DIVORCE DOCUMENTATION AND PROCEDURE IN GEORGIA
This guide will give you some insight into the necessary documentation required to be filed in divorce actions in Georgia, both “contested” and “uncontested”. This guide will give you a brief description of the following divorce documents:
Complaint for Divorce
Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit
Child Support Worksheet
Permanent Parenting Plan
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Consent to Trial
Acknowledgment of Service
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
And also the issue of a “Name Change” handled through a divorce action and the Parenting Seminar will also be discussed.
First, a divorce action is initiated by the filing of the “Complaint for Divorce”. Included in this document are, the names of the parties, a paragraph
stating that the Plaintiff has been a resident of Georgia for at least six (6) months prior to filing the complaint, where the Defendant may be served, the names and dates of birth of any minor children born into the marriage, a paragraph addressing the income of the parties, the grounds for the divorce, and what relief the Plaintiff is seeking (alimony, child support, attorney’s fees, the marital residence, investments/assets, etc).
The Complaint must be verified under oath. Therefore, a signed, notarized “Verification” is required for any complaint or petition filed in court.
Whenever minor children are an issue, both parties are required to complete and file a “Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit”. In this document, the parties are required to disclose income, monthly expenses, debts, and assets. Information is obtained from this document to prepare the “Child Support Worksheet”.
The “Child Support Worksheet” is an online computer generated document. Years ago, in computing child support, Georgia only took into consideration the income of the non-custodial parent (typically, the father). However, now Georgia takes into consideration the income of both parents. In the “Child Support Worksheet”, the income, health insurance, and child care expenses are entered. If either parent is unemployed, Georgia permits the entry of “imputed income” (based on minimum wage) for the unemployed parent. Accordingly, if a parent is unemployed, income in the amount of $1,256.00 may be entered for that party. The child support worksheet will calculate the presumptive child support contribution for each party.
The “Child Support Addendum” is another document required when minor children are involved. The gross income of each party, the number of children, the presumptive child support, any deviation for the presumptive child support amount, health, dental and vision insurance, uninsured health care expenses, parenting time, social security benefits, and any modifications are addressed within this form.
Also, a “Permanent Parenting Plan” is required. The Permanent Parenting Plan addresses primary physical custody (whether sole, or joint), legal custody (sole or joint), and a visitation schedule. Some judges will not require a Permanent Parenting Plan if all issues are adequately addressed within the Settlement Agreement.
For “uncontested divorces”, as well as, divorces that commence as “contested” but ultimately settle, a “Settlement Agreement” is required. All issues pertaining to the divorce should be adequately addressed in the Settlement Agreement (e.g., the marital home, custody of the children, child support, division of property, division of debts, health insurance, division of other assets, investments, pensions, taxes, visitation, alimony, attorneys fees, etc). No issues pertinent to the divorce should be left out of the Settlement Agreement. Otherwise, there is a likelihood that the parties will be back in court within a few months or even years arguing about some issue that was not adequately addressed or not addressed at all in the Settlement Agreement.
Most judges will require the parties to go to mediation, also known as, “Alternative Dispute Resolution”, if the divorce is “contested”. If the parties reach agreement as to ALL issues pertinent to the divorce, at times, the parties will submit a “Mediation Agreement” in lieu of the “Settlement Agreement”. Otherwise, legal counsel for one of the parties will prepare a “Settlement Agreement” based on the agreement reached during mediation.
In order for the “uncontested divorce” to become final (i.e., concluded) in as short as thirty-one (31) days from the date of filing the divorce action, the parties are required to sign a “Consent to Trial” which must be notarized.
In “uncontested divorce” actions, since the parties have reached agreement as to all issues, the Defendant typically signs an “Acknowledgment of Service”. This avoids the necessity of the Plaintiff having to retain the services of the Sheriff’s Department to serve the divorce documents on the Defendant. By signing an “Acknowledgment of Service”, the Defendant is acknowledging that he/she has received a copy of the Summons and Complaint for Divorce.
If the divorce is “uncontested” or if the parties have finally reached agreement as to all issues in a “contested” divorce, the parties may wish to conclude the divorce by filing a “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings”. This permits the judge to enter a final order on the divorce action without the necessity of either party appearing in court to present evidence.
Finally, if minor children are involved in a divorce action, both parties are required to attend a “Parenting Seminar”. This seminar typically lasts approximately four (4) hours and addresses issues pertaining to the minor children. More information on the parenting seminar may be obtained by contacting the Clerk of the Superior Court for the county in which the divorce action has been or will be filed in. In the event that the Wife wishes to return to her maiden name, her “Name Change” can be granted in the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce without the necessity of having to file a separate name change petition which would require the payment of filing and publication fees.
Hopefully, this guide has been helpful in addressing the documents required for a divorce in Georgia. Other documents such as discovery (i.e., “interrogatories”, “request for production of documents” and “notice to produce”) will be discussed in an upcoming blog. Should you have any questions, or if you would like to discuss your case in particular, please feel free to contact my office at (404) 551-2428. Twitter or Facebook. www.vanjohnsonlaw.us, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org