Contested Divorce

Contested Divorce

What is a Contested Divorce in Georgia?

In Georgia, a contested divorce is a divorce situation where spouses cannot reach an agreement on aspects of dissolving the marriage. In some situations, one spouse may be arguing against even getting a divorce.

A contested divorce process requires extensive litigation to reach agreement. A contested divorce is typically more stressful and financially challenging than an uncontested divorce.

If both spouses have reasonable divorce attorneys, the lawyers can affect a process that minimizes the time and cost to resolve differences. If the spouses become emotionally charged the aggressive bickering can drag out litigation for years.

Our contested divorce lawyers strive for a low-conflict approach to affect lower costs and less stress.

How to File Contested Divorce in Georgia

The initial filing for divorce (contested, uncontested, mediated, arbitrated) is effectively the same. After the initial filing, and papers have been served to the non-filing spouse, the prior-mentioned names refer simply to the style and process to end the marriage.

When a Divorce Becomes Contested

What types of issues drive a divorce to become a contested matter? The most common areas of high conflict are:

  • Child Related Matters: custody, visitation, child support, and the overall Parenting Plan.
  • Property Division: dividing financial assets, real estate, vehicles, etc.

What Does a Divorce Lawyer Do?

The responsibilities of your lawyer for a contested divorce are:

  • Develop an understanding of your situation
  • Define your goals and objectives
  • Prepare, file, and manage all required divorce legal documents
  • Act in good faith to obtain the best possible outcome for you
  • Manage negotiations with the opposing divorce lawyer
  • Advise you of realistic expectations, challenges, and progress
  • Develop a comprehensive Divorce Settlement Agreement
  • Represent you at any formal meetings and court appearance
  • File the signed and counter-signed divorce agreement with the Court for review and approval. Your respective lawyers will make certain that you receive a copy of the Divorce Decree, Settlement Agreement, and Parenting Plan (if you have minor children).

How Long Does It Take to Get a Contested Divorce?

In Georgia, it is technically possible to have a divorce made final in 31 days, however; for a contested divorce one or more years is not out of the question. A contested divorce with substantial assets (wealth) could take three years or more. Time delays are common due to the time for extensive, protracted litigation. Examples of common challenges are the subjects of finances, property division, child custody, visitation, and child or spousal support.

The Contested Divorce Process

Before You File

Before you file for divorce you need to think things through and develop a plan. You should let your lawyer know if you have concerns for the physical safety of you or your family.

You need to gather documentation. Secure copies of titles, deeds, account balances (bank accounts, credit cards, loans, etc.). You may also want to secure valuables, heirloom items, and similar items to prevent possible damage or loss (things can go missing).

Anticipate the disruption to your life. Think about your needs to maintain a home, pay bills, manage a new daily schedule . . . potentially with little to no help. Consider what resources you will need, who can help you make this transition, and what your post-divorce plan will be. Ask your lawyer about Temporary Orders for stability during your divorce.

Starting the Divorce Process

To begin the divorce process, you need to have a confidential meeting with your divorce lawyer. Your first meeting will be to discuss your situation and give you the opportunity to ask questions about the divorce process.

Hiring a lawyer. When you are ready to move forward, you need to sign an Agreement and arrange for payments. Your divorce attorney will advise you on specific information they need to file and manage your case.

Where to file: Georgia residency laws determine where you need to file your divorce petition. Your lawyer will need to confirm that you meet the Georgia residency requirements to file divorce papers.

In Georgia, your divorce petition must cite one or more of the Grounds for Divorce in Georgia.

The divorce process formally begins when your attorney drafts and files the Petition for Divorce with the local Superior Court. Your petition will then be processed by the Court for formal divorce papers to be served to your spouse. The divorce papers are delivered to your spouse by a third-party agent (usually a Sheriff's deputy or process server). Your spouse has 30 days to file a formal response to the complaint. Your spouse will most likely hire an attorney to prepare and file their formal response.

Divorce Discovery Process

The discovery process is the time in which you gather relevant documents, evidence, and notes to facilitate a better outcome. Your lawyer needs as much accurate information as you can provide in order to address critical areas which will directly affect the results of your divorce and your post-divorce life. The items you may need relate to finances, marital property, children's needs, etc. You should also consider information on your spouse related to criminality, violence, physical abuse, employment instability, immoral behavior such as adultery, alcohol or substance abuse.

The Divorce Settlement - Terms of Divorce

A divorce settlement is a legally binding agreement that addresses how key areas of your relationship will be executed or managed. Common areas covered within a divorce settlement agreement are:

  • Distribution of money, equity, investments, debt
  • Division of marital property (real estate, vehicles, motorcycles, etc.)
  • Child custody, normal visitation, holiday visitation
  • Child support, tuition, insurance, special expenses

You can ask for most anything in your divorce settlement. Some things to consider are forbidding overnight stays of a paramour when the person has actual custody of the child(ren), college tuition responsibility, etc.

Typically, each person tells their attorney what they want in these areas, and the attorneys then discuss the particulars. From there, the attorneys act as intermediaries to facilitate the creation of a Settlement Agreement. It can lower your costs if you and your spouse can come to agreements on these items to avoid unnecessary litigation.

When the Settlement Agreement has been thoroughly developed, and verbally agreed to by both parties, your divorce is almost finished. Depending on where you live, you may be required to completing a Parenting Class before your divorce is made final. Your lawyer will advise you of anything you need to do to complete your divorce.

If you have completed any special requirements, then all you need are both parties to sign the Agreement, and have your attorney submit the signed papers to the Clerk of Court for processing. If there are any issues that cannot be resolved by normal discussion, these points will be decided by a Superior Court judge, then the papers can move forward.

Other Things You Need to Know

Temporary Orders

Temporary Orders are a wise move when you file for divorce. It's a smart move to clarify where each spouse will live, how much access they may have to their home or possessions, child support, custody, visitation and more.

During a divorce it is usually forbidden for a person to sell, give away or otherwise dispose of financial assets, marital property, or other things of value.

Temporary Protective Order (TPO) - Restraining Order

If your situation escalates to stalking, harassment, terroristic threats, or domestic violence you may need a Temporary Protective Order to protect yourself or your family.

Legal Separation

In Georgia, when spouses are living separately, either spouse may petition the court for temporary child support or spousal support without having filed for divorce. The other party will be notified of such a petition, and the judge can grant a support order, which is legally enforceable.

Informal Advice for Going Through a Divorce

From the moment your fights started including the word "divorce" your actions and words may be recorded or otherwise documented. You need to restrain yourself from displays of anger, inappropriate behaviors, and certainly actions that could be deemed to be aggressive, threatening, or violent. Divorce is a time when you need to be on your absolute best behavior. One careless act can prove to be a mistake causes problems.

Get the legal help you need. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer. Call 706-253-3060 or contact us online.