Divorce Attorneys in Monroe, GA & Walton County, GA
Highly experienced divorce attorneys standing by to guide and represent you as you consider separation from your spouse.
Hanks, Ballard & Barth, LLC understands how difficult a divorce can be and we give each client the time and attention that they deserve. In divorce cases, it is important to hire an attorney who is compassionate and understanding but will still work aggressively to achieve a result in your best interest.
How do I get a Divorce in the State of Georgia?
After researching divorce lawyers in Georgia, you’ll have a consultation meeting with your lawyer at their office. During this initial meeting, your divorce attorney will spend a lot of time asking you questions about your marriage and family life in order to understand your situation so that he or she can start building your case. You need to feel completely comfortable with the attorney you hire as he/she will be navigating the complex and stressful divorce process for you. Find out your lawyer’s preferred method of communication since the two of you will be in contact often with one another over the coming weeks and months. Open and clear communication with your divorce attorney will serve you both in the coming weeks and months, and it will give you immense peace of mind to know that you and your counselor are on the same page.
You and your lawyer will discuss if mediation is possible, and what is required in the State of Georgia for a successful Collaborative Divorce (an example of when mediation would not be an option is if there is a history of domestic violence). If children are involved, this is the perfect time to discuss potential child custody schedules, division of properties, alimony, and other major decisions that you and your spouse will have to determine with your legal counselors.
You or your spouse’s attorney may decide to schedule a deposition, which is a formal questioning under oath that takes place outside of the courtroom. Both parties should attend all scheduled court hearings, but your lawyer will be there with you to walk you through the process. The dissolving of a marriage can be a long and frustrating process which is only made longer by the Court’s schedule and a spouse’s lack of cooperation, so remember to be patient with your divorce attorney; they were hired to have your back, and it’s good to remember that your legal counselor will do their best work the more honest and patient you are with them and the process.
Are there different ways to file for divorce in the State of Georgia?
Divorce is not generally the way you see it on television and in the movies. More often than not, divorce cases, although complex and emotionally intense, are conducted with respect and usually end with a reasonable settlement between the two parties regarding their children, property and financial assets.
If you and your spouse reach an agreement as to every single issue (custody/visitation, support, assets, and debts), then you can file an uncontested divorce. Usually, there is only one divorce attorney hired in an uncontested divorce and that attorney drafts all of the documents necessary to make the agreement you and your spouse agreed upon binding in your divorce action. In many instances, neither party ever have to appear in court. An uncontested divorce is the fastest and most affordable way to be divorced, but it requires a complete agreement by both parties.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement as to every issue involved in their divorce, then the parties have a contested divorce. One party will initiate the divorce by filing a petition for divorce and the other party will be served with the petition and then have to file an answer. There are many different grounds for divorce (such as adultery, cruel treatment, drug, and alcohol abuse), but most divorce petitions simply allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If one spouse wants a divorce, he/she will be able to get one even if their spouse opposes the divorce.
When a couple employs the use of a mediator for their divorce, it is to sit down with an independent and neutral party (known as the mediator) to discuss the issues that the spouses cannot come to an agreement on. Couples may choose a mediator who has understanding and experience with specific areas like, real-estate value/management, or taxes. Most parties take their attorney with them to mediation. Some couples choose to attend mediation prior to any divorce case being filed in the hopes that an agreement can be reached, and an uncontested divorce will occur. Some couples attend mediation after a contested divorce is filed to resolve the case. Many judges require couples to attend mediation before the judge will schedule a final court date in the divorce.
No matter which type of divorce you have (contested or uncontested), the dissolution of a marriage has permanent legal repercussions. For this reason, it is important to seek out legal counsel if you are thinking about getting a divorce. A Divorce Attorney’s expertise and understanding of laws of Georgia and requirements surrounding divorce will help you make the best-informed decision for you and your family during this time of change.
How does Alimony work in the State of Georgia?
When couples join their lives together in marriage, it’s a joining of more than just the two individuals; income and responsibilities (like childcare and property) are divided between both spouses in a way that helps make their lives together function more efficiently. When a marriage ends in divorce, there is a disruption to that division, and it is up to the Court to determine how best to fairly distribute those shared assets and whether support is necessary by one of the parties. Alimony is defined as “an allowance out of one party’s estate made for the support of the other party when living separately”. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1(a). In many cases, one spouse may have contributed to the household via unpaid childcare and domestic work; that spouse may have a hard time finding employment post-divorce, and the judge or jury must take that into consideration which is where alimony comes in.
There are two different types of alimony available in the State of Georgia:
Periodic alimony is where a party receives periodic payments of alimony (usually on a monthly basis) over the course of a certain period of time.
Lump-sum alimony is where a party receives a lump sum of money which is awarded as alimony. It can be paid out over a set period of time, but the amount and duration are known at the time it is awarded.
There are several factors considered before making an alimony award such as the standard of living before the divorce proceedings, the age and physical condition of both partners, the contributions made by each partner to their marriage (this includes child care, education, domestic responsibilities, etc.), the financial resources available to each partner, the length of the marriage in question, how much of a time investment continuing education would be for each partner, and any other factors that the fact-finder deems as pertinent to the divorce.
How can I file for divorce in Georgia if my spouse is missing?
If one spouse has made the decision to dissolve the marriage but cannot contact or find the other spouse, they can still file a divorce and serve their spouse via publication. To be eligible for a divorce by publication, the petitioning spouse must first convince a judge, through a sworn statement, that they were unable to locate their missing spouse after exhausting all resources available to them. In Georgia, good faith efforts must be documented in an Affidavit of Diligent Search. Once the judge is satisfied that the Petitioner has exhausted their good faith efforts, the court will issue an Order of Publication which, in turn, gives the Petitioner the ability to publish a Notice of Publication in the legal organ of the county where the action is filed. Service by Publication often takes between two to four months.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when filing for divorce?
Not understanding Child Support or Alimony Entitlement:
It’s important that you and your divorce lawyer discuss how alimony and/or child support expenses are calculated in Georgia so that you have the clearest understanding of what you might owe or to what you may be entitled.
When it comes to child support, there is a statutory Child Support Worksheet that is used to calculate the parties’ child support obligations. It considers the parties’ gross incomes (or earning abilities), the cost of child care necessary for employment, and the cost of the children’s health care coverage. It can also include other expenditures like private school and extracurricular expenses.
In order to be awarded alimony in Georgia, the spouse who has petitioned for the award must prove that they not only need financial support but that their spouse can pay the necessary amount. Sometimes judges will award alimony on a temporary basis while the divorce is pending but will not award it on a final basis.
Whether it’s negotiating alimony or child support, it is important to have an experienced lawyer to help you answer the tricky questions that either of these cases can stir up.
Letting Your Emotions Rule Your Legal Decisions:
Divorce proceedings can bring up a myriad of difficult and intense emotions, especially when children and your home are in the crosshairs, and sometimes it’s next to impossible to keep your perspective. In a weak moment, it may seem like the divorce proceedings are a good time to inflict financial and emotional strain on your spouse, but fighting for things you don’t really want, and prolonging the expensive proceedings to inflict financial hardship on your spouse will only come back to hurt you in the long run.
Hiring a strong and determined lawyer is vastly different from hiring a combative lawyer. The Court won’t look to punish your spouse financially because they haven’t been a good person within your marriage and building a combative case against your spouse will take time, which means your attorney will bill you more, leaving you and your family with less money after the divorce. Thankfully, retaining an experienced lawyer can help you avoid making these emotional and costly mistakes.
Attempting a DIY Divorce:
The single biggest mistake many people make when beginning divorce proceedings is not hiring an accomplished divorce attorney. The rules that surround the necessary paperwork for your divorce are complex and confusing if you’re not familiar with them. If your concern is the cost of a lawyer, consider the amount of time, money and stress that you would ultimately spend trying to navigate the legal process on your own. The other issue with not retaining legal counsel for your divorce is that you won’t have a third party in your corner helping you to keep perspective when emotional issues inevitably come to the table. An experienced divorce lawyer can not only expedite the process, but they can help you focus on what’s important: life after divorce.