Frequently Asked Questions

Divorce

How do I file for divorce?

The first step it to retain an experienced family law attorney. Even in relatively simple divorce cases (no minor children and no property to divide or debts to resolve) you will benefit from having a lawyer to ensure everything is done correctly, and as quickly as possible.

How long will the process take?

It could be completed in just over a month, or it could take the larger part of a year or longer. There are only two ways to complete a case: (1) settlement and (2) trial. In settlement the case can be finalized as soon as the 31st day after the case was filed. On the other hand, depending on what county the case is in, you would be looking at 9-12 months or longer.

Can I file for divorce if my spouse and I are still living together?

Yes you can. To divorce in Georgia it is only required that the parties be in a "bone fide state of separation" which is code for no longer having sexual relations, and that can exist with the parties still residing in the same home.

Who gets custody of the children?

The parties can agree in a settlement agreement to custody (and everything else to be resolved in the case) and the court is generally happy to approve settlement agreements. If no settlement, then the judge, the stranger from government is going to decide when and where you two spend time with your child. Custody is based on the judge's determination of what is in the best interest of the child, to live with mom or with dad.

What will happen to our property?

Whatever you and your spouse can agree to in settlement, or if not, the judge or jury will decide who gets what property.

What is the difference between "fault" and "no-fault" divorce?

There are 13 reasons to get divorced in GA. The first 12 are "at-fault" reasons for a divorce (adultery, chronic intoxication, etc). The 13th reason is the "no-fault" basis, in Georgia that is described as the marriage is "irretrievably broken." The no-fault basis allows people to divorce for any reason or no reason. An at fault basis can impact an alimony award, the person shown to be at-fault cannot receive alimony. For the most part, an at-fault basis for divorce is not necessary.

Child Support

How do I apply for child support?

You can go to your local Child Support Services Office, or you can retain private counsel. For parents that are not married, the mother would file a Paternity Action to establish the child support order.

What do I do when I've been ordered to pay child support?

Pay in full and on time. Back owed child support never goes away until paid and it accumulates interest, not unlike a credit card debt. This is a debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

How is the child support amount decided?

We have a Statute in Georgia that defines the manner in which child support is calculated. Certain factors are included if they exist: (1) the mother's gross monthly income (2) the father's gross monthly income (3) how many children these parents have (4) whether either party is self-employed (5) whether there is health insurance provided for the child by one parent and the amount of the premium to cover the child (6) whether either parent has other minor children they support and (7) whether there is any work related child care expense. With those data points, the calculation tells you how much the child support will be. There are also a host of "deviations" which may increase or decrease the child support amount, based on the parties agreement to include one (and the judge's approval) or the ruling of the judge. Typically, or generally speaking, the parties' lifestyles or that of your child do not matter in the calculation.

What if I've been ordered to pay child support, but don't know if I'm the father?

You might have a problem that could be difficult to unravel. In the Paternity/Child Support Case, the unmarried father must demand a DNA test. This is because the would-be father cannot know for sure, despite all belief that he is the father, without a DNA test. A failure to demand a DNA test in a Paternity/Child Support case could result in a man being required to pay child support for a child that is not his. There are limited ways to unravel this mess.

How long will it take to establish a court order after I submit my child support application?

With a private lawyer, in a settlement case, it will take just over 31 days at the quickest, and in a contested case it will begin only after the court enters an order on a temporary or a final basis.