To begin the divorce process in Georgia, one party files a complaint in Superior Court -- generally in the county where the other spouse lives. The complaint states a reason for the divorce and information regarding the marital assets and current living situations of the spouses and any children. At the time you file the complaint, the court may set a time for the divorce hearing. Once you file the complaint, provide your spouse with notice of the divorce by serving him with a copy. Service can be accomplished in several ways including hiring an authorized process server or paying the sheriff to serve the complaint. If your spouse cannot be found for personal service, you may serve him by publication, which involves placing an ad in a newspaper giving notification of the divorce case.
After your spouse receives notice of the divorce case, he has an opportunity to file an answer that responds to all of the issues raised in the complaint. Any points not addressed in the answer are accepted as true by the court. In Georgia, if your spouse does not respond to the complaint within 30 days of receiving notice, a default divorce may result. In a default, or unanswered, divorce, the judge usually grants the divorce in the filing spouse's favor, approving some or all of the requests made in the complaint. A judge may approve a motion requesting an extension of time to file an answer if your spouse requests it.
If you and your spouse cannot agree regarding the terms of your divorce, it is necessary for you to attend a final hearing so the judge can make decisions about the contested issues. A Georgia judge always makes the final determination in a divorce regarding parenting time and child custody, even if the case is heard by a jury. The hearing is a final opportunity for your spouse to appear and respond to your requests for relief. During the hearing, you may be asked to testify regarding the relief you requested in the complaint. If your spouse does not appear at the hearing, the court will likely grant your request for a divorce without your spouse’s agreement, and you may receive all relief requested in your complaint.
Your divorce is not final until the judge enters a final order, granting the divorce. In Georgia, 31 days after your complaint is filed is the earliest possible date on which the court can enter a final order of divorce in an unanswered, or otherwise uncontested, divorce. However, consult your local courthouse to confirm the time period, and any other deadlines, followed by your court.