A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Georgia
Although every divorce is unique, there are several things that all divorces in Georgia have in common. Understanding the laws and processes concerning divorce in the state will help to reduce the stress and strain you are sure to encounter as you work through the steps.
When you know what the laws are and what to expect, you can proceed with a higher degree of confidence and make better decisions that will give you the best possible outcome in the end.
Here are some important things to know:
- Gathering Important Information
- Deciding How to Proceed with Your Divorce
- Filling Out the Necessary Forms
- Filing Your Documents
- Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers
- Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Georgia
Important information you need to gather
There are many complicated issues in divorce that you will need to be prepared for. Getting organized early on and having the documents you need at your fingertips will make the entire process a little bit less daunting.
It will also save you time and money, while helping to expedite the divorce process.
For a better understanding of what documents you’ll need, we’ve put together this Divorce Information Checklist. It’s a great resource as you begin the tedious task of pulling together your financial documentation.
Decide how you will proceed with your divorce
Once you (or your spouse) has made the decision to get a divorce, you need to decide how to get divorced. You have several options, driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to reach a resolution.
Here are the most common types of divorce:
- Collaborative divorce
So, which option is right for you? To answer that, you really need to weigh the pros and cons and think about your goals for the process.
We put together a great guide on The Types of Divorce that dives deep into each of these options (and more). Be sure to check it out if you’re trying to decide which path is best for you.
Fill Out the Necessary Forms to Start your Divorce
You will need to complete several forms and submit them to start the divorce process in Georgia. Which forms you need to complete will depend on your personal circumstances. If you are working with an attorney, they will assist you with the process and make sure that all the forms you need are filled out and that they are done so correctly.
Many counties have forms that are unique to their jurisdiction, although the forms may be similar throughout the state and in many cases may be used for any county in the state. It is best to check with your attorney or with the courthouse in the county where you plan to file your paperwork.
In general, here are some of the most commonly used forms in a Georgia divorce:
- Petition for Divorce – Uncontested. Filed by the plaintiff and asks that any agreement between the spouses be included in the final decree.
- Petition for Divorce – Contested. Filed by the plaintiff, this document must be verified and notarized. More detailed than in an uncontested divorce, this document may ask for child custody and support, temporary alimony and an equitable division of assets.
- Summons /Sheriff’s Entry of Service. Documents related to the services of documents to the defendant.
- Answer and Counterclaim. This is the form the defendant files when they agree with the divorce action. It is only used in an uncontested divorce.
- Rule Nisi. The is a notice of a hearing that directs the other party to appear in court and show why a request in a divorce should not be carried out. Also known as a Show-Cause Hearing.
- Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. Both parties must submit financial information of income, expenses, assets and debts to help provide transparency during the division of assets process.
- Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. This is used to determine the amount of child support that must be paid based on the Georgia Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations.
By way of example, the Superior Court of Fulton County offers a comprehensive list of forms that you can view to help you become more familiar with exactly what you may need to use for your particular situation. To view the list of forms, many of which can be used throughout the state, go here.
Once you have completed your forms, you must then file your documents and serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
File Your Divorce Forms with the Court
In Georgia, if you are working with an attorney, they will make sure all the forms are correct and will file them with the clerk of the court where your spouse resides. If your spouse has moved out of state, then you can file in your county of residence. In an uncontested divorce and if your spouse consents, you can file in your own county as well.
Be prepared to pay a filing fee when you submit your paperwork. In Georgia, fees will cost about $200, but you may also need to pay for a process server, document preparation and certain administrative costs as well.
Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
In Georgia, there are several ways you can serve your spouse with divorce papers.
If you believe that your spouse will accept service of the Complaint, then you can mail them the paperwork. In return, they will need to acknowledge service by signing an Acknowledgement of Service in front of a notary. This is the equivalent of swearing under oath that they have received the paperwork. Your spouse will then return the Acknowledgement and it will be filed with the court.
If a spouse is less cooperative, then the other two forms of service are to have paperwork served by a sheriff or by a private process server. Service by a sheriff is the preferred method because it is cheaper. Currently, that cost is $50 in most counties. A private server will cost more.
If a spouse dodges service from a sheriff or service can’t be completed for any reason, a private process server could prove more effective. A private process server is either permanently appointed or specially appointed by the courts to carry out this type of task.
With a permanent appointment, service can take place immediately because they are authorized to serve any party in any case filed in Superior Court.
Specially appointed process servers can only move forward after a Motion has been filed with the court and approved by a judge.
If you are not able to complete service in any of these ways, you have the option of Service by Publication. This entails working with the Clerk of the Court who will send a notice to a local newspaper which then runs a divorce notice four times within 60 days with each publication being 7 days apart. This method can take two to three months to complete.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Georgia
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Georgia?
Costs vary by county in Georgia, but in general, the amount ranges between $200 and $220. The fee must be paid at the time of filing to the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where the divorce is initiated. You will also need to pay a service fee which is the cost to have a spouse served with divorce papers by the Sheriff’s department or process server. In most counties, this fee is $50 for a Sheriff, and more for a process server.
Related Reading: Guide to Divorce Financial Planning
Can divorce fees be waived in Georgia?
If you are not able to afford to pay the filing fees for a divorce in Georgia, you can file an Affidavit of Indigence or a Poverty Affidavit (sometimes referred to as a Pauper’s Affidavit) asking the court to waive the mandatory filing fee and other associated court costs.
You will need to show proof of your income to ensure that you meet qualifications for the waiver to be granted. Most counties will only grant the waiver if you are representing yourself in the divorce or are being represented by a pro bono attorney.
Can I file for a divorce online in Georgia?
You sure can. In fact, filing for divorce online in Georgia can be a great way to save time and money.
Online divorce isn’t right for everyone.
It doesn’t work if you have a contested divorce. So if you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. There’s simply too much on the line to be pennywise and pound foolish.
But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself. There’s a lot of paperwork and navigating the legal process can be complicated – not to mention time-consuming.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help. 3 Step Divorce is an affordable online divorce service that makes it easy to complete your divorce papers and gives you step-by-step instructions for filing your forms with the court. All you have to do is answer the questions online, which should take less than an hour.
Here’s why we recommend 3 Step Divorce (full review here):
- A+ rating with the BBB
- Over 750,000 customers since 1997
- Private and secure
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Flexible monthly payment options (get started for as little as $84)
- Extensive library of free tools and resources
- Unlimited live support by phone and email
- 100% court approval guarantee or your money back
- Instant access to your completed forms to make any changes and print (or have them mailed to you at no additional cost)
- Highest-rated customer reviews in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews)
One of the things that really stands out is that 92% of all reviews are 4- or 5-stars.
Check out 3 Step Divorce to get started >>
Regardless of whether you complete the forms yourself or use an online divorce service, you will need to print them out and file your divorce papers with the court in person.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Georgia?
If you and your spouse agree on all the terms of a divorce, then an uncontested divorce in Georgia can be completed in as little as one month, although the timeframe is rarely that short.
However, if you are in a contested divorce with many issues to resolve, a divorce could take one to two years, or even longer, depending on the circumstances of your case.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Georgia?
To file for a divorce in Georgia, an action needs to be filed in the Superior Court of the county where the defendant lives. If the defendant does not live in Georgia or cannot be found, then the divorce should be filed in the county where the plaintiff lives.
To establish that a court has jurisdiction over a divorce, it must be proved that the spouses have a valid marriage and that at least one spouse has established residency by living in Georgia for six months. Those six months period must be consecutive and must be the six months prior to filing for the divorce.
Can I file for divorce in Georgia without using a lawyer?
In Georgia, if you and your spouse reach agreement on all marital issues on your own, you can file for an uncontested divorce which may not require the services of a lawyer to assist you. There is no law in Georgia that says you must use a lawyer in a divorce under any circumstances, although it is advisable to protect your legal interests if you and your spouse have disagreements regarding a division of assets, custody, support, alimony or similar concerns.
In an uncontested divorce, one party will prepare a Petition for Divorce along with other supporting documents which will then be filed with the court. Both spouses will attend a court hearing and if the judge decides that all paperwork is in order, then a Final Judgment of Decree of Divorce will be entered.
If you still have some unresolved issues, you can also use the services of a mediator, as long as both you and your spouse agree on this option. Over the course of one or more sessions, a mediator will review financial documents, forms and worksheets as part of a discovery process and then guide you and your spouse through a series of discussions about the outstanding issues, attempting to peacefully resolve things such as child support and custody, alimony and a division of assets.
Once these issues are resolved, a mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding and you will file this document with the court as part of your divorce process. Going this route saves time, money and stress instead of retaining a lawyer to represent you.
Can I get a divorce in Georgia if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant you can get a divorce in Georgia, it is preferable to wait until the baby is born to make it easier to determine support and custody issues. In some courts, a divorce may not be finalized until the paternity can be established with certainty and that can only happen after the birth of the child, even though the child is legally presumed to be the husband’s under Georgia law.
It’s best to consult with an attorney to determine what is best for your individual situation before proceeding with the divorce under these circumstances.
What are the implications of getting a divorce in Georgia if I am a member of the military?
If you or your spouse are a member of the U.S. armed forces and you want to get divorced in Georgia, you or your spouse must be a resident of Georgia for at least six months prior to filing a divorce action. The six-month requirement is extended to one year if you live on a military base.
The grounds for divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce. You only need to cite that the marriage is irretrievably broken as part of a no-fault action. But you can also cite one of the 12 fault-based grounds that the state allows as well.
After divorce paperwork has been filed in Georgia, copies must be served on a spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. However, when that spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
Normal property division laws apply for a military divorce in Georgia, but the federal government also protects military personnel through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act that governs how military benefits are calculated when a divorce takes place.
Federal laws will not allow a military members retirement to be distributed to a spouse unless the couple has been married for 10 years or more while the service member was on active duty.
Child support and spousal support are determined by Georgia state guidelines, but federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite guides:
- How to File for Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce
- What Are The Types of Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce