Getting an Uncontested Divorce in Georgia

Divorce is never easy. Not only is it extremely emotionally difficult and complex, it can also be very expensive. The price of a divorce usually depends both on the complexity of a couple’s financial and family situation and how much disagreement there is between the parties. For couples who agree on the particulars of their divorce, filing for an uncontested divorce can be a great option. A Georgia family law attorney usually will provide assistance with an uncontested divorce for a reasonable flat fee rate. On the other hand, contested divorces are usually billed on an hourly basis and usually result in being much more expensive.

What Must Be Agreed Upon?

Just like in any divorce action, the same elements must be resolved. For couples without children, this includes alimony, debt, and asset division. These two areas broadly come down to money — who gets what and who gets paid. For couples with children, child custody, visitation, and child support also must be decided. In an uncontested divorce, all of these issues can be agreed upon by each spouse and submitted to the judge for approval. Uncontested divorce is a much more affordable option for divorce because it usually does not require hearings, argument, testimony, and evidence to determine the outcome of all of these issues.

What Documents are Needed to File for an Uncontested Divorce?

In any divorce in Georgia, one party must file a complaint alleging the proper grounds for divorce. To make things easier the respondent usually waives service of process and his or her right to trial on the matter. The next essential document is the settlement agreement. This is a contract, usually drawn up by one of the parties’ attorneys, that lays out the agreement over alimony, property division, and debts.

For couples with children, issues of child custody, child support, and visitation must be addressed and agreed to by both parties. These issues should also be included in any settlement agreement. In addition to including these issues in the settlement agreement, the court also requires that the parties complete a child support worksheet, parenting plan, and sometimes other associated documents.

Can You Put Anything You Want in a Settlement Agreement?

The short answer is yes. As described above, you can include terms of child support and visitation, asset division, alimony, and anything else related to the ending of the marriage. However, for the settlement agreement to be enforced by the court, the judge in the case must approve it and incorporate it into the final decree. If the agreement appears to be fundamentally unfair or problematic in some other way, the judge may choose to incorporate only part of the agreement or reject the agreement altogether.

Bottom Line

For couples who want to be divorced and can agree on the terms of the divorce, seeking an uncontested is a financially sound option. While parties can represent themselves, it crucial that you hire a Georgia family law attorney who can explain your options to you and make sure you file all the appropriate paperwork correctly. Call us today for a free consultation!

Bond Revocation

In last week’s post, we discussed the process of getting a bond generally. In today’s post, we discuss bond revocations. In Georgia, if you violate a condition of your bond, you could have your bond revoked. This means you will be taken in to custody until your case is resolved. Bond conditions usually include staying away from the alleged victim, witnesses, or the property in the case, and avoiding any new criminal charges. Most bond conditions include the provision that you not “violate the rules of any state or governmental unit.” This could be anything from a traffic ticket to a felony. But just because you have been charged with a new crime does not necessarily mean you will have your bond revoked.

Right to Notice and a Hearing

Georgia case law is clear that you must first be given notice and an opportunity to be heard before your bond can be revoked. The judge cannot simply revoke your bond from his chambers without telling you. See Hood v. Carsten 267 Ga. 579 (1997). Moreover, you must also be given a hearing, which is “structured to insure that the finding of a violation of a condition of bond and the exercise of the court’s discretion to revoke bond were based on verified facts.” If the judge has not provided you with a hearing or notice, then he may not revoke your bond.

At the hearing, the judge will need to determine if there is enough evidence to show that you violated the conditions of your bond. If the evidence against you in the new charge is weak, you will not likely have your bond revoked. It also matters whether the new charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. Under the standard, 4-factor test for bond, you are only to be denied bond if the judge finds you a substantial risk of committing a new felony. Nowhere does the test discuss committing a new misdemeanor. If you are only to alleged to have committed a new misdemeanor, this is not a traditional ground revoking one’s bond. Your attorney should explain to the judge that a misdemeanor charge or conviction is not covered by the 4-factor test for bond.

Bottom Line

If you are out on bond and have picked up a new charge, talk to criminal defense attorney today about your options. The state may try to revoke your bond. However, you do have rights. You can request a hearing to determine if there is sufficient grounds to revoke your bond. If the new charge is a misdemeanor or if the evidence for a felony is weak, you may be able to keep you bond from being revoked.

Getting a Bond in Georgia

One of the first issues addressed in a criminal case is pretrial release (also known as bond). As in all criminal cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. As such, the defendant is entitled to have a reasonable bond set in all misdemeanor cases. In felony cases, a defendant is also entitled to a bond unless the state can show that the Defendant

  • is a significant risk of flight.
  • is a significant risk of danger to persons or property in the community.
  • is a significant risk of committing any felony pending trial.
  • is a significant risk of intimidating any witnesses in the case.

If the State can demonstrate just one of these factors, then the judge can deny bond. While the burden of proof in the hearing is placed on the state, the defendant is tasked with the initial “production” of evidence relating to ties to the community. In Georgia, magistrate judges give most bonds. However, there are certain serious charges for which only a superior court judge is authorized to grant bonds. These include primarily:

  • Treason
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Aggravated Sodomy
  • Armed Robbery
  • First Degree Home Invasion
  • Aircraft Highjacking and Automobile Highjacking in the First Degree
  • Aggravated Child Molestation
  • Aggravated Sexual Battery
  • Sale, Manufacture, or Distribution of Drugs
  • Aggravated Stalking

If a person has been charged with one of these crimes, only a superior court judge can grant bond.


Bond Hearing

In Georgia, bond is usually set within the first 24 to 72 hours after a person is incarcerated in what is known as the initial or first appearance. People charged with misdemeanors or with low level felonies (with little or no criminal history) usually get a bond at first appearance. If a person does not receive a bond at first appearance, he or his attorney can file a bond motion. If it is the defendant’s first bond motion, statute requires the motion to be heard within 10 days of its filing. At the bond hearing, your attorney can present evidence and make arguments to show that you are not a substantial risk of violating any of the bond factors. This may include calling witnesses or gathering letters to demonstrate a person’s work history, lack of criminal history, and good character in the community.

The most important case in Georgia governing bond is Ayala v. State. Ayala explains that the purpose of bond is to “prevent punishment before a conviction and to secure the appearance of the person in court for trial.” Ayala v. State, 262 Ga. 704 (1993). Ayala also suggests factors the court should consider when deciding bond, which include, “defendant’s length and character of residence in the community, employment status and history, past history of responding to legal process, and prior criminal record.”

Bottom Line

Getting released prior to trial or conviction is a fundamental constitutional right. People are not to be punished before a guilty conviction or jailed without cause. The state only has the ability to remove those rights under certain conditions. Contact an experienced attorney today who can protect your rights and work to get you released from jail prior to trial.