Divorce can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. But it doesn't have to involve a drawn-out, expensive court battle. If you and your spouse can agree on how you'll deal with the legal, financial, and practical details involved in ending your marriage, you can save money and time by getting an uncontested divorce (sometimes called "total divorce") in Georgia.
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce in Georgia, you must meet three basic requirements: state residency, agreement on the reason for your divorce, and agreement on the issues in your case.
To get any kind of divorce in Georgia, one or both of the spouses must have lived in Georgia for at least six months immediately before the divorce is filed. If only the "respondent" (non-filing) spouse lives in Georgia, the divorce must be filed in the county where the respondent lives. (Ga. Code § 19-5-2 (2022).)
You must have a legally accepted reason (or "ground") to get divorced in any state. Georgia allows both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce. When you file for an uncontested divorce in Georgia, you should state in your complaint for divorce that the marriage is "irretrievably broken"—Georgia's only no-fault ground for divorce. (Ga. Code § 19-5-3(13) (2022).) This means that the rift between the spouses is so significant, the marriage can't be saved. Using this ground for divorce is typically the easiest way to proceed because a spouse on the receiving end of divorce papers is much less likely to object to this ground than a fault-based one (such as adultery or mental cruelty).
Before you file for an uncontested divorce in Georgia, you and your spouse will need to work out agreements on all the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble agreeing about any of these issues—or any other matters you want to address in your divorce—mediation might help you find solutions that work for both you and your spouse. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document to prepare your written marital settlement agreement.
The divorce complaint is the most significant of the documents you'll need to prepare and file with the court. This is where you tell the court how you qualify for the divorce (residency and grounds), and reference the marital settlement agreement that you and your spouse have drafted. You'll file a signed and notarized copy of your settlement agreement along with the complaint. (Each Georgia county superior court has agreement forms you can use.)
The Georgia courts provide online packets of the basic forms you'll need to start your divorce, along with instructions, checklists, and videos that walk you through the process. The forms will be different depending on whether you and your spouse have minor children. Note that many counties have their own forms, so be sure to check the website of the superior court clerk's office in the county where you will file your paperwork (more on that below), or call the office for more information.
Instead of tracking down and filling out the forms yourself, you can use an online divorce service that will provide you with the completed forms (based on your answers to a questionnaire) and walk you through the divorce process.
Generally, you'll file the divorce complaint and the accompanying documents with the superior court clerk's office in the county where your spouse lives. However, you can file in the county where you live if:
(Ga. Const., Art. IV, Sec. II, Par. 1.)
Some counties in Georgia require you to file your divorce online (even when you're representing yourself), so check with the clerk's office to find out about any county-specific filing requirements.
After you've filed the divorce paperwork, a copy of the forms you filed must be "served on" (delivered to) your spouse. Georgia law requires personal service of the divorce documents, including a summons. You'll have to arrange to have the papers hand-delivered to your spouse, usually by the local sheriff or a professional process server.
Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the divorce paperwork. If no response is filed, the court can enter a "default," which means that the divorce can proceed without your spouse's participation.
If your spouse agrees to accept service, you can avoid having to personally serve the paperwork. Have your spouse sign an Acknowledgment of Service and file it with the court. Having one of the spouses sign and file an Acknowledgment of Service form is common in uncontested divorces.
If your spouse is attempting to avoid being served, or if you don't know where your spouse is living, you can apply to the court for the right to serve the paperwork by "publication," meaning by posting a notice of the divorce in a newspaper or in another manner directed by the court.
After you file a complaint for divorce on the grounds that your marriage is irretrievably broken, Georgia law requires the court to wait until at least the 31st day after service on the respondent before granting a divorce. (Ga. Code § 19-5-3(13) (2022); Ga. Unif. Sup. Ct. R. 24.6 (2022).) Or, if both parties agree in writing, a hearing can be granted any time 31 days after an acknowledgment of service is filed. (Ga. Unif. Sup. Ct. R. 24.6 (2022).) (If you file on other grounds, there isn't a required waiting period, but because the other grounds are fault-based, it will take longer regardless because you'll have to prove the fault grounds in court.)
Most uncontested divorces are finalized within no more than a month after the waiting period. However, the length of time to the final decree depends on the court's schedule—most Georgia judges require a hearing if one or both of the parties isn't represented by an attorney. Ask the court clerk for more details on what to expect.
As a rule, uncontested divorce is a lot cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because many couples can get through the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers to represent them—which leads to big savings on the normal cost of divorce.
The minimum expense involved in filing an uncontested divorce is the court's filing fee. Divorce filing fees in Georgia vary from county to county—typically about $200 to $300. There might also be additional fees for e-filing. If you can't afford to pay filing fees, you can ask the court clerk for a form to request a fee waiver (often called a "Pauper's Affidavit and Order" or an "In Forma Pauperis" request). (Ga. Code § 9-15-2 (2022).) If the court grants your request for a waiver, you won't have to pay any court costs or fees during your divorce.
Beyond the filing fee, your costs will depend on whether you get a "pure" do-it-yourself divorce or you need some help with the process.