The breakup of a marriage is more than ending a legal relationship between two people. The couple planned to spend their lives together; often they had children along the way. A divorce puts an end to those plans and the relationship, but it’s also the beginning of a new life for each party. Our divorce attorneys can help you on the path toward that new life.
The breakup of a marriage is more than ending a legal relationship between two people. The couple planned to spend their lives together; often they had children along the way. A divorce puts an end to those plans and the relationship, but it is also the beginning of a new life for each party.
Virtually every divorce involves emotions on the part of each spouse, even if both are in agreement regarding the divorce. A divorce is an ending, and endings can be sad even when necessary. In fact, a divorce is considered the second most stressful event in a person’s life, following the death of a loved one. Not only is a divorce emotional, but there are also many stressful issues that accompany a divorce, particularly when children are involved.
Alderman & Hutcherson’s divorce attorneys help our clients end their marriages, while helping them prepare for their new future lives. Decisions made during a divorce impact how children are cared for, how property and debts are divided, and whether a party will receive alimony or child support (and how much). We are ready to help you get through this difficult time in the best way possible, and with the most positive outcome.
How Do You File for Divorce?
Our divorce attorneys will file your divorce in the county where either you or your spouse has been a resident for at least six months before filing for divorce. The attorney will file the Complaint for Divorce. If you are the spouse filing for divorce, you will be the plaintiff or petitioner. Your spouse would then be the defendant or the respondent. The complaint will state that one spouse has been a resident of the county for the requisite six months and will provide legal grounds for the divorce based on your specific circumstances.
You may either be filing under Georgia’s no-fault laws by simply stating the marriage is irretrievably broken, or you may file a “fault” divorce. The Complaint for Divorce will address any issues you want the court to consider, including alimony, child custody and child support, and the division of assets and debts. If you and your spouse are in agreement on every single aspect of the divorce, you will have what is known as an uncontested divorce. In reality, many divorces that start out as uncontested, move to contested, or, in some cases, hotly contested. Obviously, an uncontested divorce will take much less time and money.
If you do have a truly uncontested divorce, your attorney will prepare a settlement agreement that states all issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of both spouses. Your divorce attorney will file your Complaint for Divorce, and you will get a copy with a date stamp and notation showing it was filed with the court. An extra copy will be served on your spouse. If your spouse is in agreement, his or her attorney can accept the documents, otherwise, the documents will need to be delivered to your spouse via a process server.
If your spouse refuses to accept the documents, the Complaint may be sent via certified mail, with the return of the certification being used as proof of delivery. Some Georgia counties require financial disclosures that will include income, assets, debts, tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, personal financial statements, and any other financial information pertinent to the divorce.
While you could, in theory, file your own divorce papers, it is extremely easy for a layperson to make a mistake that could cost them considerably down the road. Additionally, the complexities associated with filing for divorce can be stressful and time-consuming. Having one of our experienced divorce attorneys from Alderman & Hutcherson can make the entire divorce process much easier.
How Much Does a Divorce Attorney Cost?
The cost of a divorce in the state of Georgia will vary considerably, based on many different factors. An uncontested divorce is not only quicker, but it is also less expensive. While going the DIY route may seem cheaper, in the long run it could cost you considerably more than any money you might save. A high net worth divorce can cost more money, simply because there are more assets to deal with and divide. Divorces where the spouses simply cannot agree on the division of assets or those in which custody is hotly contested will obviously cost more than those where the couple agrees on those issues.
Some lawyers will charge an initial consultation fee, while others will not. You will usually pay a retainer fee to your Georgia divorce attorney—more for a contested divorce, and less for an uncontested divorce. The retainer fee will go into a special account as per the law, and as your attorney works on your case, you will be charged against that retainer fee. A retainer fee is usually about half the estimated cost of your Georgia divorce, and when the retainer fee runs out you will be asked for the remaining amount to continue. There are certain service fees and court filing fees that will be a part of your divorce cost as well. Court filing fees vary but are usually around $200-$300.
Very generally speaking, a Georgia divorce can cost from $5,000-$20,000. The years of experience a divorce attorney has can affect the hourly rate, and those attorneys who are in high demand may charge more as well. That being said, a higher hourly rate may not necessarily translate into a higher overall bill, because a more experienced lawyer may be able to wrap up the divorce more quickly. At Alderman & Hutcherson, we guarantee a no-obligation free consultation and will discuss costs with you upfront so there are no unpleasant surprises.
Contested vs. Uncontested Georgia Divorce
An uncontested divorce means that both parties agree to all terms of a divorce prior to filing the paperwork. The terms of a divorce include division of marital assets, debts, child custody, child support, and alimony.
A contested divorce means that the parties cannot agree to one or more terms of their divorce. This requires a complaint to be filed with the Clerk of Superior Court requesting the divorce. The Divorce complaint explains one spouse’s reasons for requesting a divorce and lays the groundwork for telling their side of the story. The other spouse will then file an answer to that complaint for divorce. This initiates litigation.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce in Georgia
In Georgia, you can obtain a no-fault divorce. You do not have to list particular offenses by the other spouse in order to get a divorce. To get a no-fault divorce, there must be a bona fide separation between you and your spouse, and you must swear that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” This means there is no hope for you and your spouse to get back together. To file for divorce in Georgia, one must have lived in the state for at least six months, or a year if you live on a military base.
There are also twelve “fault” grounds for a divorce. These include intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity, mental incapacity, impotency, duress or fraud, pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband at the time of the marriage which was unknown to the husband, adultery, willful and continued desertion for one year, imprisonment for a term of two years or longer, habitual intoxication, cruel treatment, incurable mental illness, and habitual drug addiction.
Macon, Georgia Divorce When There are Minor Children
If you have minor children with your spouse and the two of you cannot come to an agreement on custody issues, the court will make that decision for you based on the best interest of the child. There are two types of custody — legal and physical custody. Legal custody is about deciding the minor child’s important, long-term life decisions and it can be either sole or joint. Physical custody refers to where the child physically resides and can be sole, joint, or split into primary and secondary.
Sole custody means one parent has that custody; joint custody is shared by the two parents.
If a parent does not have physical custody, he or she normally has the right to visit with the child.
If a child lives most of the time with one parent, that parent has primary physical custody and the other parent has secondary physical custody.
The parent with sole or primary physical custody is normally paid child support. If the custody is joint and expenses are paid equally, there may be little or no child support exchanged by the parents.
The amount of support paid depends on the parents’ income, the child’s expenses, support paid for other children, and it is based somewhat on standard state guidelines.
Alimony and Property and Debt Division
A divorce involves legal and financial issues. One important and potentially divisive issue is alimony (or spousal support) for a dependent spouse. Alimony is financial support one spouse receives from the other if a need for such support is agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court.
Alimony is not guaranteed. Though a divorce may be no-fault, if the dependent spouse is shown to have committed adultery or abandoned the other, he or she will probably not receive alimony.
Factors considered by a Georgia judge in the award of alimony include the following:
First, the need of the requesting spouse, and the ability to pay by the other spouse; even if one spouse needs alimony, if the other does not have the ability to pay, it is extremely unlikely for the requesting spouse to receive an order by the court demanding alimony.
The standard of living established during the marriage
How long the marriage has lasted
The emotional and physical health of each spouse
The age of each spouse
The financial resources of each spouse
The amount of time it will take for the supported spouse to acquire education or training necessary for appropriate employment
The contributions to the marriage by each spouse, including childcare and career-building for the other spouse
Earning capacity, separate debts, and separate property of each spouse
Marital misconduct if that misconduct caused the breakdown of the marriage
Any other factors deemed relevant by the judge
Dividing Assets and Debts
As the parties split and start new lives, generally they divide their property amongst themselves, along with the debts they created together, depending on the circumstances. Unless the parties reach an agreement, the court divides the couple’s marital property (property acquired during the marriage) equitably between the husband and wife. Each party normally retains any property that he or she owned prior to the marriage. Non-marital property could include property received as a gift or by inheritance during the marriage. To equitably divide marital property, the court considers factors such as:
The length of the marriage and any prior marriages by either party
The age, health, occupation, vocational skills, and employability of each party
The service by each spouse to the family
The amount and sources of income, property, debts, liabilities, and needs of each spouse
Debts against the property
Whether property should be divided instead of, or in addition to, alimony
The expected opportunity of each party to earn money or acquire property in the future.
Without an agreement by the parties, the court can divide debts between them or assign all of them to one spouse or the other.
How Can Alderman & Hutcherson Divorce Attorneys Help?
If you are considering getting a divorce or have decided to pursue one, contact our office so we can talk about your personal, marital, family, and financial situations. A divorce can be complicated factually as well as legally, so you need the help of one of Alderman & Hutcherson’s Georgia divorce attorneys.
We fully understand the emotional devastation a divorce can cause and want to ensure that you are not also the victim of financial devastation. We will fight for you and your rights every step of the way, with a constant goal of easing your burdens associated with the divorce. We offer a no-obligation, free consultation and we have a team of experienced, knowledgeable divorce attorneys standing by to provide you with the assistance you need and deserve.
We can inform you of the law and protect your interests to help you to start a new chapter in your life. Located in Macon, Georgia, our divorce attorneys help people throughout the state who need strong advocates in the divorce process. Call (478) 476-9110 or use our online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation with our divorce attorneys.