Initiating a Divorce
To start a divorce in Georgia, you or your spouse needs to first file a complaint. The complaint indicates the reason for the divorce, also known as the grounds for divorce, and includes information about the marriage, as well as specifics regarding property, child custody and support issues. After your spouse files the complaint, she must have a sheriff personally deliver a copy of the document to you, along with a summons. A summons is a court order that requires you to participate in the divorce. It also tells you which court to file in, and it specifies your initial obligations.
Georgia law requires that you file a written answer no later than 30 days after receiving the complaint. You may obtain fill-in-the-blank answer forms from the court clerk. The document first requests that you go through every claim made by your spouse in the complaint, and indicate whether you believe each statement to be true, untrue, or that you do not have enough information to make a determination. If you believe a statement is partially true, you must specify why.
You may also include counterclaims in your answer. A counterclaim is a request to the court that is additional or contrary to your spouse's requests. For example, if your spouse made a claim for sole custody of your children, you may decide to make a counterclaim for sole custody. Once the answer is complete and signed, it may be filed with the appropriate court. After filing, Georgia law requires that you must provide a copy to your spouse by mail.
After the court has received your answer, the case can move forward. The next step often involves hearings to establish temporary orders for support, custody, and property matters that last, until the divorce is finalized. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement before your case goes to trial, you may submit the agreement to the court for approval. If not, you will need to go to trial and present your case. At the end of the trial, the judge will make a ruling declaring you divorced, and resolving all other divorce-related matters.