How Long Does It Take To Get A Divorce In Georgia?
Divorce can be an incredibly stressful and difficult process, and uncertainty with how long it can take can add to that stress. But divorce is a legal procedure that must adhere to certain statutory and court enforced rules on timing. Those rules provide some structure to the process, as well as a general timeline for how long that process can take. An uncontested divorce in Buckhead, GA can be done in as little as 31 days from the date of filing, but contested cases generally take many months (and sometimes years, though this is less common). While every divorce and case is different, the following steps should provide you with a general idea of how the process plays out and how long it can take, depending on the complexity of your situation.
- Filing the Petition – To formally initiate the divorce process, one of the parties must file a petition or complaint for divorce in the Superior Court of the County of the other party’s residence. Preparation of these documents usually only takes a day or two, and the papers can be filed online the same day they are approved by the filing party.
- Serving the Petition – After the petition is filed, it must be personally served on the other party (unless they are willing to waive service). Personal service is generally done by the Sheriff or a private process server. With a Sheriff officer, service can take days or weeks, depending on the availability of the officer(s). With a private process server, service can usually be accomplished within a day or two, depending on how quickly the other party can be located.
- Answering the Petition – Once the other party has been served, he or she has 30 days to file a response—called an Answer—with the Court.
- Status Conferences – If your case is filed in Fulton County, the Court will automatically schedule status conferences at approximately the 30-, 60-, and 120-day marks following the filing of the initial petition. These conferences allow the Court to stay updated on the progress of your case and help to resolve temporary issues, discovery disputes, and similar issues that arise during the case.
- Discovery Period – Upon the filing of the Answer, the discovery period begins. This is the period during which both parties can request that the other party respond to written questions (called interrogatories) and produce certain documents relevant to the divorce claim. This period typically lasts 6 months, though it can be lengthened or shortened by the Court or agreement of the parties.
- Temporary Hearings – At the request of either party, the Court may schedule a temporary hearing. Temporary hearings in Georgia are hearings that occur prior to the final trial of your case, which are meant to address temporary issues that arise while the case is pending. The court may enter temporary order addressing such issues as custody, access to funds, use of the marital residence, attorney’s fees, and other similar issues. Temporary orders typically remain in effect until further order of the Court, or until the final order following a settlement or trial.
- Guardian ad Litem Investigations – In some contested custody cases, the parties may agree to appoint, or the Court may order the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”). A GAL is a court appointed expert tasked with investigating and making a recommendation concerning custody of the parties’ children. GAL investigations typically take a few months, but can sometimes take longer depending on the circumstances and the needs of the case. A GAL is typically appointed early in a case, and the investigation runs concurrently with other procedures, such as the discovery period.
- Mediation – Before a final hearing, the Court will typically require the parties to attend a mediation. This can be done at any stage during the case, but will almost certainly be required before the case is tried. Mediation gives the parties the opportunity to meet with an independent third-party neutral who will assist the parties in trying to reach an agreed upon settlement.
- Trial – If the parties are unable to resolve their case by agreement at mediation or otherwise, the case will ultimately be set for a final trial. This can be a bench trial, meaning the judge would be the sole decision maker, or it can be a jury trial, meaning a jury would make certain findings and decisions about your case. Bench trials in Buckhead, GA typically take place 9-12 months after the case is filed, but sometimes sooner or later depending on the case and the Court’s docket. Jury trials often take place later, as they require significantly more preparation and time on the Court’s calendar.
Of course, if the parties are able to reach an agreement on all issues in the case, then the case can typically be resolved much sooner than at a trial. Whether your case gets wrapped up quickly or runs the full course of litigation depends on the complexities of the case and the willingness of both parties to reach an agreement on all issues. Because this process can be lengthy and requires a comprehensive and consistent strategy to get you to a resolution, it is critical to have legal representation that you trust. If you are considering filing for divorce or have been served with a divorce petition, the attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are here to guide you through this process and forward to the next step of your life. Schedule your consultation today by calling us at 470-600-6699.