1) Filing of Complaint for Divorce
- This event causes the Timeline to begin.
- Your matter becomes public record
2) Service of Complaint
- The non-filing spouse is served with the paperwork by law enforcement, private process server or acknowledgement of service
- The opposing party has 30 days to respond to the Complaint.
3) Temporary Orders phase.
- Either by agreement or through a court hearing your finances must be organized throughout the divorce process so that everyone can live and pay their bills, including attorney’s fees and the residences of the children must be organized.
- If a court hearing is required to determine these issues, in most counties the parties must attend a mediation prior to any hearing. children will be handled during the divorce process can take 1 to 2 months from the date the Petition for Dissolution is filed.
4) Discovery phase.
During this phase of the process you are finding out information from your spouse such as their earnings history, list of assets and liabilities and values of each, monthly expenses. Financial experts can be hired to work during this phase. Many issues to do with parenting after the divorce are explored during this time if parenting is not agreed upon. Mental health evaluations, guardian ad litems, and others can be involved during this time if necessary. This phase can take a few months to over a year.
5) Settlement phase
After you have sufficient information to come to an agreement you analyze all of the information, prepare mediation materials and attend mediation to try to resolve the financial and parenting issues. In a divorce case this is usually a one day, 6-8 hour mediation. This is not the same as using mediation throughout your divorce to resolve the issues.
6) Trial Preparation phase
If you have not settled your case at mediation you must organize the information you are going to present to the judge, including documents and witnesses. This phase takes 1-6 months depending on the court schedule and length of your trial.
7) Trial phase
On the date set forth on your Case Schedule you will appear at court prepared to address the judge and explain to the judge what you want the judge to order and why. Trials generally last 1 or 2 days or even weeks depending on the complexity of the case. At the end of the trial, the Judge decides all issues. In Georgia, a jury trial is also permitted on some issues.
In Amicable Divorce cases, the parties go through most of the phases described with a traditional divorce but in a much less formal manner and sometimes in reverse order depending on what is needed for that case. For example, often the Complaint for Divorce is not filed until after the parties have reached agreement on most or all issues. Parties can take longer in a given phase because their case or family needs more time or assistance than the court based timeline would allow, or they can direct that the process move swiftly to a resolution. The Amicable Divorce process is controlled by the parties not the Court.
To resolve any case, information must be collected (If you have all of your information and a full agreement you are looking for an “uncontested divorce” and any attorney in our network can assist you with that as well.) Information forms the basis for agreements on finances and parenting issues. To resolve financial issues you must have income information for both spouses, what each person’s monthly living expenses will be, what assets exist to divide and what the debts are. In the litigation based or “traditional divorce” process this is done in a formal way through what is called “discovery”. In litigation cases this is done through a series of legal procedures and documents prepared by attorneys.
In Amicable Divorce cases, information can still be requested with formality but that is often not needed. Needed information is exchanged voluntarily and informally in meetings with the mediator or attorneys. This reduces time and cost.
To resolve issues concerning parenting of children sometimes evaluations by trained mental health professionals is helpful or work with a Parent Coordinator or working with a mental health professional for co-parenting. In litigation cases, again, this is a formal process and the recommendations of a Psychological Custodial Evaluator or Guardian ad Litem are often very persuasive to the court if the court is making a decision about parenting issues. In Amicable Divorce input of a mental health professional is informal and not usually written. The professional often comes to meetings to offer suggestions for resolving parenting issues or issues recommendations directly to the parties.
After all of the information is gathered, parties work to reach agreements that satisfy both people’s needs and the needs of their children. The parties may utilize negotiation, mediation or arbitration to resolve their differences. Once an agreement is reached, it is submitted to the Court and the case is finalized.
It is not always possible to reach agreements through mediation and some cases require the Court to step in to make a decision. When agreement is not possible then parties may try other informal processes or they may decide the only way they can resolve the issues is through litigation. In that event, they can switch to a litigation process but have hopefully narrowed their issues significantly so that they do not need to start at the beginning.