Divorce

Historically, only the Georgia Legislature could grant divorces between spouses. In 1833, the Georgia Constitution was amended to authorize a divorce upon two successive jury verdicts in the Georgia Supreme Court. Finally, the Legislature provided for specific grounds for divorce later. In 1956, the present procedure for the granting of divorce was established. The spouse filing for divorce has to have been (1) a legal resident of the State of Georgia for at least 6 months, and (2) the judge may grant a divorce after a period of no less than 30 days from the date of service, although certainly litigations, which could include a jury trial, would prolong the proceedings.

There are 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia, ranging from cruel treatment, desertion, and adultery to the most common ground, irretrievably broken marriage, the “no-fault” divorce. While the vast majority of divorces are granted on the no-fault ground, any of the 12 other grounds may be pursued and the judge or jury may award a divorce. The filing party, called the Plaintiff or Petitioner, must state or allege one or more of the grounds, and the spouse who is named as the Defendant or Respondent, must generally file a response or an answer to the divorce complaint or petition within 30 days from when he/she is served or acknowledges he/she has officially received the divorce papers. In addition to the answer, the responding party may file against the Petitioner and also request a divorce on any of the 13 grounds, called a counter-claim. The petition is filed in the superior court of the county of residence of the Defendant if she/he resides in Georgia. If the Defendant does not live in Georgia or cannot be found after a diligent search, a petition must be filed in the county of residence of the Plaintiff.

As divorce proceedings are considered equitable in nature, a spouse may also seek other relief in addition to a divorce, (1) including alimony, (2) custody and child support for any children born of the marriage or legally adopted by a non-biological parent, (3) equitable division of all the marital assets and debts, and (4) attorney’s fees.

The procedure for obtaining a divorce and any other relief requested by a party may initially begin with a temporary hearing in front of a superior court judge where evidence is presented by the parties and witnesses called by them. The judge will then rule upon the temporary issues in the case, such as temporary custody and parenting time, child support, alimony, payment of the debts such as the home mortgage and car notes, credit cards, who may have the exclusive use of the marital home, vehicles, or other property on a temporary basis along with temporary attorneys’ fees. The temporary order will last until the final trial or the parties can come to an agreement resolving all these issues. If the parties cannot resolve the issues, the case will then proceed to a final trial where the permanent issues are heard and decided by the judge or jury. These issues can range from custody and parenting time, (always determined by the judge) child support, alimony, what property is awarded to a party as equitable division (or alimony), and what debts are to be paid by whom. The issue of attorney’s fees is also addressed wherein the court must review the financial circumstances of the parties. However, at any time, the parties can come to a final agreement and sign a contract resolving the entire matter. Most courts also have a requirement that the litigants participate in alternative dispute resolution, typically mediation, as a process to help the parties reach settlement. The mediation is presided over by a fully trained individual, typically a lawyer, who attempts to assist the parties find common ground on the number of issues they disagree on. This is a valuable resource which provides the parties an additional forum to have a third party listen to the concerns of both parties in helping guide them to a mutual understanding.

The length of time that a divorce case is pending is dependent on a number of factors. A truly uncontested divorce, in which the parties only seek a divorce and have no children, assets or other issues to determine, can take as little as 31 days. Conversely, a matter in which custody is contested, or numerous properties need valuation, or a closely held business in which a spouse holds title or an interest may also need valuation could cause the divorce proceedings to take many months or even a year or more to finalize. Experts in valuation, guardians or psychologists may need to be hired, or the court’s busy calendar may also delay the process. Spouses who are ready to resolve their disputes and are more cooperative in the process can shorten the time frame considerably.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
The emotionally charged issues that arise in divorce cases evoke very different responses from judges who see many such cases than from parties who are embroiled in them. To be truly effective, a family law attorney must understand both perspectives--and the written law as well. Rob Wellon has a deep understanding of all of those things. As a consequence, he is a wise counselor and an effective advocate. He is a true leader of the family law bar.
★★★★★
Rob was highly recommended to me from a family friend as I was contemplating divorce after a long and difficult marriage. This was unfamiliar territory for me from the start; however, his paralegals and office staff were welcoming and professional from the beginning until the end. I had been looking for a lawyer with integrity, honesty and sound knowledge of the divorce laws as we were up against a difficult opposing party. At our initial meeting, Rob was fine with me bringing in a close confidante to listen. I found with every meeting and phone conversation that Rob remained confidently humble about his legal knowledge and stayed collected even when I was not. He stayed the course the whole way even though it seemed the end would never arrive, often having to remind me calmly that he had “been down this road before.” After staying up all night preparing my case for court, Rob was a tough but fair negotiator. He was able to protect my assets 100% and persuade the judge to award me legal fees. I’m forever grateful. Sally
★★★★★
Rob Wellon represents his clients aggressively but he is also the voice of reason. His years of experience as a family lawyer are undeniable when representing his clients. I would enthusiastically refer him to any person who sought an expert in this field. Marian
★★★★★
Attorney Robert Wellon gave me a first-rate performance when it came to my divorce. From the first meeting and throughout my divorce he was a warm and kind gentleman. He asked me what outcome I wanted from the divorce and from that moment going forward I only had to relax and let him litigate my case. He offered me such conformality and tranquility during a time of uncertainty. He has outstanding strategic capabilities, ensuring a successful outcome. He’s a highly respected lawyer locally and national community. He’s a very efficient lawyer that performs well and fights for those that can’t and gets through with a win. Atty. Robert Wellon is also a family man, a civic leader, sings at the church choir and a professor at Emory University Law School. All of these components make him an outstanding attorney in the field of family law. Vivian