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A Georgia Uncontested Divorce is possible when both the husband and wife agree on how to divide their assets and debts as a necessary part of the case. Also, if the parties have minor children, there must be an uncontested divorce agreement on how to share the custody and support of any children. Finally, the issue of alimony must be agreed upon; where in most uncontested divorce cases alimony is not an issue for the parties – it still must be mentioned in the divorce settlement agreement which will be signed by both parties. Once the spouses have reached an agreement, they can finalize their divorce paperwork and be issued a divorce from the court, in most cases without even having to go to a court hearing.
The Georgia Uncontested Divorce Process Usually Involves the Following Steps (brief summary) in this order.
- One or both of the parties have to have been a resident of Georgia for six (6) months or more. This is a necessary requirement. See O.C.G.A. § 19-5-2
- The parties discuss and agree to divorce.
- One or both of the parties meet with an attorney or attorneys and tell the attorney what they want in the divorce agreement
- The attorney (or attorneys) will draft all the necessary divorce paperwork.
- Both parties sign all of the the Georgia uncontested divorce paperwork, which must be notarized.
- The Georgia uncontested divorce documents are filed with the superior court, usually in a county that one (or both) of the parties’ resides.
- Georgia superior courts will generally grant a divorce with no hearing (assuming the proper paperwork is filed); or schedule a brief uncontested divorce hearing
- Once the court issues its order, usually called a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce (with or without a hearing), the case is final and the parties are officially divorced.
An uncontested divorce usually costs less than a drawn out battle in court or a solution that is reached through negotiation that is typically relied on attorneys. It can get pretty expensive having to pay an attorney to make phone calls, send out emails, prepare documents and sometimes make a appearances at court. Uncontested divorces are typically more cost efficient and less time consuming, it could be a few months (or even less) for the whole process to be finalized, depending on how long it takes the divorcing party members to work on a mutually beneficial agreement.
Those are all very beneficial advantages, but the biggest advantage is that an uncontested divorce is typically much less emotionally taxing on the divorcing spouses and the children. If the divorcing couple has any minor children, working collectively and leaving a respectful relationship with the other parent will affect them in a positive manner. As opposed to a drawn out divorce battle can negatively impact the relationship between parents and children. Even if the parties only have adult children, it is usually still a significant relief to the family as a whole if the divorce is uncontested.
In a Georgia uncontested divorce, there are four issues that usually get the most attention: child custody, child support, alimony and division of property / debts.
Custody of Children
Gaining custody of the children generally includes physical custody, which is the right to have the children live with you and legal custody, which means you have the right to make decisions about things such as the medical care and education of the children. It is worth mentioning that both types of custody can either be sole or joint custody. Joint physical custody usually means that the children will spend time at both of the parents’ home; it doesn’t necessarily have to be equally split time. Joint legal custody is where parents share decision making for the children. Finally, in Georgia there is also Split Custody, where one child may primarily live with the mother and another child may primarily live with the father. All of these custody issues will need to be agreed upon in an uncontested divorce.
There are some child support guideline for the state of Georgia that would be the ideal place to start in determining child support. In an uncontested divorce, the parties will agree on the amount of child support to be paid, and most reasonable agreements will be approved by the court. If an agreement can’t be made and the matter has to go to court, the judge will usually refer to the guidelines.
There is spousal support to be considered in case one of the spouses can sustain a lifestyle similar to the one they had while married. In an uncontested divorce, the parties will need to agree on whether alimony is to be paid (if any), the amount and for how long.
Property and Debt Division
When dividing property, it is important to be fair in the division of any bank or retirement accounts, investments, pension plans, any real estate the divorcing couple might own, time shares and any debt that may have been incurred while married. Also, the parties will need to agree how to divide more personal items such as furniture, pictures, pets and house hold goods and decorations. It is important to note, that the division of debt is a very important part of an uncontested divorce, which includes automobile loans, mortgages, tax debt, credit card debt, personal loans, 401(k) loans, etc.
Negotiating an Uncontested Divorce Settlement Agreement
The ideal way to resolve any issues and reach a mutually beneficial settlement is for the divorcing spouses to have a sit down and calmly negotiate the concerns in regards to the children and the property. In some cases, this is not possible for the spouses since there may be some ill-will after the separation.
If the divorcing is incapable of negotiating calmly, there is the option to hire a mediator. A mediator is someone who is neutral third party member who is trained in helping divorcing couples reach an agreeable settlement. It is important to remember that while mediators might be have the ability to help reach a settlement, they don’t have the power to impose a decision. It is also advisable to hire a consulting attorney to review a settlement that has been proposed.
Should the divorcing spouses want a more ordered and supervised process and they both want someone who is looking out for their best interest then a collaborative divorce might be worth looking into. During the collaborative divorce process, each spouse hires and attorney and small team is formed to resolve any issues and reach settlement without going to court. The issue with the collaborative divorce process is that both spouses have to hire different attorneys to handle the case if the negotiations fail. Because of the costs involved in getting different attorneys it is best to settle the divorce in manner that avoids going to court.
After all the major concerns have been resolve and an agreement has been made. One of the divorcing spouses files a document that is known as a complaint at the superior court that is local to them, the agreements that were reached are also required to be filed. After those documents have been filed it is only a matter of waiting for at least thirty-one (31) days for the court to review and approve the uncontested divorce. If the divorcing spouses hired attorneys to assist them in the divorce, then the attorneys will most likely take care of filing the documents. While most uncontested divorces are granted without a court hearing, a short court hearing is sometimes required in cases involving children, significant assets or debts or by a particular court’s policy requirement.