Secrets To Know About Divorce In Georgia
The Las Vegas Review Journal recently published an excellent article titled 40 secrets only divorce attorneys know. Each and every one of these secrets are true for divorces in Georgia and are issues and matters we’d like for our clients to be aware of before filing for divorce.
With experience in navigating divorce proceedings in Georgia, we’d like to offer 10 more secrets that are based upon Georgia divorce law:
In Georgia, the parties must present the grounds for divorce but do not need to prove “fault” by one spouse to get a divorce. Commonly, divorces in Georgia will simply claim “irreconcilable differences” as the ground for the legal action. Especially where there are no children in the marriage, the parties may completely agree to the divorce and all facts, such as to how property will be divided. The parties may save money and time in court by agreeing.
- At the onset of a divorce, Georgia allows for either party to request a Rule Nisi hearing. A Rule Nisi hearing is a court hearing on temporary issues. These issues may include temporary alimony, temporary child support, property division (example: which spouse will live in the marital residence?), and temporary child custody.These issues will be heard relatively quickly by Georgia courts, with the purpose of providing clarity on the issues during the course of the divorce proceeding. A court may grant the requested relief for a time period or until the divorce is concluded. Although temporary in nature, the presentation of these issues at the beginning of the case can set the tone for rest of the case. Presenting a strong case at a Rule Nisi hearing can create leverage in resolving issues on permanent basis.
- Beginning with the Rule Nisi hearing, each party has the opportunity to present witness testimony in support of their case. Georgia law allows one witness to appear in person at the hearing, but an unlimited number of witnesses may submit their testimony by affidavit.The “pro” to using affidavit testimony is that there is little or no opportunity for the opposing party to cross-examine that witness because they do not actually appear in court. However, there are potential “cons” to affidavit testimony. First, too many affidavits will burden the court. Secondly, your witness may tell one side of the story but then be subjected to revealing much more during discovery, such as in a deposition. For instance, if a therapist submits an affidavit in support of a party, that therapist may later be called to a deposition and asked to reveal much more information about his or her client because the door was opened by the affidavit. Finally, the testimony is limited by the rules of evidence, even though not presented live in court. Hearsay may be stricken.
Oftentimes parents may mutually agree to “leave the children out of the divorce.” Their hopes may be that that the divorce proceeding focuses on division of their property without bringing the issue of custody or child support to the forefront of the divorce proceeding. However, Georgia courts are more often concerned with the care and support of the children of the marriage than they are the divorcing parents. Judges will often take a role of “guardian” of the children in divorce proceedings and will take up the issues of custody and child support before any other issue.
Judges, who’s dockets are too often overcrowded and who may feel overworked themselves, may not be inclined to award an unemployed spouse the support to stay unemployed for too long. While many factors are considered in any award of alimony, a primary purpose of the alimony in Georgia is to provide a spouse support while he or she learns a skill and/or seeks employment.
The Superior Courts of Georgia usually have forms that will guide parents and their counsel through designing a parenting plan. Courts often have a “standard” parenting plan in mind but parents have leeway to propose and agree upon details. Details that should be considered are: where will children spend holidays, time off from school, summer vacation, etc.? Where will the child be exchanged? Will grandparents have visitation rights? Will there be any restrictions, such as supervised parenting time?
If a divorce cannot be settled by negotiations between the parties, the Superior Courts of Georgia typically require that the parties attend a mediation prior to taking their issues to trial. A divorce can go to trial in Georgia but to facilitate resolution, judges will require that the parties try to work out their issues with the assistance of a mediator. This alternative dispute resolution technique is usually very successful in resolving the issues of a divorce.
If a divorce is contested, the parties can be in for a quite long process of resolving their issues. For one reason, the discovery process (i.e., the exchange of information between parties) generally lasts up to 6 months after the answer to the divorce complaint is filed. Also, the dockets of Superior Courts of Georgia fill up quickly with other cases, and your day in court may be several more months away.
For every horror story of a divorce, you may hear the same number of divorce stories where the process went by quick and relatively easily. The simple truth is: no two divorces are the same.
Because no two divorces are the same (#9), its unwise to believe that a flat-fee can be charged in most divorces. Attorneys typically charge on a hourly basis. Their hourly rates depend upon several factors such as their level of expertise, their experience, and the local market. However, the amount of time that is involved in resolving a divorce case will depend upon many more factors than that. Ultimately, resolution of the divorce through settlement is the best way to keep costs and fees as low as possible.