I unfortunately don't have the money to hire a lawyer presently and am in the process of a divorce. Since I'm doing this myself, I'm a little worried about getting the correct paperwork filed so I don't have to do it again. I've checked with the court in my county (Fayette) and they don't provide the paperwork necessary for a divorce in my county. I was hoping to find some information regarding what all forms are required for an uncontested divorce with minor children. Do I simply fill out the necessary forms and have my wife sign the agreement (I don't really want her to be served with them), assuming we agree on everything? We don't really have much to divide, no retirement accounts or anything. The house is in my name only but am having her and the kids stay in it. Anything I'm missing?
You're missing the one thing that is necessary - a lawyer. Pro se divorces usually go badly, and with children they often become disasters. They are even worse in counties that are unfriendly to pro se litigants, and Fayette definitely fits that bill (Fulton is one of few counties that makes serious effort to be minimally pro-se friendly and even there things go awry.) Add a house, which is marital property regardless of the title, and you add even more complexity. Given that Fayette would allow you, with counsel, to do this on the pleadings with no court date, why would you even consider facing the judge in court and likely getting the case tossed.
To get through the case, you will need far more than an agreement (and that should be tailor made and not be a form). You need at a minimum, a parenting plan, complaint, two financial affidavits, child support worksheet with appropriate schedules, child support addendum, verification, acknowldgment of service, county standing order, 30 day consent to try, and final decree. You also need a summons, initiation form, disposition form, and Georgia report of divorce. You MAY need additional documents. Get any of them even slightly wrong and the divorce gets denied or goes to trial, or even worse, gets approved with bad language you, your wife and the children must live with.
There are attorneys, myself included, that do the simpler uncontested cases with children for about $1000 and that is including the court courts ($206). Is it worth it to try and save $800 and then have to pay a lawyer more than that to fix a case when it is messed up? My fees to fix a botched pro se case (and I get that call OFTEN) are often more than to do it from scratch.
You'll get custom drafted documents that allow you to say what you want about the children, and address things that aren't in ANY preprinted court form (college, grandma, and extra curricular activities to name just a few consequences). In the long run you'll save a lot.
If you do rething your pro se plans, call me at 404-768-3509 (or if you don't call me, call someone).
Remember, you don't just have to find the forms (you can probably gather many from Fulton, Dekalb and Cobb court websites but then you have to CHANGE them in ways Fayette judges will accept and to fit your facts, since the forms are imperfect).
I agree with my colleague and that you really should try to find an attorney. Even if you cannot afford to retain an attorney, there may be an attorney who would be willing to consult with you and provide some guidance so you are not trying to put everything together yourself. The following is a link to the FULTON county Family Division which provides some forms that Fulton County will accept. Please note that these are all FULTON County related so there is no guarantee that these forms will all be accepted in Fayette County but they will provide you with a better idea of what needs to be done:
Remember that attorneys may not be able to fix mistakes after the divorce because the final decree is a FINAL order that cannot be amended except maybe through a new lawsuit. Many times it is better to wait until you can afford a lawyer because a delayed divorce may be better than a botched divorce.
Sadly you are probably missing a lot. About the only thing relevant that I think is sound to say at this point is to find someone who will finish your attempt to Divorce at a low fee. We generally do uncontested Divorce with children for $899 and I feel certain it will be worthwhile in your situation.
However you proceed please seek competent counsel.
No question about it - a lawyer will advise you best. You can travel up to say DeKalb County to the courthouse. It has some resources for do it yourselfs.
In short, you need a Complaint for Divorce that properly alleges all the relevant facts by statute. You also need to complete a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit and a Child Support Worksheet. Your wife, if she is agreeable, needs to sign an Acknowledgement of Service in the presence of a notary, and afterwards, it needs to be filed with the clerk of the superior court.
Your wife has 30 days from the date of acknowledgement to file an answer. Until that happens, the court technically does not have jurisdiction to grant a divorce.
If she files and agrees to a quick resolution, or does not file an answer, you can seek the earliest possible court date for a final judgment of divorce.
If you are doing this by agreement, you will need to reduce all of your agreement into one document, call it a settlement agreement. It should address custody, child support, alimony, division of property and allocation of debt. By law, you will also need to include a parenting plan and a child support addendum.
Now, that is the general process. What I have not talked about is the content of each of these required documents. That depends upon your unique circumstances.
Having said all that, one of my colleagues mentions a $899 flat fee (far less than my initial retainer). Doesn't that sound like it is worth it?
Divorce should usually not be pursued without an attorney and a divorce with minor children always requires the expertise of an attorney. There are many resources were you can find forms and try to fill in the blanks. It is more about what is not there to fill out. It is difficult, if not impossible, to correct or change the mistakes of a divorce completed on your own. I would suggest you look to obtaining an attorney who offers a smaller initial retainer.
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