The trip to Splitsville can be rollercoaster quick in Georgia. It can also be slow, prompting that familiar refrain, “Are we there yet?” The speed of a divorce action in Georgia depends on an array of factors. Perhaps the most important is the relationship between the divorcing spouses. If amicable, divorce can speed along. If hostile, it can drag on for years.
This is the quickest route to divorce in Georgia. A divorce is uncontested when the spouses have reached a marital settlement agreement. Every single issue must be resolved by the spouses upon filing the case. If any matter remains unresolved – even an insignificant one -- the divorce is considered contested. Spouses in an uncontested action can be divorced in 31 days. However, this time period increases if the responding spouse is no longer a Georgia resident or cannot be located.
In some jurisdictions, a default divorce can occur when one spouse files for divorce and the other fails to respond to the legal complaint. Georgia does not permit default divorce for failing to answer the complaint. However, the legal outcome will be the same if the non-responding spouse does not show up for court. In such cases, the judge is likely to find in favor of the filing spouse once his evidence is presented.
A contested divorce in Georgia is a civil action and proceeds to trial like any other lawsuit unless the parties settle. A spouse seeking a divorce files the Complaint for Divorce in the Superior Court of the county where he lives. Courts generally require supporting documents, such as a Financial Affidavit and Child Support Worksheet if the parties have minor children. The non-filing spouse must answer the complaint. Once that occurs, the case moves on to discovery, the pretrial phase where the parties are required to produce certain documents for the other side, followed by mediation, a formal negotiation process that tries to achieve a settlement between the parties. Should mediation fail, the divorce action then moves to trial.
Timelines and the Bottom Line
In Georgia, the timing for a divorce ranges from approximately 31 days for an uncontested divorce up to three years for a hotly contested divorce. The duration of any particular case, though, will depend upon such things as the complexity of the issues, hostility between the parties and where you live. If your county is in a metropolitan area, the courts could be backlogged due to the volume of cases. However, most divorces take less than a year, a great number of which are finalized in less than six months.