula for determining the amount or duration. There are statutory considerations, such as the duration of the marriage, the age and health of each party, the financial resources of each party, the separate estate of the parties, and the employability of each of the parties. Alimony is typically paid periodically on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, and is taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor spouse. However, alimony can be paid in a lump sum in the form of cash or property.