In Georgia, a divorce starts when one spouse serves his or her partner with divorce papers via a sheriff’s deputy or an official process server. The documents colloquially known as “divorce papers” include a copy of the Complaint for Divorce and an Acknowledgement of Service form, the latter of which is your way of officially acknowledging that you have been served with divorce paperwork.

When you receive divorce papers, it can feel like your head is spinning. Getting divorced is a complicated process, and it can feel especially overwhelming when you are caught off guard. Start working with a divorce lawyer as soon as possible after receiving this paperwork to ensure that you do not miss necessary filing deadlines and that your rights are protected through the divorce process.

Do You Have to Respond to the Paperwork?

The divorce papers you receive will also include your spouse’s proposed divorce terms, such as how to divide your marital property and a child custody plan. You can agree to your spouse’s proposed settlement or dispute it.

After you are served with divorce papers, you have 30 days to file your own responsive pleading, also known as an “answer.” If you do not file a responsive pleading, you consent to your partner continuing the divorce process without your input. If you miss this deadline, you typically can file your response shortly afterward. Do not wait to call the court and file your response as soon as you can – the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for you to express your interests and achieve your divorce goals.

Do You Need to Attend any Hearings?

If you and your spouse agree to your divorce settlement terms, you can state this in your response to the divorce paperwork and have the court schedule your final hearing. By taking this route to divorce, you can end your marriage in a little over a month.

But many individuals do not agree to their spouses’ proposed divorce terms. When this is the case, the divorce process takes much longer to complete because the couple must reach appropriate divorce orders. A contested divorce can take one year or longer to complete, depending on the complexity of the couple’s divorce and their willingness to compromise with each other. With this kind of divorce, expect a six-month discovery period and interactions with multiple outside professionals, like a financial advisor or a child custody evaluator.

If the couple is capable of working together amicably, they can reach their final divorce settlement through collaboration or mediation. If not, they must litigate their divorce, in which case the couple can expect further hearings to reach appropriate orders based on applicable Georgia laws.

Should You Contact a Lawyer?

Ultimately, yes, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney. If you are asking yourself what happens when you are served divorce papers, it is time to start working with an experienced divorce lawyer. You cannot make your spouse want to stay in your marriage – whether you respond to the divorce papers or not, your marriage is over. Be proactive and start working on your case with a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. To get started with a member of Mitchell & Crunk, LLC, contact our office to schedule your free initial phone consultation.