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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Georgia

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Georgia

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce means that there is no contest. Both parties of the divorce have discussed and agreed to the terms of the divorce including, but not limited to custody and child support (if applicable), and division of real property, division of personal property, spousal support (alimony), and debt allocation. With an uncontested divorce, typically an attorney will be hired to draft the necessary documents to be filed with the court. Once the documents are drafted, both spouses will need to sign the documents in the presence of a notary before the documents can be filed with the court.  In Cumming, Georgia as with all other courts in Georgia, uncontested divorces are generally much faster than a contested divorce. In addition to being faster, uncontested divorce generally cost significantly less than a contested divorce.  Many couples choose to have an uncontested divorce due to the price, timely manner of receiving the divorce, and the fact that an uncontested divorce is much less stressful compared to a contested divorce.

How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?

Uncontested divorce can vary on a case-to-case basis. The more assets in the divorce, the more complex the papers will be therefore the more they will cost. If the uncontested divorce does not involve significant assets it will generally cost less. Also, if there are children then it will cost more due to the time and additional documents required for the case. Many attorneys have a set fee or rate they charge for uncontested divorces. To minimize the cost of an uncontested divorce, It is important to have all of the information correct and complete before you hire an attorney to draft papers. Also, most uncontested divorce attorneys charge for negotiating, making revisions and going to court if necessary.  Even after factoring in additional potential complications, an uncontested divorce generally cost significantly less than the same case being litigated as a contested divorce.

What is a Contested Divorce?

Coleman Legal Group, LLC - Alpharetta Georgia OfficeA contested divorce means that the parties contest (or cannot agree) to one or more terms of the divorce. Contested divorce almost always cost more than an uncontested divorce with the same issues, facts, property, debt children, etc. The process of a contested divorce is also much longer than that of an uncontested divorce. Typically, one party will either hire an attorney to file a divorce complaint or file it pro se (on one’s own with no divorce attorney representation). Contested divorce complaints also need to be served to the defendant (other party) once they have been prepared and filed.

Once a divorce is filed, the defendant has the option of responding to the divorce; this usually takes place once the party has consulted and possibly hired an attorney to represent their rights in the divorce. Contested cases also require discovery in order for each attorney to gather necessary information, there can be pre-trial motions and hearings scheduled, mediation, and letters between attorneys in regard to settlement proposals. Contested divorces are very complex and it is important to speak with an experienced divorce attorney who can inform you or your rights and ensure that you are fully protected. A good place to start reviewing the rules for a contested divorce case are the Uniform Rules for Georgia Superior Courts.

What if Our Divorce is Only Contested on Some Issues?

There are many cases where the line between contested and uncontested starts to blur. Some couples can agree on the majority of issues but not all. One spouse may be willing to let the other keep the house, but may want more equity than the other is willing to give them. Spouses may agree on child custody and visitation, but not on the amount of child support. One spouse may want alimony, but the other may not be willing to pay any. These cases are typically contested due to the complexity of the issues as well as each party’s stance on the issue.

However, if the parties are not in agreement on only a few issues, the case may can be settled utilizing mediation. In Cumming Georgia, as with many other jurisdictions in Georgia, the court may order the parties attend mediation before a divorce case can be scheduled for a trial. Although some people dread mediation, many contested divorce cases are actually settled as a result. Therefore, if you are facing a contested divorce, it is best to hire a domestic litigation attorney that is also experienced in mediation and negotiating settlements.

Court Hearings are Sometimes Required

Many couples will be able to work out a settlement agreement through litigation with their attorneys and at times a mediator as well. Most judges will encourage both parties to try and come to an agreement on their own. However, this does not always happen and the case will end up in court where a judge will make the decisions for both parties.

Once a divorce case is settled, a court hearing is not always necessary.  However, some jurisdictions and counties still may require a hearing for an uncontested or contested divorce case that has settled.  Court hearing are usually more common in cases involving significant assets, significant debts, minor children, or long term marriages.

In a final divorce hearing, the court generally requires the plaintiff (party who filed the divorce) to appear at a hearing where the judge will formally dissolve your marriage. Some courts may allow your attorney to present documents to finalize without requiring your attendance. However, where a hearing is required, usually only the Plaintiff is required to attend.  This does not mean that your spouse cannot attend as well.

At final hearing in a divorce case the judge will have a prepared a court order titled Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce (typically drafted by your attorney) and the judge will sign it, granting your divorce. You and your spouse will be ordered to abide by its terms to avoid any problems or court proceedings in the future. The wife may restore her maiden name or a prior married name if she chooses and the process is complete.

If you are facing divorce in the Cumming, Georgia area and have questions about the process, call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one our experienced divorce and family law attorneys.

Updated: 2017-09-14

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