It is always a good idea to have an attorney represent you when getting a divorce. However, you may not be able to afford an attorney. In that case, you may represent yourself, which is called being “pro se.”
- Go to the court and ask the clerk for the forms to file a pro se divorce. Your county may have different documents they want you to file, but at the very least they will require you to fill out a Complaint and a Verification.
- In your Complaint for Divorce, tell the court why you want a divorce. The best option is to write “irreconcilable differences.” That is Georgia’s version of a“no-fault” You must also tell the court what you want the court to do. Do you want custody of any children you and your spouse have? Do you want the court to award you child support so that you can have money to take care of the children? How do you want the court to divide the property that you and your spouse have? Make sure you fill in every blank completely.
- A Verification is a document that you sign, promising that everything you said in your petition is true.
- File your documents. Usually, you will file the Complaint for Divorce in the Superior Court of the county where your spouse lives. You may file in the county where you both lived if your spouse moved to another county within six months of the date you are filing. If your spouse has moved out of state, you can file in your county. If you are unsure where to file, consult an attorney. Take your documents to the Clerk’s office and ask them how to file your documents. There will be a fee to file. If you cannot afford to pay for the fee, you may ask the Clerk if you can fill out a Poverty Affidavit to waive the fees.
- Serve your documents on your spouse. Service of process is the legal way to give the Complaint for Divorce to your spouse. You must have a copy of the Complaint for Divorce “served” on your spouse. This means that the sheriff or another “process server” will give the divorce papers to your spouse in the way that the law requires. This is called “service of process”. There is also a fee to have the Complaint served. Service is NOT handing the documents to the other party yourself, emailing or mailing them, or just telling them that you filed something. Using these methods will get your case dismissed.
- If you have minor children (that means that they are under the age of 18), you may be required to take a Families in Transition Seminar. You can find out if your county requires the seminar here.
- Attend mediation or Status Conference. Some counties require parties to attend mediation before you can go to a hearing or trial. Some counties, like Fulton County, have status conferences, where you go to an informal meeting with a judicial officer every thirty days before going to a hearing. If the court sends you papers requiring you to attend a mediation or status conference, carefully follow the directions and do what the papers ask.
Hearing or Trial. After your Complaint for Divorce is served on your spouse the spouse may file an answer. If your spouse does not file an answer, your divorce is considered to be “uncontested.” If you agree on anything and there are no issues to be decided the court will schedule a hearing where the court will make a final decision. If the divorce is contested by your spouse, the court may schedule the case for a temporary hearing or a trial.