DIVORCE / CUSTODY FAQS
The simple answer is yes, you could file for divorce on your own and others have done it. However, there are also those who thought about it but did not try to file on their own. One of the main documents that is attached to a Complaint for Divorce is what is known as the Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement is the guiding document as to who gets what and who pays for what. The Settlement Agreement is a legal document that parties can use if things do not go according to plan. The court and its staff are not allowed to give any legal advice, so if you create this document without an attorney’s legal knowledge, you could be writing something into it that may not be enforceable or that could cause problems later in life.
An uncontested divorce is where both the husband and wife pretty much know how they want to divide all of their assets and their debts. This is also the least costly form of divorce.
The best way to approach this is for both parties to sit down and determine what property they have and how they want to divide that property. It could be as simple as listing the property on a sheet of paper with two columns, one side stating what one party wants and the other what the other party wants. Then, if there are some disagreements on what each party wants, a discussion will be required to make some decisions. Once it has been determined who gets what, the information may be used for a draft agreement.
Once all of the issues between the two parties have been resolved, a draft agreement is written with copies provided to both parties for final review and corrections. Once both spouses are satisfied with the language of the agreement, the party initiating the divorce will file a complaint in the Superior Court along with the settlement agreement. Then it is simply a process of waiting 31 days and appearing at a final hearing.
The general issues that both parties should address are those concerning any property owned by the parties, be it real or personal. You will need to decide who will take possession of which property and under what terms. Also, if there are children involved, you will have to decide who has legal custody, who has physical custody, and any requirements regarding financial support for the children.
Child support in Georgia is determined on a percentage basis by the number of children involved in the case and the amount of income earned by the paying spouse. The support amount is calculated as a percentage of the paying spouse’s gross income. Here is a listing of the guidelines and the representative percentages:
- 1 child – 17 percent to 23 percent of gross income
- 2 children – 23 percent to 28 percent of gross income
- 3 children – 25 percent to 32 percent of gross income
- 4 children – 29 percent to 35 percent gross income
- 5 or more children – 31 percent to 37 percent gross income
Physical custody is where the children will spend the majority of their time. The parent who has physical custody will have control over the routine daily care, custody, and activities of the children.
Legal custody provides the right of the parent to determine how the child or children will be reared. For example, a legal custodial parent will determine where the children will go to school, where the children will go to church, and where and with whom the children will receive their health care.
The division of retirement funds will depend on when the retirement funds were acquired and who acquired the funds. If, for example, the parties have individual accounts, they can decide to divide them equally, or they can simply keep what they have and not divide the accounts.
When the Settlement Agreement has been reached and the parties are ready to file the case in court, it will take approximately 30 to 40 days to secure a Final Judgment and Decree.