Are you’re considering whether or not to file for divorce in Georgia?
There’s a checklist of things you should know about (and do) to make sure that you have the fairest and most affordable divorce possible.
If you make any mistakes, it could cost tens of thousands of dollars, potentially make you lose custody, and not get your fair split of assets.
This is ESPECIALLY true if your spouse does everything correctly and their Georgia divorce lawyers are really good.
We are laying out the EXACT steps you need to take to file for a divorce in Georgia.
So, let’s dig in.
Table of Contents
- Preparing To File For Divorce
- Where To File For Divorce
- Fees You’ll Have to Pay
- File For Divorce
- The Reason You Are Filing For Divorce
- Prepare The Divorce Petition
- File Your Divorce Papers
- Serving Your Divorce Papers
- Finalize Your Divorce
- Waiting For Your Divorce To Finalize
- After Your Divorce Has Finalized
Before You File for Divorce in Georgia
When filing for a divorce in Georgia for any married couple will accomplish two things.
They want to sever the marital relationship and divide assets and debts.
(This also is true even when you’re dealing with common law marriage in Georgia.)
If one of the spouses cannot self-support themselves financially after the divorce, then the other spouse may have to fork up some money for alimony in Georgia.
If there are minor children, the divorce negotiations will also include child custody, visitation schedules, and child support.
Preparing To File For Divorce In Georgia
The first step when you file for a divorce in Georgia is to prepare your divorce paperwork.
And more importantly, make sure that you are filling out your divorce paperwork correctly or have a divorce attorney in Georgia do it for you.
But if you’re comfortable with contracts, you can fill the divorce paperwork out and file for divorce in Georgia online on your own.
This is the best way to have a quick divorce in Georgia.
But it could be risky not to have a divorce attorney at least review the paperwork.
Either you OR your spouse must have been a resident of the county where you are filing the papers for a least 6 months before filing for a divorce.
If you or your spouse recently went through legal separation in Georgia and one of you relocated to another county, you should file for divorce in the original county.
Where To File For Divorce In Georgia
If your spouse lives in Georgia, then you have to file the divorce papers in the county that they live in.
If you do not file for divorce in the county they live in, the divorce courts do not have jurisdiction over your spouse.
This is important because if your spouse decides NOT to respond to your ‘servicing’ of divorce papers or the local publication of the divorce, then it ends up being an uncontested divorce in Georgia, and you are granted the divorce.
If you file for the divorce in the WRONG county (not where your spouse lives), then they can contest the serving of divorce papers and make you restart the entire divorce process.
If your spouse lives out of state, you will have to file the divorce papers in the county that you live in currently.
Prepare To Pay The Fees To File For A Divorce In Georgia
The fees associated with filing for divorce in Georgia are roughly $200.
Depending on the county that you are filing in, you may also have to pay additional fees for a process server, document preparation, and administrative costs such as copies.
File For Divorce In Georgia
Now that you have prepared to file for divorce, let’s talk about the actual process of divorce filing in Georgia.
Determine The Reason You Are Filing For Divorce In Georgia
When you file for divorce in Georgia, there are 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia. These are the most common reasons for divorce.
What are the 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia?
- The marriage is irreparable.
- Being too closely related (cousins).
- Impotency or inability to have kids.
- The mental capacity of your spouse.
- Forced or fraudulent marriage.
- Wife getting pregnant by another man.
- One of the spouses were cheating.
- Desertion, meaning the spouse left the house over a year ago.
- 2+ year prison sentence.
- Addiction to drugs.
- Addiction to alcohol.
- Abuse and cruel treatment.
- Incurable mental illnesses.
For any of these 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia, you must be able to prove the conduct or fault.
Prepare The Divorce Petition In Georgia
The divorce petition in Georgia is fairly straightforward.
(As straightforward as divorce laws in Georgia can be.)
The divorce petition is a legal document filed in court by a spouse who seeks a divorce.
The divorce petition can also be called the complaint for divorce in Georgia.
The petition informs the court of the filing spouse’s (called the “petitioner”) desire to end the marriage.
And filing the petition with the court signifies the initiation of the divorce process in Georgia.
Once the divorce petition has been “served” on the petitioner’s spouse, it also notifies them that the divorce process in Georgia has begun.
In general, the information that you need when filing a petition for divorce in Georgia is:
- Spouse’s name and last known address.
- Date and location of the marriage and the separation (location is county and state).
- Info about the minor children of the marriage. (If you’re not filing for divorce with children, the petition should say this.)
- The length of residency in the county prior to the date of filing.
- Which one of the 13 grounds for divorce is applicable.
- How to split alimony, child support, child custody preferences, and the property settlement.
File Your Georgia Divorce Papers
Filing for divorce means that you have submitted your divorce forms to your county’s clerk’s office of the superior court.
You have to give them a copy of your signed divorce complaint.
When you submit your divorce complaint, they will give you a notarized copy that’s stamped with a date.
This shows the Georgia divorce courts the date that you filed for divorce.
(Be sure to get an extra copy of your divorce papers with the stamp for your spouse.)
Serving Your Divorce Papers In Georgia
You have to provide your spouse with a copy of your divorce papers in Georgia.
This is called, “serving” your divorce complaint.
The signature from your spouse, or their attorney, will need to be notarized.
Generally, it’s easier just to have the divorce attorney accept it because they have notaries in their office.
This way, you don’t have to fight your spouse to go get their signature on their divorce papers notarized at a bank.
This is especially true if you’re dealing with a contested divorce in Georgia.
There are several ways to have the divorce papers served:
- By email if they sign a “Notice of Consent to Electronic Service” with the court before you serve them.
- By filling out a form called “Acknowledgement of Service.” (This is the one to get notarized.)
- By hiring an off-duty deputy sheriff to serve them.
Once the server has delivered the complaint to your spouse, the server will return to the court clerk and make a note in your court docket that the defendant has received the documents.
If your spouse refuses to accept the divorce complaint service, the court clerk may send the divorce complaint by certified mail and use the return of the certification as proof that your spouse has received the complaint.
If you cannot locate your spouse, you can serve them by publication.
Serving your spouse by publication requires you to sign an affidavit for the divorce courts stating that you cannot find your spouse and you have to disclose the last place you know that your spouse lived.
When the courts approve your affidavit, they will post the notice of your divorce case in your spouse’s local newspaper.
They will post the publication four times in a span of 60 days and you will have to pay for the publications.
If you need to serve your spouse by publication, contact the superior court clerk for your county, and they can assist you.
Finalize Your Divorce In Georgia
The next step is to show up to the divorce courts and finalize the divorce in Georgia.
Get Your Divorce Documents
You are divorced as soon as the judge signs your divorce paperwork.
After this, you and your spouse (ex-spouse now), can start separating property and arranging child custody visitations.
In the meantime, you’ll want to (probably) change your last name.
You should keep copies of your divorce decree to prove your divorce.
You’ll have to change your name on your:
- Driver’s license.
- Leases or mortgage paperwork.
- Any contracts you have.
- Your retirement accounts.
- And your information at your child’s school.
You might as well go ahead and order certified copies of your divorce decree the day of your divorce.
This is because some agencies are going to be difficult and require a certified copy to change your name in their system.
But there are some good companies out there that will accept a digital copy.
Just remember that the divorce courts will charge you a small service fee to get a certified copy of your paperwork.
Waiting For Your Divorce To Finalize
Even though you got the signature of approval from the judge, the fat lady isn’t singing yet.
Your divorce is not legally finalized in the court system until 31 days after the judge signs the divorce paperwork.
This is so that your lovely spouse can have time to file an appeal to the divorce.
You read that right.
They can file an appeal to change the terms of the divorce agreement.
Just when you thought you were done with them.
After Your Divorce Has Finalized
Now that your assets and debts have been cut in half, you’re left with a reallocation of assets.
This may be in the form of new bank accounts, retirement accounts, rental properties, or businesses.
Either way, you should consider meeting with an estate planning attorney to create a new last will and testament.
Most likely, your spouse was the person who made medical decisions for you in the event that you were incapacitated.
Now that they are no longer your spouse, you will need to appoint a new person to make medical decisions for you.
You don’t want a doctor to determine whether or not you should live or die against your wishes in the case of an accident.
An estate planning attorney in Georgia can guide you through the process of these decisions.
Or you can fill out your own estate planning paperwork.