Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce and Family Law
How do I file for a divorce?
In order to file for divorce in Georgia, you must draft a Complaint for Divorce (sometimes called a Petition for Divorce) and file it in the superior court in the proper county along with a payment of around $200. Many courts require additional paperwork such as a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit and a Child Support Worksheet at the time of filing as well.
I just received a Complaint for Divorce from my spouse. What should I do?
Contact an attorney immediately to discuss all of your options. Assuming that you were properly served, you have 30 days to file a response to the Complaint. If you file an Answer, you will need to admit or deny each assertion made by your spouse in his/her Complaint for Divorce. You may also elect to file a countersuit or ask that the complaint be dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction or other legal grounds.
I can’t afford an attorney but my ex has hired one. What should I do?
Some family law firms, including ours, offer free initial consultations. If you feel you would not be able to afford to retain an attorney throughout your case, it is vital that you seek legal advice on the front end of your case so that your interests can be protected.
Also, although it cannot be guaranteed, many judges require that a high-earning spouse be responsible for paying a portion of a lower-earning spouse’s attorneys fees in divorce actions. In other words, a court may order your spouse to pay your attorney. Other statutes provide an avenue for payment of attorneys fees by the opposing party to individuals seeking modifications of child custody and child support or contempt actions.
Lastly, although paying for an attorney may seem too expensive, it is very likely that a high-quality lawyer can assist you in receiving a much more favorable financial result when it comes to division of the marital estate, allocation of debt, child support/alimony, and/or payment of attorneys fees, which would ultimately save you more money.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
In Georgia, if the parties can agree on all of their legal issues, you can get divorced 31 days after the defendant has been formally served with a copy of the summons and complaint or otherwise acknowledged service. In contested cases, however, it is not uncommon for a divorce suit to remain active for as long as 6-12 months or longer in some cases depending on the complexity of the case.
What’s the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce?
Often, people think that an uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses agree to get divorced. Actually, an uncontested divorce requires more than that. You must agree on all of your legal issues, including custody, visitation, child support, property division, debt allocation, and alimony, and submit a signed Agreement to the Court at the front end of the case to qualify as an uncontested matter. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is a divorce in which any of these issues is being disputed.
Many people think they have an uncontested case only to discover they cannot agree on a particular issue or a number of issues. An attorney can help you think through all possible issues that may arise in the future so you can avoid going to court every time a disagreement arises between you and your ex. Also an attorney will negotiate on your behalf in order to turn your contested divorce into a favorable result.
How is child support determined?
Georgia is a shared-income model state. This means that the wages or earning capacity of both spouses is considered in determining child support. After determining the wages of both parties and the number of children who require support, a basic child support obligation is calculated. Although that number gives the court and the parties a good starting point for determining an appropriate amount of child support, there are many deviations that can increase or decrease that support amount.
Can I share custody?
Custody can be determined by agreement or by a judge after a contested trial. Note that even if custody is addressed by agreement, you will need to submit the agreement to the Court for the Judge’s signature to make the terms enforceable. Either way, courts require that the issues of physical custody and legal custody be addressed. Physical custody involves the allocation of parenting time of the parties and can be shared jointly or solely by one parent. Legal custody involves the right to make decisions for the children in a few major areas, including education, extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, and medical care. It can be arranged as joint or sole legal custody. If a parent has sole legal custody, he or she can make decisions unilaterally. If the parents share joint legal custody, the parents must confer on the issues before a decision is made.
How much do you cost?
Family law attorneys generally charge a retainer and an hourly fee. The retainer is an initial deposit of funds, which your attorney will withdraw from when performing work on your case. If your case is completed and there is still money in your retainer, you get that remainder back. If the retainer is depleted and your case is not over, you will be asked to replenish the retainer as your attorney completes your case.
The amount of the retainer will vary depending on your circumstances, but generally range from $1500 to $5000 with our Firm. The specific amount depends on your unique situation and the amount of conflict that exists between the parties involved. The hourly rate of the attorneys at The Porter Law Firm ranges from $225 to $250, much lower than comparable firms in the area with our experience and expertise. Additionally, unlike other law firms, we are able to discount our rates and arrange affordable payment plans depending on your financial circumstances. To determine how much your case may cost you, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.
Can I make payments online?
Yes! Click here to set up automatic monthly payments with The Porter Law Firm.
Disclaimer: The articles and comments on this site are written to be generally informative, not specifically designed to address your unique circumstances. They do not constitute legal advice, and they cannot replace a professional services. Please seek counsel from an attorney for help with your case.