We understand that litigation in general and divorce in particular can be confusing to non-lawyers. Here is a primer setting forth the basics for inquiring minds that need to know how this works.
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF DIVORCE
This outline provides general information about the divorce process and addresses some common concerns and questions. Every divorcing couple has their own special set of circumstances which may fall within many of the exceptions to the general criteria outlined here.
Georgia is an equitable distribution state as opposed to a community property state. That means the assets, debts and income that have been generated during the marriage are to be equitably divided between the divorcing couple.
Equitably does not necessarily mean equally. If the parties are unable to settle their case and it goes to trial, a judge is supposed to treat each party fairly in dividing the assets, debts and distributing the income.
STARTING THE PROCEEDINGS
A divorce begins with the filing of a Complaint. This document notifies the Court and the other spouse, when served, that a divorce proceeding has been initiated. It also outlines, either in general terms or very specific terms what is being requested in the divorce, such as child custody, support, property division, etc. The other spouse must receive a copy of this complaint with a summons. The summons informs the spouse of a 30-day time period to respond to the Complaint. Failure to respond may result in a default. This means the spouse may be prevented from contesting any part of the divorce.
The Summons and Complaint can be served to the other spouse by a process server or by that spouse or his/her attorney signing an acceptance of service. The initiating spouse cannot personally deliver the summons and complaint to the other spouse to accomplish legal service.
The initiating spouse is referred to as the petitioner. The other spouse is referred to as the respondent.
Temporary orders are also called an Order to Show Cause. Either party has the right to ask the Court to make temporary orders stating, for example, who stays in the house, who is responsible for the children, who pays which bills and restraining inappropriate conduct. The temporary order sets out the ground rules that each will have to follow until the final divorce agreement is entered.
A party does not have to request a temporary order. Very often the parties, on their own, or with help of their lawyers, or through mediation can agree on interim living arrangements while the divorce is progressing.
You should also understand that the temporary order is just that. It will not control the terms of final orders that will eventually be entered.
Within 20 days after service of a summons, the respondent should file opposing papers. Sometimes this consists of a simple response just admitting or denying the requests in the complaint. This is called an Answer. Other times the Answer can be joined with a Counterclaim if the respondent wants to assert his/her own requests. If a Counterclaim is filed, then the petitioner must respond to that with a pleading called a reply.
Each spouse is entitled to information from the other about the case. The legal procedure for obtaining that information is called discovery. This may be a simple process or consume a great deal of time and money depending on the amount of information being requested and the party's willingness to cooperate.
Sometimes discovery is not required. If parties are comfortable with their knowledge about the nature, amount and value of the marital assets, then discovery will not be necessary. When discovery is necessary, it can occur in one or more ways.
Discovery may be conducted informally. This is often more efficient and always less expensive if lawyers will cooperate in the exchange of documents and information.
A list of questions known as Interrogatories, requiring a formal written answer to each question may be sent. A Request for Production requires the other side to produce documents that may be material. A Deposition is an oral examination under oath in front of a Court reporter who transcribes all that is said. Depositions are usually held at one of the lawyer's offices.
Judges will often require pre-trial conferences. If an agreement can be reached at the pre-trial conference, then the divorce can be concluded there and at that time.
Pre-trial conferences with judges are generally conducted to identify which issues are going to be tried and agree on the date and length of trial.
If the parties cannot settle the case, it will go to trial. At trial each party tells their story to the judge. It is told through the parties' testimony, the testimony of other witnesses and documents called exhibits.
Sometimes, a trial does not end the case. Each party may, within a 30-day time period, appeal to a higher Court. An appeal adds more time and expense to the divorce process.
THE CHERRY LAW FIRM - HELPING YOU SUCCEED
The Cherry Law Firm, P.C has the knowledge and experience to handle your divorce or family law matter with competence and efficiency. You will find our team to be honest and hardworking with a very high commitment to conducting the practice of law with honesty and integrity.
Kennesaw divorce attorney Diane Cherry has been practicing law since 1988. With more than twenty-five years of experience in federal and state cases, Diane Cherry has special insight in how to deal with the courts and opposing counsel in family law cases.
Diane Cherry is effective in the courtroom and knows how to thoroughly prepare a case, enhancing the likelihood of a settlement while at the same time ready to take the case to trial to obtain a favorable result for the client.
We understand that a divorce proceeding can be an emotional time in your life. We approach your case with understanding and compassion drawn from decades of experience representing people from all walks of life and every part of society.
Diane Cherry is an experienced and attentive lawyer who will work hard to stand up for you.
Contact The Cherry Law Firm today for the advice and representation you need.