Getting divorced in Georgia without a capable divorce lawyer lawyer in Georgia is complicated and not something they taught you in school, and it requires an understanding of the statutory law and case law concerning issues of properly filing a petition for divorce, equitably (fairly) dividing marital property, accurately determining support, and determining child custody in the best interest of the children. When you do not work with an experienced lawyer, you could make mistakes. As Abraham Lincoln said, “He who represents himself in Court has a fool for a client.” This is even true between lawyers, in fact the quote has been modified to read, “A lawyer who represents himself/herself in Court has a bigger fool for a client.” Fool means “a person lacking in judgment or prudence”.
With the complex aspects of family law in the state and the emotions involved, many individuals who choose to file their own divorce do not understand the intricacies of the law. It can also be difficult if not impossible to eliminate emotions when you are the person affected by the divorce. Because of these reasons you risk committing errors, as such you risk lacking proper judgment and what would be the prudent course of action and becoming the definition of a fool. While some mistakes can be corrected, although sometimes more costly than just having a capable lawyer handle your divorce, other mistakes can result in an extremely unfavorable property settlement or a child custody situation arrangement that does not meet any of your wishes and can be limited or impossible to correct or change ever or in some situations until certain criteria have been met.
The following are some ways in which you could make mistakes if you file for divorce on your own, and why you shouldn’t file your own divorce to avoid making these mistakes.
Filing the Petition for Divorce
Do you know how to file the petition for divorce according to the requirements under Georgia law? There are certain requirements for filing the actual petition and what the petition needs to say in the content of the petition, and you will also need to understand how to assert grounds for divorce. Under Georgia law, grounds for divorce range on grounds of fault or no-fault (no-fault referring to the grounds that “the marriage is irretrievably broken”).
Dealing with Property Distribution
Georgia case law clarifies that first separate and marital property are determined, then whatever property is considered marital property—including both debts and assets from the marriage—will be subject to distribution in a divorce. There are numerous ways in which you can make devastating mistakes if you do not work with a capable Georgia divorce lawyer when it comes to proving and deciding what is separate property and what is marital property and marital debts and how the division of marital property should be equitably (fairly) divided based on the fault or circumstances each spouse is in during the marriage, leading up to the divorce and most likely after the divorce.
For instance, marital property is divided according to what is equitable, or what is fair, to both of the spouses. In determining what is equitable, the court looks at many different factors. If you file your own divorce, you may not know to provide certain evidence of the time you invested at home raising children, or other non-monetary value that you gave to the marriage, or what expenses you will have and counted on being paid for by the other spouse. Also so many times individuals end up giving up on the divorce and just giving their spouse what they are asking for in whole or in part and then once the emotions, frustration, and stress is gone they realize it was a mistake and decide then is the time to finally go talk to a lawyer and think they will be able to fix it. Don’t give up until you have spoken to a capable Georgia divorce lawyer. As such, you could end up getting less than you actually deserve. This is a mistake that can be extremely difficult to correct.
Seeking Alimony/Spousal Support in Georgia
Seeking alimony or also known as spousal support is also a complicated thing to do, and you can make irreparable mistakes. In order to receive alimony, a spouse needs to show that it is needed and that the other party has the ability to pay in general. More specifically the Court in Georgia will look at the following factors:
- Standard of Living while living together and during the marriage
- Length of time married
- Receiving spouse’s age, earning potential, physical/health condition
- Paying spouse’s earning capacity, financial situation, debts
- Contributions to the marriage of value but did not produce income
If a spouse seeking a claim for alimony committed adultery or desertion that led to the separation and divorce, in Georgia, the court can refuse to grant alimony to the offending spouse on that basis alone. There are the other reasons you can find Fault in your divorce against the other spouse to be considered for an alimony determination like adultery and desertion, but some are just fault for the divorce and are not determinative for alimony. Here are all 13 reasons to be granted a divorce in Georgia:
- Intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity;
- Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage;
- Impotency at the time of the marriage;
- Force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage;
- Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the husband;
- Adultery in either of the parties after marriage;
- Willful and continued desertion by either of the parties for the term of one year; 12
- The conviction of either party for an offense involving moral turpitude, under which he is sentenced to imprisonment in a penal institution for a term of two years or longer;
- Habitual intoxication;
- Cruel treatment, which shall consist of the willful infliction of pain, bodily or mental, upon the complaining party, such as reasonably justifies apprehension of danger to life, limb, or health;
- Incurable mental illness. No divorce shall be granted upon this ground unless the mentally ill party has been adjudged mentally ill by a court of competent jurisdiction or has been certified to be mentally ill by two physicians who have personally examined the party; and he has been confined in an institution for the mentally ill or has been under continuous treatment for mental illness for a period of at least two years immediately preceding the commencement of the action; and the superintendent or other chief executive officer of the institution and one competent physician appointed by the court, after a thorough examination, make a certified statement under oath that it is their opinion that the party evidences such a want of reason, memory, and intelligence as to prevent the party from comprehending the nature, duties, and consequences of the marriage relationship and that, in the light of present day medical knowledge, recovery of the party’s mental health cannot be expected at any time during his life. Notice of the action must be served upon the guardian of the person of the mentally ill person and upon the superintendent or other chief executive officer of the institution in which the person is confined. In the event that there is no guardian of the person, then notice of the action shall be served upon a guardian ad litem, who shall be appointed by the court in which the divorce action is filed, and upon the superintendent or chief executive officer of the institution in which the person is confined. The guardian and superintendent shall be entitled to appear and be heard upon the issues. The status of the parties as to the support and maintenance of the mentally ill person shall not be altered in any way by the granting of the divorce;
- Habitual drug addiction, which shall consist of addiction to any controlled substance as defined in Article 2 of Chapter 13 of Title 16;
- The marriage is irretrievably broken. Under no circumstances shall the court grant a divorce on this ground until not less than 30 days from the date of service on the respondent.
However, in order to obtain alimony or to prove that it should not be awarded, you need to understand how the court makes these determinations for each “fault” of the divorce category and the type of evidence you need to provide. When you are filing your divorce without the help of a lawyer, there are numerous moments in which you can make mistakes. To avoid errors in alimony determinations, you should always seek advice from an experienced divorce attorney in Georgia.
Child Custody Errors
Making mistakes in your child custody and support side of your divorce case if minor children are involved can often be the most devastating of all. While it is possible to seek a modification of a child custody or support order, making a mistake that results in your limited ability to spend time with your child(ren) can have serious emotional consequences for you and your child(ren). Do not make the mistake of failing to discuss 13 your case with a divorce lawyer in Georgia.
There is a parenting plan that has many options and that can be customized to fit your specific work situation, living situation, and the needs of the children. There is no one size fits all here at all. If you don’t get advice and guidance from a lawyer here you very well will make mistakes of omission by not including all that you could have as a parenting plan for your child(ren) or could end paying or receiving to/from your spouse the incorrect amount of child support as it too has many options to customize and make child support fit your personal situation.
At Mitchell & Crunk the children in a Divorce case for our client become the #1 issue, not just because of our preference or opinion but also because the Court will have your children as the #1 issue to be taken care of first and foremost before everything else in your divorce. As we say at Mitchell & Crunk, there is a “Better way to live, better way to be divorced” and the area of proper child custody through the parenting plan and child support worksheet is where we can really show that we stand behind that statement among other areas of divorce because we take the time to customize it and be as detailed as you would like the plan to be to your circumstances.