In order to file for divorce in Roswell Georgia, you or your spouse must have resided in the state of Georgia for at least the previous 180 days, or six (6) months. If you are stationed on a military base in Georgia, however, you may file for divorce in the County where the base is located, if you have been stationed there for at least the previous one (1) year.
Filing for Divorce
Filing for divorce in Roswell, Georgia, consists of preparing certain initial documents, or pleadings, for the Court and filing them with the Fulton County Clerk’s Office. The initial pleadings include the Petition for Divorce (“Petition”). The Petition tells the Court who is getting divorced and what the grounds for divorce the filing party, called the Petitioner, claims. The Petition is what gets the divorce proceedings started. Other pleadings may need to be filed depending on whether your divorce is uncontested (agreed) or contested. When the pleadings are filed, a filing fee of approximately $220 must be paid to the Court Clerk. The exact amount of the current fees may be located on the Fulton County Clerk’s website at http://www.fcclk.org/forms/fiscal/fee_table.pdf. Once a divorce has been filed, the Petitioner must then serve a copy of the filed pleadings on his or her spouse, called the Respondent. The rules governing the process after service on the Respondent can be complicated and the procedure can vary from case to case. It is at this point, that most parties wish to hire an attorney in order to guide them through the rest of the divorce.
Deciding the Issues
The parties to a divorce in Georgia may either reach an agreement on each issue or allow the Court to decide the issues upon which they cannot agree. Issues that will need to be decided include property distribution, debt division, child custody and visitation, and child and/or spousal support. Couples, who can reach an agreement on all issues, may avoid going to Court, and have their divorced finalized thirty (30) days after filing the Petition for Divorce. Those who cannot reach an agreement will need to schedule a hearing and let the Court make a decision.
Under Georgia law, marital debts and assets are divided equitably. An equitable distribution does not necessarily mean an equal one, as equitable means fair and equal is not always fair. When a divorcing couple cannot agree on the division of debts and assets, leaving it up to the Court to decide, the Court will consider various factors, such as the length of the marriage, each party’s age, heath, ability to earn an income, and his or her contribution to the marriage and/or family.
For couples with children, decisions about custody and visitation must be made either by agreement of both parents, or by the Judge. In Georgia, the Court awards custody based on the best interests of the child. When determining the best interests of the child, it considers many factors, including:
(A) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;
(B) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children;
(C) The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;
(D) Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;
(E) The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;
(F) The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;
(G) The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
(H) The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child;
(I) The mental and physical health of each parent;
(J) Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;
(K) Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;
(L) The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;
(M) Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;
(N) The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;
(O) Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;
(P) Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and
(Q) Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.
Child support is awarded to the custodial parent, or the parent with whom the child lives, in almost all Georgia divorce cases. It is calculated using a mathematical formula, which accounts for both parties income, the cost of health insurance for the child, parenting time, and several other financial factors. Child support calculators and instructions for use can be found on the Georgia Child Support Commission’s website at http://www.georgiacourts.org/csc/.
Finalizing the Divorce
Once the statutory waiting period of thirty (30) days has passed and the parties have reached an agreement on all issues or the Court has made a decision for them, the divorce is finalized by filing all final pleadings with the Court and getting the Judge’s signature on the Divorce Decree. If you and your spouse have minor children, each of you must attend the Families in Transition Seminar, before the Court will grant your divorce. The seminar is four hours long, costs $30 per person, and is conducted by licensed and trained therapists and counselors. For more information about the seminar, see the Superior Court of Fulton County’s Families in Transition webpage at http://www.fultoncourt.org/family/family-fit.php.