Contested Divorce in Georgia

You may have heard the terms “contested divorce” and “uncontested divorce.” If you’re facing divorce, it’s helpful to understand what each of these terms means.

Simply put, an uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses agree on the terms of a marital settlement agreement. Because the couple agrees on all issues, including big ones like who gets to keep the marital home and how child custody shall be arranged, they do not need to hire divorce lawyers and fight for what they want in court.

A contested divorce occurs when a couple cannot agree on all issues related to their split. In this case, they must appear before a judge and allow that official to make final decisions for them. Hiring divorce lawyers and going to court is not what most divorcing people want, but sometimes, it’s unavoidable.

Why might you need a contested divorce in Georgia?

Some divorcing couples are simply unable to negotiate their settlement disagreements. Perhaps they cannot agree on who gets to keep the house, who keeps the family dog, or how much alimony should be paid. All of these disagreements (and many others) could lead to a contested divorce.

Here is a general list of reasons why you might need a contested divorce:

  • You and your spouse are unable to reach a resolution on settlement matters.
  • You and your spouse tried working with a mediator, but you were still unable to find a compromise on a settlement, even with help.
  • Your spouse was abusive, and you want a divorce process that involves as little contact with them as possible.
  • Your spouse is dishonest about things like their finances or their ability to care for your children, and you want a judge to intervene and help make your divorce fair.

What does the contested divorce process look like in Georgia?

Before you begin the contested divorce process, you may want to consult with an attorney for guidance. This could mean hiring a divorce lawyer and paying their retainer fee. Or, it could mean meeting with a legal coach for one or two sessions to discuss your situation and strategize.

Step 1: File for divorce

One spouse must file a divorce complaint with the Superior Court clerk in their county or their spouse’s county. This person is known as the Plaintiff.

The state of Georgia provides helpful online instructions for this process. 

Regardless of which form you use, if your divorce is contested, do not check Box 6 in your complaint. This signals to the court that you are not in agreement on all settlement issues.

Before you file, make sure that one of you meets the residency requirement for getting divorced in Georgia.

Step 2: Serve your spouse

In Georgia, you must formally serve your Complaint upon your spouse. Two of the most common ways to do this are paying a local sheriff to deliver the papers and hiring a professional process server to deliver the papers. 

The person who delivers the papers to your spouse is your process server. They will then complete paperwork verifying with the court that they served the papers.

If you cannot locate your spouse, you may be able to serve them via publication. This would entail publishing your divorce notice in a newspaper or a similar approved place. But first, you would have to complete an Affidavit of Due Diligence and get permission from the court.

The Defendant has the opportunity to respond to the Complaint and the proposals it contains regarding marital property, alimony, and such. This form is called the Answer and Counterclaim. Click below for the document appropriate to your situation.

If your spouse knows the divorce is coming and wants to avoid service, they can fill out an Acknowledgment of Service form. This does not prevent the divorce or slow it down; it merely allows them to skip a step in the process.

Step 3: Share important information

In a contested Georgia divorce, spouses are required to formally disclose their financial situation to one another.

The required form is called a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. Fill out the form appropriate for your county. As an example, here is the online Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit provided by Georgia’s Southern Judicial Court.

Notably, couples who are pursuing an uncontested divorce are not required to share financial disclosures. But due to the adversarial nature of a contested divorce, they are required in that process.

Step 4: File temporary orders

When a divorce process is initiated, it may be necessary for temporary orders to be enacted. Both spouses have the right to seek temporary orders. You can contact the Superior Court where your divorce was initiated to ask about filing for temporary orders.

For example, if you and your child are living with a friend while your divorce is pending, you might need a temporary order for financial support from your spouse. 

Another example: Since you and your child have moved in with a friend, your spouse might initiate a temporary order to make sure they can see and spend time with your child during the divorce process.

Note: When the divorce is finalized, other orders may go into effect. For example, alimony may be ordered. A custody schedule will likely be created.  These are not temporary orders. 

Think of temporary orders as arrangements for this “in between” time when you’re still married but on your way to divorce. Temporary orders can fill some important gaps.

Read: What Are Temporary Orders?

Step 5: Negotiate an agreement

Your divorce may be contested because you have been unable to successfully negotiate with your spouse. But even though you’re not communicating well, your estate and other pertinent issues must be settled.

Court-ordered mediation

If your divorce goes to court and a judge presides over it, the judge may require you to take a stab at mediation before they hand down a judgment on your divorce. This is known as court-ordered mediation.

Pretrial conference

If mediation is successful, the judge may order a pretrial conference in which you have another opportunity to settle your affairs without going to trial.

Step 6: Go to court

If the case ultimately goes to trial, the judge will hand down a divorce decree that instructs you how to divide your property, structure your child custody schedule, and other important issues.

Remember: Mediation is a tool many people use to transform their contested divorce into an uncontested divorce. Mediation requires cooperation and compromise, but it can be a lifeline for you if you both want an uncontested divorce but don’t know how to get there without help.

Will you need to go through divorce discovery?

In a contested Georgia divorce, divorce discovery – a formal process in which each spouse is required to produce and share certain personal documents – may take place.

Various information-gathering techniques may be used during divorce discovery in order to elicit information from each member of the couple.

  • Interrogatories: This is a question-answering session in which each spouse must formally provide answers and information.
  • Document production: This often involves the mandatory sharing of information, such as your recent paystubs and tax returns, W-2s, and documents related to your financial assets and expenses.
  • Requests for admission: In this type of legal questioning, spouses are asked closed-ended questions in which they must either “admit” or “deny" claims.
  • Deposition: A deposition is an interviewing session that may include witness testimony.

Read: Guide to Divorce Discovery: What to Expect 

How long does a contested divorce take in Georgia?

While an uncontested divorce in Georgia might take as little as six months, a contested divorce in Georgia could take a year or more to complete. The reason: In addition to several shorter mandatory waiting periods, there are other processes that take time. These include court-mandated mediation, completion of a parenting class (for parents of minors), a pretrial hearing, a trial, and divorce discovery.

The docket of the Superior Court where you file also impacts how long you must wait. Some courts are very, very busy, and it’s impossible to get on the schedule quickly. 

Read: Everything You Need to Know before Getting Divorced in Georgia by Family Law Attorney Mari Tanaka, Hello Divorce VP 

How much does a contested divorce cost?

On top of the Georgia divorce filing fee of $400, you may have to pay for professional services during your contested divorce. The most obvious (and costly) of these is the cost of a divorce attorney. 

Statistics suggest that Georgia is one of the pricier states in which to get a divorce with an average cost of $11,400 per person. Highly contested divorces that require lots of professional input can be expected to cost more. Simple, uncontested divorces that require little or no legal representation can be expected to cost less.

Read: How to Divorce in Georgia without Lawyers

Can I switch from a contested to an uncontested divorce?

In many cases, yes, it is possible to switch from a contested to an uncontested divorce.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on your divorce terms, perhaps there is someone who can help you find a compromise that works for both of you.

As mentioned, mediation is a strong positive force in the divorce world. Many couples find it far easier and less expensive to work with one mediator than to hire two divorce lawyers. If you go this route, select a mediator you both like, and approach the process with an open mind.

You will not get everything in your divorce that you want whether you work with a mediator or go to trial. Many people realize they might as well work with a mediator in order to maintain more control over what happens in their divorce negotiations.

At Hello Divorce, we offer online divorce plans as well as services like mediation and legal coaching to residents of Georgia. We want to make your divorce an easier, kinder experience than it has been for couples in the past before our services were available.

To learn more about us and to ask us questions, we encourage you to schedule a free 15-minute phone call with an account coordinator.


Divorce without minor children. Judicial Council of Georgia.
Divorce with minor children. Judicial Council of Georgia.
Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. Southern Judicial Circuit Court.
The Cost of Divorce: Where Is It Most Expensive? Self.Inc.
Senior Editor
Communication, Relationships, Divorce Insights
Melissa Schmitz is Senior Editor at Hello Divorce, and her greatest delight is to help make others’ lives easier – especially when they’re in the middle of a stressful life transition like divorce. After 15 years as a full-time school music teacher, she traded in her piano for a laptop and has been happily writing and editing content for the last decade. She earned her Bachelor of Psychology degree from Alma College and her teaching certificate from Michigan State University. She still plays and sings for fun at farmer’s markets, retirement homes, and the occasional bar with her local Michigan band.