If you have decided to dissolve your marriage, the quickest and most cost-effective process available in Georgia is uncontested divorce. In principle, uncontested divorce spares the parties the time, expense and emotional stress of court hearings. But getting divorcing spouses to agree on a multitude of issues is not an easy task. Fortunately, Skinner Family Law is available to help. I draw my insights from more than 30 years of family law experience to negotiate settlements that protect my clients’ rights and advance their goals for life after divorce.
Many of my clients confuse no-fault divorce with uncontested divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the Petitioner declines to allege any of the 13 legal grounds for divorce in Georgia and simply declares the marital relationship is “irretrievably broken.” An uncontested divorce goes a few steps farther: the spouses settle all their divorce issues — alimony, child support, child custody and property division — detailing how they want each issue resolved in a document known as a marital settlement agreement. They present this agreement to the court for approval, and it becomes the basis for the court’s divorce decree.
Whenever possible, a couple should attempt to achieve an uncontested divorce. There are no special eligibility requirements, but certain couples are not good candidates. If there is a history of domestic violence in the marriage, or if trust has been destroyed due to infidelity or other marital misconduct, it will probably be too difficult for the parties to work cooperatively.
If there are children of the marriage, disputes over child support and child custody can be difficult to resolve. However, with an experienced family law attorney working with you, it is often possible to work out a manageable parenting plan without resorting to trial.
If a spouse has been abandoned and the other’s whereabouts are unknown, it is still possible to get an uncontested divorce. Instead of personally serving the absent spouse with the Complaint and Summons, the Petitioner can get permission from the court to serve notice via publication. If the Respondent spouse does not file an Answer with the court within the mandated period, the court grants the divorce on the terms requested.
Marital settlements don’t just materialize; they are the product of hard work. Often, the process of negotiating a settlement begins before either side files divorce papers. In other cases, negotiations do not begin until the parties have made their financial disclosures.
Sometimes, traditional negotiations stall, and the parties opt for mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party guides discussions toward a mutually beneficial resolution. Although the parties split the cost of mediation, this process is still less expensive than court, and you can schedule sessions on your own without the delays that often come from an overcrowded court calendar. Mediation offers more privacy than open court, where your marital disputes become public record. Mediation is also much less adversarial and often helps the parties overcome past resentments, which is especially important for parents who will share custody of their children. Finally, when you create a marital settlement, you retain greater control over the outcome of the case than you would if you left the final determination up to a judge. Most Superior Courts now order the parties to participate in mediation prior to allowing a final hearing.
All of these benefits — timeliness, reduced costs, enhanced privacy, less stress, and greater control — are possible when you work with an experienced uncontested divorce attorney at Skinner Family Law. My Divorce FAQ page may also answer some of your questions about uncontested divorce.
Skinner Family Law provides personalized attention so you can have every benefit of the uncontested divorce process. For thoughtful representation in Georgia at a fair rate, call Skinner Family Law today. You can reach me by phone at 478-845-1058 or contact my Macon office online to schedule a consultation.