Georgia does not require couples to hire lawyers to get a divorce, even if they have children. Though hiring a lawyer is sometimes wise, you can prepare your own paperwork using an online document preparation service and file it with the court on your own. However, you cannot file your divorce online. When children are involved, the court requires more paperwork to help it determine custody and child support arrangements.
Filing for Divorce
Georgia law permits couples to file for divorce on 12 fault-based grounds, but you can also file on the no-fault ground that your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” thereby eliminating your need to prove that your spouse caused the divorce. Either you or your spouse must live in Georgia for at least six months immediately before you file for divorce, though you can also file in the state if Georgia was the last place you lived while you were married. To begin your divorce process, you must file a complaint with the appropriate superior court. Though you can use an online document provider to create your documents, you must file them directly with the court, unless your court allows online filings. A complaint tells the court basic information about your marriage such as your living arrangements, names of your children and a list of your debts and property. Your complaint also tells the court what relief you are seeking from the court. You must serve your spouse with the paperwork after you file it with the court and provide proof to the court. Alternatively, your spouse can acknowledge in writing that he received a copy of the papers.
When deciding custody issues, Georgia courts are primarily concerned with the welfare of your children. To decide what is in your child’s best interests, courts look at a set of factors, including each parent’s willingness to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent, current relationship between the child and each parent, ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs, each parent’s physical and emotional fitness and child’s need for stability. If your child is over the age of 12, the court considers your child’s preferences. The court also can consider any factor it feels is relevant in your case.
Before you and your spouse go to court for your divorce, you must create a parenting plan in which you describe your proposed custody arrangement. Again, you can use an online service to prepare your forms, but you must file them as your court directs. Though the court ultimately decides whether this plan is in your child’s best interests, your plan must list the details you think provide the best plan for your child, including a parenting time schedule that describes which days of the year your child will spend with each of you, a plan for how your child will spend holidays and vacations and a description of the transportation arrangements when your child travels between parents.
Georgia courts award child support based on the income shares model, which means the state’s child support guidelines attempt to give every child the same share of his parents’ income he would have received if his parents remained married. If you and your spouse settle your case by agreement, the court can accept your child support agreement if it is in the best interests of your child. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a child support amount, the court will require you to provide financial information so it can make the decision for you. This financial information includes proof of your income and expenses like child care, health insurance for your child and extracurricular activities. This information will be placed into a state child support calculator, available through the court system, to determine what each parent is expected to contribute. Though you can find versions of the child support calculator online, you must provide the court with paper copies of the required information.