“For some people, divorce is a way out of an unloving relationship. For many others, it is a very tough decision and carried out with class. For many people, it is a pathway to try to win the marital lottery.” Author Unknown.

Over the 20 plus years that I have practiced law, I am certain that divorce/family law is the most challenging. As a young attorney working for the District Attorney’s Office ensuring that child support was being paid to our citizens, to handling divorce and other family law matters, I have seen my share of pain and even criminal conduct. If children are involved, there are no winners. The children lose almost every time.

Georgia divorce laws require at least one spouse to be a resident of the state for 6 months. Divorce in Georgia is no-fault based, and the most common ground is irreconcilable differences, meaning the parties simply cannot get along and their marriage is at an end. Other grounds for divorce in Georgia include adultery, habitual intoxication and abandonment. Georgia courts require a 30-day waiting period after filing for divorce to make it official.

Yet, divorce and other family issues, are a part of life. A person has no control over what the other spouse will do. Therefore, it is always best to be informed. Below are the most common questions I am asked:

Who gets custody of the children? Because of cultural views, usually the mother is awarded custody and the father has set times for visitation.

What is child support? When a divorced couple has minor children, the court will oftentimes order that one party pay money to the other so that the children are financially taken care of. Those who are ordered to pay child support should be proud of providing for the children.

What is Alimony? The purpose of alimony is to get the receiving party in a position where they can work and take care of themselves. Typical factors used to determine if alimony will be awarded and how much include a significant income disparity between the parties, the education level of the parties, the ability to work, and whether the party asking for alimony is willing to put the family through a tough time in order to obtain money.

Can I change my name? The wife may have her maiden name returned by having language included in the Final Decree indicating that her maiden name is restored. The wife decides the name issue.

When is my divorce going to be over? Unfortunately, for some, the divorce and the motions filed afterward can last for years based on the behavior of the parties. That is the exception rather than the rule.

The timeline starts with a person’s residence. You must have lived in Georgia for at least six months prior to filing a divorce action.

The length of time a case takes to reach a resolution is entirely dependent on the facts and circumstances in that case. Uncontested cases – cases in which there are absolutely no disagreements as to any issues in the divorce – can be resolved rather quickly.

But, contested cases involving custody or the division of substantial assets can take much longer to resolve.

Additionally, each party’s respective approach toward litigation (cooperative, difficult, just out to harm the other party, etc) always influences the time a case takes to reach a final resolution.

Do I have to go to court? If a case can be resolved in an uncontested manner, that person would not likely have to go to court. Some courts, however, will require a party to appear at the conclusion of an uncontested case (where the parties have entered into a Settlement Agreement) to swear under oath to the elements of the divorce.

Can I date during the pending divorce? A person should probably not date during separation in Georgia; particularly if the person is seeking alimony. The person is still legally married to their spouse even if he or she is physically separated from them.

What county would the divorce be filed in? Generally, a divorce action is filed in the county in which the defendant lives. The initiating documents are filed with the Court Clerk for the Superior Court of whatever county in which the defendant lives.

Should I file for divorce first? From a legal standpoint, nothing will be counted against a person if he or she does not file first.

However, there are certain advantages that come with being the first to file for divorce in Georgia. A person will have time to ensure that assets and money are protected, choose the attorney before filing, and make arrangements if there are children involved.

This column was written by Steve Bonanno; associate attorney at Swindle Law Group.