Divorce is one of the most challenging experiences you’ll face in life. If you and your spouse can’t agree on important issues, your divorce could take months or even years to finalize.
The right Atlanta divorce lawyer could protect your interests while helping you resolve key issues including division of assets and debts, child support, child custody, and visitation. At the law firm of Tessie D. Edwards & Associates, we understand the difficulties you are confronting, and we are ready to fight to help you achieve a positive outcome so you are prepared to move forward after your divorce.
What’s the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all issues connected with the divorce, including division of marital assets and debts, child custody, and spousal support (alimony). While this is an ideal situation, it can be difficult to achieve because so much is at stake in a divorce.
When spouses disagree about one or more issues, a divorce is considered to be a contested divorce. This process is often lengthier and much more complex. If the divorcing parties are not able to negotiate a resolution, they can end up in court with a judge making the final decisions. Contested divorces may involve all facets of litigation, including pleadings, discovery, temporary hearings, motions, and some cases, a full trial. However, a dedicated divorce attorney could help to resolve areas of conflict so a divorce can be completed with less court intervention and expense.
Couples often fight over financial matters more than anything else during the marriage, so it is not surprising that the process of separating finances is one of the most difficult aspects of a contested divorce. Before a divorce can be finalized, all jointly-owned marital property must be divided, and all debts incurred as a couple must also be split up.
Some of the property spouses own could be considered their own individual “separate” property, particularly assets owned before the marriage, or property inherited during the marriage. An experienced divorce attorney could help ensure that your separate property is appropriately recognized and protected from division.
It can be difficult to determine whether some debts are the legal obligation of both parties or whether they should be allocated solely to one spouse. The assumption is that when your spouse buys something on credit during the marriage, you are legally required to ensure the debt is paid off.
However, it may be possible to demonstrate that your spouse should have to cover the entire debt. For instance, if your spouse incurred heavy gambling or excessive personal shopping debts or charged expenses associated with an extra-marital affair, your divorce attorney could argue that requiring you to pay these debts is inequitable.
In some cases, the court may require one spouse to pay spousal support or alimony to the other. These payments may continue for only a short time to allow the recipient spouse to complete education or gain training to become self-supporting. Sometimes, courts order alimony payments to continue indefinitely.
The existence, duration, and amount of alimony payments are issues often hotly contested during a divorce. Whether you are the spouse requesting alimony or the spouse seeking to reduce or minimize alimony requirements, a knowledgeable contested divorce lawyer could present persuasive evidence to show why the court should grant your request.
In divorce cases involving minor children, both parents often want legal and physical custody. Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions about a child’s upbringing, while physical custody refers to a child’s living arrangements. The court has an obligation to order custody arrangements that are in the child’s best interests.
Parents are often more successful in getting the custody arrangements they want when their attorney is able to demonstrate why those arrangements fit the child’s best interests. Timely legal advice and follow-through can make a big difference in the outcome of a custody determination.
Georgia law refers to parental visitation in divorce as “parenting time.” Courts usually settle visitation issues at the same time as custody. While the laws include an assumption that it is in a child’s best interests to have contact with both parents after divorce, the court can deny or restrict visitation if a parent presents reasons to show why visitation could be harmful to the child. Working with an experienced attorney can allow a parent to present the best available arguments to support their goals for parenting Time.
What Are the Grounds for a Contested Divorce?
Georgia has specific grounds for filing a contested divorce, including:
- Irreconcilable Differences
- Habitual intoxication
- Incurable mental illness
- Impotence at time of marriage
- Willful and continued desertion
- Marriage between close blood relatives
- Cruel treatment, including physical, emotional, or verbal abuse
- A criminal conviction, with a prison sentence of longer
- than two years
- Pregnancy of the wife by another man during the marriage
If you’re going to file based on any of these claims, you need an experienced advocate on your side to help you through the entire divorce process.
Because the areas of contention in a contested divorce may not be related to the need for the divorce itself, spouses can file a “no-fault” divorce based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage yet the divorce could still be considered contested.
Hiring an Attorney for a Contested Divorce
A contested divorce lawyer provides critical legal guidance and support during one of the hardest times in your life. Even when your emotions threaten to take over, an experienced divorce attorney can remain objective while fighting strenuously to protect your rights and interests.
At Tessie D. Edwards & Associates, we strive to be both effective and efficient to save you money on attorney’s fees and court costs. While we are prepared to take all necessary steps to help reach your goals, we are always looking for ways to keep your costs to a minimum.
The divorce process isn’t easy, but we can help you navigate this challenging time so that you can emerge energized and ready for a fresh start in life.
Get a dedicated divorce advocate on your side by contacting the experienced Atlanta divorce team at the law firm of Tessie D. Edwards & Associates today.