The Four Issues of Divorce That Must Be Decided
In Georgia, there are four issues that must be decided before a final decree
of divorce can be issued:
- Child custody*
- Child support*
- Alimony, and
- Property division
* only if you have minor or dependent children
A Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce will only be granted after all issues
have been decided either by agreement of the parties or by trial before
a judge or jury. Our skilled
family lawyer in Sandy Springs can help you find resolutions to these issues and any others that arise
during your case.
Uncontested Divorce Cases
Some divorce cases are completely uncontested. That means that the divorce
is sought on no-fault grounds (irretrievably broken with no hope of reconciliation)
and the parties have agreed on all issues.
Assuming that everything is really uncontested, all the paperwork, schedules,
and agreements can be filed with the Court and the divorce can be finalized
31 days after the papers are served. It is often not necessary for both
parties to appear in court to settle an uncontested Decree.
Before entering into a settlement agreement in an uncontested divorce,
it is important to make completely sure that your agreement is well-written.
Unfortunately, we have seen many cases that were supposedly uncontested
wind up in court later on because the agreement is either ambiguous or
silent on an important point. If you and your spouse are pursuing an
uncontested divorce, call Brenner Law Group, LLC to learn how we can help with your divorce
Contested Divorce Cases
Contested divorce cases can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to resolve. A
seasoned divorce attorney can help you understand and prepare for each
stage of a contested divorce. The procedural flow of the case is set out
by law, and in general goes as follows:
The Complaint (Petition)
All divorces start by filing formal papers known as the "Complaint,"
or the Petition for Divorce, in the Superior Court of the couple's jurisdiction.
The complaint sets out your issues with regard to ending the marriage,
as well as child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, personal
and real property division, division of debt, and any applicable attorney fees.
When the complaint is filed, the Court generally issues a standing order
prohibiting you or your spouse from making any major changes to your assets
or debts, or removing your children from the jurisdiction of the Court.
The sheriff or a private process server will serve a copy of the complaint
on your spouse. After a complaint has been served, your spouse files documents
in response, denying or admitting every paragraph in the complaint. In
the State of Georgia, you have 30 days from when you were served or acknowledged
service to file your answer.
Divorces can take months and even years to resolve. It can take time to
learn about all the assets and debts, and to develop the evidence you
will need to properly present your case. The law anticipates that the
parties may have interim needs that must be addressed on a temporary basis,
like parenting and support issues. For just that reason, either party
can request a hearing to seek temporary relief.
“Discovery” is the legal word for fact-finding and developing
the evidentiary basis for presenting your case and/or challenging your
spouse’s case in court. The law provides us with a way to ask written
questions and ask for documents, requiring responses under oath. Sometimes
an attorney will elect to ask questions and review documents in front
of a court reporter so that all communication is documented.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation, Arbitration, Settlement Negotiation)
Once our firm has the information we need, we will meet with you to review
your expectations. The financial and emotional costs of going to a trial
should be weighed against the realistic expectations of what could be
won or lost at a trial.
It is often beneficial to see if we can resolve the case between the parties
without having to go to a hearing. In fact, most judges require divorcing
spouses to take this step. It’s important to understand that negotiation
is every bit as much an art as is trying a case, so you want an attorney
who is experienced in negotiating divorce and family law cases.
Even if you have an uncontested divorce, or even if you think that you
have worked everything out, you should not sign any papers without having
a skilled divorce attorney review the documents with you to make sure
you are protected and that you are truly getting or giving what you think
you are getting or giving.
Sometimes the option that seems cheap is very, very expensive in the long
run. Too often, people wind up litigating over terms in sloppy settlement
agreements, and it can cost more than if things were done correctly in
the first place. We encourage you to make sure that your settlement agreements
are handled by an experienced divorce lawyer like Emily Brenner.
If you can’t settle your case, the next step is a trial. The trial
may be in front of a judge only, or either party may ask for a trial by jury.
If one of you asks for a jury trial, the judge alone will first determine
the issues of
child custody and visitation. The jury then decides the financial issues of the case (property division, debt allocation,
child support, and
alimony). After the jury trial, the judge alone will decide whether to award attorney fees.
At Brenner Law Group, we are always open to settling your case if that
is in your best interest, but we prepare all our cases as though they
are going to trial. Our team gathers all evidence that would be needed
for trial so that we can make the best possible case for our clients.
We have found that by always being prepared to go to trial, our clients
are able to negotiate from a position of strength.
Appeals are uncommon in divorce cases because the judge has very wide discretion
in deciding your case. If you have gone through a divorce and are thinking
of appealing the judgment, get in touch with our Sandy Springs divorce
firm immediately. We can evaluate your situation and determine your legal
options to pursue an appeal.
Are You Filing in Fulton County?
It’s important to know that Fulton County is the only county in Georgia
with a separate family court. The Family Court Division has set up specific
administrative procedures that must be followed in divorce cases in Fulton County.
Contact Brenner Law Group Today
At Brenner Law Group, divorce and family law is all we do – and we
do it really well. Ms. Brenner has more than 30 years of experience in
divorce and family law, holds a Master’s degree in counseling psychology,
is trained in the mediation of high-conflict cases, and was the 14th woman in the United States to be accepted to the National Board of Trial
Advocacy (1990). When you choose Brenner Law Group you can be confident
that you will be represented by an attorney who knows the ins and outs
of divorce in Georgia.
If you are contemplating a divorce, have been served with divorce papers,
or need a Sandy Springs divorce lawyer at any stage in the process, call
us at (404) 418-4006 or
e-mail us to schedule a consultation.