The Judge is approving the contents of the paper work - not the paper work.
There is more to getting a divorce than just doing the paper work correctly. Judges turn down "perfect" paper work every day because of what is written in them and not because of the format they are written in. Even if you and your spouse are 100% in agreement on all issues the Judge can still refuse to approve your terms for a variety of reasons including the fact they personally think it just will not work or it is not (in their opinion) in the best interest of both parties or the children. A local lawyer can help you write up the agreement you have reached in such a way that it will be approved by the local Judges or make suggestions for alternatives to things he or she knows a Judge will not approve.
People who handle their own cases are tolerated but not always accepted by the court.
Do not be surprised if you are not welcomed with open arms in court when you are handling your case with out a lawyer. Pro se litigants are tolerated by the courts because they understand that legal representation is financially out of the scope of many people but do not expect to be treated in any special manner. In every aspect of your case you will be held to the same exact standard the lawyers are held. In fact you are often held to a higher standard than the lawyers because it has been my experience in practicing over twenty years that Judges will offer practical suggestions to a lawyer as how to fix something that the Judge is not happy with but will not offer the suggestions to a person handling their own case out of fear that the suggestion being giving could be viewed as giving legal advice. If there is a procedural or substantive problem with your papers the Judge will probably tell you to hire a lawyer and put the case on hold until you do it.
It is not that people do not want to help you with your divorce, it is illegal for them to help you.
Under the current laws of Georgia, Judges and court staff are strictly not allowed to give you any legal advice. Some people end up going to court over and over again because of a very minor procedure error or omission but neither the Judge or the court personal are able to explain the problem to them and how to fix it because that would be giving them legal advice. There have been many times in the past that I have tried to ask some one at the Clerk's office to explain to me what information they were requesting in a vague and confusingly written court form I was trying to complete only to be told I will have to ask a lawyer! A lawyer with experience in your area should be able to help make sure your case does not get held up do to technical or procedural errors.
If you hire an attorney your part is basically over once the agreement is reached.
If you hire an uncontested divorce lawyer to do your divorce for you, once you and your spouse reach an agreement you are basically done and can turn everything else over to the lawyer to handle. Your lawyer will draft your agreement in a manner that it will be approved by the court and recommend changes and suggestions regarding things that might not be approved. You lawyer can handle getting the papers to your spouse for signing and answering any questions they might have about the paper work. Your lawyer will file the singed documents for you at the Clerk's office and will take care of any issues that might come up in the filing process. If the Judge does not require you to attend a final hearing it is the job of the lawyer to get the final decree signed, filed and a copy to both parties. If there is a hearing then the lawyer acts on your behalf and makes any changes the Judge needs until the divorce is final.
If you do not have minor children and hire an attorney you will not have to go to court.
Almost all of the Superior Courts in Georgia allow final decrees of divorce in cases where there are not minor children to be granted on a motion for a divorce on the pleadings without requiring an evidentiary hearing if the party who filed the divorce is represented by an attorney. The motion for the final can be presented to the Judge 31 days after the filing of the complaint. If you are not represented by an attorney, the assigned Judge will probably require that you attend a hearing so that they can review the paper work and ask you any questions that they might have. Many courts now have "pro se court" and they assign all the cases where people do not have an attorney to the same Judge and set them down all on the same day each month. These pro se days are usually held at the same time as the hearings for nonpayment of child support and they tend to be very crowded and it can take a long time for your turn before the Judge.
In divorce with minor children, the devil is not in the details but the detailed mandatory forms.
At least three times a week a parent walks into my office and hands me the divorce package they got at the court house and tells me it was just too confusing and they gave up on trying to figure it out. Another third of my clients come from people who did complete the papers but the Judge told them they would not sign them based on the way they were completed. At least one out of every four divorces I do with minor children, the Judge has me make changes to one or more of the documents that I have prepared either because the Judge changed the child support amount or the Judge made us make changes to the parenting plan. The reason for all of these changes is that the now required forms where passed by the Georgia legislature in 2007 and 2008 and they are in the process again of being revised to correct "working errors" that have come up now that they have been in place a couple of years.
The Georgia Child Support forms require you to be able to have access to Mircosoft Excel.
The Georgia Child Support commission provides a free Excel down-loadable electronic worksheet with Data Entry form that electronically calculates the child support obligation of both parents and then prints the required worksheets and schedules. In order to complete the mandatory Georgia Child support forms you have to have access to Microsoft Excel version 2007 or newer. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Excel is not the most user friendly accounting program available and it has a very sharp learning curve. Even though the form itself itself has line by line instructions, it is difficult to complete and even Judges and lawyers who use it every day have trouble doing it so the calculations come out properly.
Judges can refuse to acept Custody and Visitation agrangements even if both parents have agreed to them.
As I previously stated, the Superior court Judge has broad discretion in whether or not they approve custody and visitation arrangements even when both parents have agreed to them in advance. It often comes to a shock to parents to learn that once they decide to divorce that they lose the right to have the final say so on how their children will be raised but in truth one out of every four divorces that I handle the Judge requires the parents to make some changes regarding the custody and visitation agreements that they worked out prior to court. If the agreement you and your spouse have reached involves asking the court for visitation other than the standard of one parent having primary custody and the other parent having every other weekend and odd/even holidays it is imperative that you talk to a local lawyer to find out how the local judges feel about what you are proposing so you are not surprised if the Judge says no.
You can hire an uncontested divorce lawyer for about the price you pay a document preparation service.
There really is no reason not to hire an uncontested divorce lawyer to handle your divorce when you can hire one for about the same amount that you would pay a legal document provider to type your divorce papers. In cases with minor children you do often end up paying a lawyer more money up front in fees but it is money well spent since it cuts down on the time you have to spend to figure out the complicated child support guidelines. For some one who does not do it on a regular basis, it can take a whole day just to complete the paper work for a divorce with minor children. To that time add in another half day off from work to get it signed, copies made and filed with the Clerk's office. Lastly, hiring a lawyer saves you from taking off from work to go to court and on cases that you have to go any way it gets you in and out quicker. In the long run hiring an uncontested lawyer to do the case should save you time and money than handling you divorce on your own.
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