What to Know When Considering a Georgia Divorce
Georgia is a state that has no-fault divorce. This means you don’t have to have a reason to get divorced, just the desire to be divorced. That starts by filing a lawsuit in the jurisdiction or the county in which the other party resides. You file that with the courthouse, the sheriff serves the other party with the paperwork, and then they have 30 days to respond to it.
During that time, you can ask the court for what’s called a Temporary Hearing, which is a hearing to determine what the status quo is going to be while the divorce is pending:
- Who gets to live in the house?
- Who gets custody of the kids on a temporary basis?
- Who pays child support?
- Who is responsible for paying what bills?
This gets set in place at the beginning of the case and remains with the case until you get to a final hearing.
At any time, you can go back and modify the temporary order. You’re going to have multiple temporary orders as things change, people move, or kids change schools. Between a temporary hearing and the final hearing, what you’re really trying to do is see what can be resolved in the case. You’re going through discovery, which means asking the other party questions about what bank accounts and debts they have. Both parties do this through their attorneys.
If there are children involved, you have to make determinations about custody, visitation, and child support:
- Where are the children going to be living?
- When does the other party get the opportunity to see them?
- How many months does the other party pay child support?
In Georgia, if there is an issue in terms of if the parties are in dispute about who’s going to get to be the primary physical custodian of the children, the court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
This is a third lawyer that both parties split the cost of, whose job is to represent the best interest of the children. That person will interview both parents, go to their houses, talk to teachers, and then come back to the court and make a recommendation about what that guardian feels is the best interest of the children. Then you present that information at a final hearing or at trial. The judge makes the determination of the custody, and if the parties can’t agree as far as how to split the property, essentially the debts and assets of the parties, then a judge or a jury can make that determination.
Should You File For Divorce Before Your Spouse?
There can be a benefit to filing for divorce before your spouse does. If it’s a situation where the parties have already split up and are living in different residences, if they’re in different counties, then you have to file in the county in which the other party is in. It can make a difference in terms of picking the jurisdiction—if one jurisdiction or judge is more favorable for the case, you’d want to try to get the case filed in that county. It depends a little bit on the residence, so you do get to control that part of it if you are the party that files for the divorce.
In addition, if you are going to be the one who is filing, you get to control the timing, in terms of when the court process actually begins, and you can certainly make some financial decisions ahead of time to control the other party’s ability to harm you while the case is pending.
Before filing for divorce make sure to take care of the following details so that once the divorce paperwork is served, you don’t suddenly have all of your bank accounts drained by the other party:
- Closing joint accounts
- Closing off credit cards
- Making sure you have enough financial resources in separate bank accounts that the other spouse can’t touch
Can a Lawyer Represent Both Parties In A Divorce?
In the simplest of divorce cases, where you’ve got two people who are married and don’t really have any marital property, and they haven’t really acquired anything, you can get one attorney to prepare the paperwork for an uncontested divorce. However, that attorney can only represent one party in that divorce. This means that while both married persons may be meeting with the same lawyer, that lawyer only has the interest of one person that they’re trying to protect. They may provide information to the other party, but they’re not actually trying to protect their interest.
In light of this, I always encourage both sides to have an attorney. I can only represent one side of the case. You can’t have one attorney representing both parties, it’s a violation of the bar rules. It’s unethical for the attorney to do so, and it’s always best for both parties to get their own independent legal advice to do what’s best for them.
If you are seeking more information on the Divorce Process in Georgia, schedule your initial consultation today. Get the information and legal answers you need by calling (678) 726-5400.