What Happens After You File for an Uncontested Divorce in Georgia?
By Jennifer Williams
An uncontested divorce in the state of Georgia requires the agreement of both spouses as to property division, spousal and child support, and visitation. Once both spouses sign off on the Martial Settlement Agreement, the judge may approve the divorce without any further action by the parties. If a final hearing is required, only one spouse appears before the judge to obtain the judge's signature on the divorce decree, after which the divorce is final.
The divorce process begins when one party files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses have already agreed upon all material terms, i.e., property division, spousal and child support amounts, and visitation schedules. A Marital Settlement Agreement is typically filed with the initial petition attesting to the spouses' agreement and detailing these arrangements.
Waiver of Service and Notice
Only one spouse needs to file the initial Petition for Dissolution. The other spouse typically signs an Acknowledgment of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction, which waives formal service of the petition and any further notice of events in the case. The purpose of this step is to expedite the divorce process. Since the spouses have agreed on everything up front, there is no need for the service of process and hearing notices typical of contested divorces. The Acknowledgment of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction is filed with the Petition and Marital Settlement Agreement.
Forms Filed with Initial Petition
In addition to the Petition for Dissolution, Marital Settlement Agreement and Acknowledgment of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction, the state of Georgia requires spouses to file a few additional papers, even though the divorce is uncontested. Both spouses must file financial affidavits disclosing their respective financial situations. Also, a copy of any past separation agreements the parties entered into must be filed. Lastly, the spouses must file a Consent to Try Within 31 Days, which gives the court permission to grant the divorce within 31 days. Additional documents may be required by the court before it grants the divorce, such as copies of any existing court orders involving the parties and personal or business tax returns.
In an uncontested divorce with no minor children, the divorce may be granted within 31 days of filing. A hearing may still be required, however. At an uncontested divorce hearing, the petitioning spouse appears before a judge and answers a few brief questions to verify to the judge's satisfaction that the divorce is by mutual consent. An attorney may request a judgment without hearing in an uncontested divorce if there are no minor children and there is no real property to be divided.
If the Petition for Dissolution is filed by one spouse but the other spouse does not participate in a Marital Settlement Agreement or sign an Acknowledgment of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction, the Petition must be served on that spouse, after which he or she has 30 days to file a response. If no response is filed by the deadline, the non-responding spouse is considered to be in default, and the spouse who filed the Petition may make a motion to the court for a default decree of divorce. In this instance, a default divorce is considered an uncontested divorce, and whatever relief is requested in the petition is automatically granted.
An attorney for more than 18 years, Jennifer Williams has served the Florida Judiciary as supervising attorney for research and drafting, and as appointed special master. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Jacksonville University, law degree from NSU's Shepard-Broad Law Center and certificates in environmental law and Native American rights from Tulsa University Law.