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You’ve Been Served Divorce Papers in Georgia. Now What?

by Sharon Jackson  on December 3, 2021 under 

Receiving divorce papers can be nerve-racking, whether you expected them or not. When you get served the initial divorce documents, it means your spouse has initiated the legal procedure, and you must now participate in it while proactively securing your rights and entitlements. Here’s a guide on what steps to take after receiving divorce papers in Georgia.

What to Do After Getting Served Divorce Papers

In legal terms, “service” is the process of officially notifying the divorce respondent that a divorce petition has been filed. If your spouse filed the divorce, they are the “petitioner,” and you are the “respondent.” Service has to follow a formal method, such as getting a private service firm or even the Sheriff to deliver the papers.

Once you get the official service, take these steps to protect your rights and respond to the petition:

  • Contact an attorney. Even if you don’t think you’ll need a lawyer, you want to at least consult with a divorce attorney. An experienced lawyer can guide you on what your rights are, how to safeguard your assets, what you may be entitled to, and how to secure the interests of your children. You should also ask your lawyer about the next steps in the divorce process, what papers to file, and your deadlines.If you and your spouse have disagreements about the divorce, it is best to reach out to and book a consultation with an experienced attorney like Sharon Jackson. A contested divorce can quickly become combative, and not having a good lawyer in your corner can leave you vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
  • Respond with a counterclaim. The divorce papers served to you contain your spouse’s claims, such as how they think the assets should be divided, how much alimony they should receive, or how child custody should be arranged. You will now need to file your Answer containing your counterclaim on these matters. Craft your counterclaim with your attorney. It’s important to strategize around your specific marital circumstances, your future outlook, and the welfare of your children.In Georgia, you have 30 days to file your response to the divorce petition, starting from the date of service. Failing to respond on time means you are waiving your right to further notice - the divorce process could go on without you, and you could lose your chance to assert your claim. It is possible to file your Answer past the deadline, but it would entail additional court procedures and fees.
  • Secure your finances and assets. It is crucial to get your finances and assets in order as early as possible. Gather your financial records such as tax returns, bank statements, retirement accounts, and credit card statements. Also, include your property documents, such as titles and registrations. Note the documents that show what you’ve contributed to the marriage.Get your lawyer’s help in taking inventory of your assets and setting up legal mechanisms to protect them. Things you can do include changing your passwords and setting up a separate bank account to put your personal earnings in.
  • Create a parenting plan. If you have a minor child, the court will want to see your parenting plan, which is your proposal for how you and your spouse will raise your child post-divorce. Ideally, you and your spouse should craft the parenting plan together to be reviewed and approved by the judge. However, if the two of you cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will have to decide on the best arrangements for your child.An attorney’s guidance is invaluable in making your parenting plan. As much as possible, you want legal arrangements that preserve your relationship with your child and prioritizes their wellbeing. At the same time, you also want these arrangements to be legally fair between you and the other parent.
  • Decide on settlement or trial. Many divorcing couples reach a mutually favorable settlement before their case goes to court. However, this is not always possible, and some divorces do proceed to lengthy trials. Talk to your lawyer about your best option, given your particular circumstances.

Contact Attorney Sharon Jackson 

Attorney Sharon Jackson has earned the trust of Gwinnett County couples and individuals throughout the greater Atlanta area facing a divorce situation. Her experienced handling of cases, combined with her thoughtful and sensitive treatment of clients, has led to favorable outcomes in divorce and other family law cases.

Talk to Ms. Jackson if you have been served divorce papers in Georgia. Call us today at (678) 909-4100 or use our online contact form to schedule a case evaluation.

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