A contested divorce is one where the two parties cannot reach an agreement on all of the issues. This process is different from an uncontested process. The process begins with one of the parties filing a complaint with the Clerk of Court in the county where the Court has proper jurisdiction and venue for the divorce.
The other party is served by the sheriff. Then the party that was served has 30 days to file an answer. From the day that the answer is filed starts a six-month period called discovery. And in discovery the two of you can exchange documents and have each other answer questions under oath. The purpose of discovery is to get everything out on the table so that you have enough information to either make an agreement with the other party or go forward with a trial. Just because you're allowed six months, doesn't mean it always takes six months. If you both do what you're supposed to do, it can be done in two or so months. But you're allowed that time in case other things pop up.
The next step would be mediation. Mediation is a process where the two of you show up with your lawyers, if you have them, and a neutral third party, the mediator. That mediator just goes back and forth between the two parties trying to reach an agreement. So sometimes you can reach a partial agreement or a temporary agreement, sometimes a full agreement, and sometimes no agreement. But if you reach an agreement at mediation, they'll do a handwritten document. The parties will sign it. One of the attorneys generally will put it into proper form and submit it to the Court so that you're done fighting about whatever it is that you've agreed to at mediation.
And then anything that's left over is just taken to trial. And in Georgia you can have a bench trial, which is a trial with just the judge, or a jury trial. And jury trials take longer to prepare for. They take longer to get through. They are more expensive. But each party has a constitutional right to have a jury trial. So, there are things that your attorney cannot do to speed things up or make them less expensive.
There are other things that may be involved in the divorce. Sometimes depositions are necessary. That is a process where you show up and either your attorney is asking another person to answer questions under oath with a court reporter there to take it down, or vice versa. Maybe you are the one that is being asked these questions under oath in front of a court reporter.
In some circuits you will have to take a parenting class. And that will be required before a judge will allow you to have a hearing or before they will issue a final order.
But those are the general steps in a contested divorce.
And while a divorce may be contested, at any point the two parties may reach an agreement and end the divorce amicably. So, there are a lot of factors. It's probably something that you would need to talk to your attorney about.
I hope this helps you understand the process for a contested divorce. IIf you think you know someone that could use this information, please share it with them. And if you'd like more information, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Nedra K. Howard
Nedra has represented clients in matters relating to divorce, separate maintenance, child custody and support, family violence protective orders, adoption, prenuptial agreements, business disputes and litigation, personal injury, property damage, and wills.
John B. MIller & Associates, P.C.
16 Eastbrook Bend, Suite 201
Peachtree City, GA 30269
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