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How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Georgia?

It is impossible to fully predict the cost of a divorce in Georgia because so many factors depend on the individual situation. The average cost is around $10,000, with costs running higher if you have children or cannot agree on the divorce terms.

The price will be significantly lower if you can negotiate on your own and create a fair divorce agreement early on.

No matter what cost-saving options you choose, you will typically pay more if your divorce involves:

  • Child support and child custody decisions
  • Splitting complex marital property assets like multiple bank accounts, retirement accounts, and houses
  • Seeking spousal support or alimony

For example, a recently married childless couple who rents an apartment will have a faster, cheaper divorce (see sample forms). The divorce process after a 10-year marriage, three children, two homes and a significant retirement account will cost more to resolve (see sample forms).

Most counties in Georgia make both parents attend a parenting seminar (see sample seminar information). These range from $30 to $50 and you are often given a 30-day limit to attend the class.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce Costs

A contested divorce will cost more because one or both sides want to fight for what they want. You can expect to go to court, possibly a number of times, where your attorney's fees will add up.

An uncontested divorce in Georgia tends to move faster and needs less time with an attorney, saving you money. This is sometimes called a "no-fault" divorce because you aren't trying to prove your spouse did something wrong.

If both sides are willing to talk and negotiate together, an uncontested divorce case is the less expensive option, though it is still a good idea to work with a lawyer. Consider having a lawyer draft (or review) the divorce papers before filing them with the courts. Typically, lawyers charge their hourly rates for this service.

When Should I Pay an Attorney to Handle Something?

Whether contested or uncontested, you may want an attorney's help when creating and filing:

  • The marital settlement agreement
  • The complaint for divorce (this document starts the divorce process with the courts)
  • Child support worksheets
  • Your parenting plan (details where the kids will live, how much time they have with each parent, and who pays for what costs)
  • Your domestic relations financial affidavit (proof of your current financial circumstances)

Different counties may call these documents by other names, or have specific requirements. It is always best to talk to your county court staff to get the right forms and use an attorney when the process is confusing.

Options That Affect the Cost of Your Georgia Divorce

You have many choices during the course of your divorce that affect the final cost. These decisions should be weighed carefully. Some options might cause you might pay more upfront, but it can build a stronger case that protects your financial future.

Or, you might choose to skip some of these elements because you would rather save money during your divorce.

The chart below details your options to spend or save during the divorce process, and the pros and cons of each option. Keep in mind that some of your options will be limited based on what your spouse wants (or doesn't want).

 

  Save Money Spend Money
Do-it-Yourself vs. Hiring a Professional Do-it-Yourself Option: There are no outside professionals involved and you take on the entire responsibility of negotiating and filing your divorce.
  • Pros: You save a significant amount of money by not hiring professionals to help you.
  • Cons: You could make a mistake that ends up being costly, or you could end up with an unfair settlement.
Hiring a Professional Option: There are many professionals that assist with divorce, including lawyers, mediators, evaluators, and coaches.
  • Pros: Paying a professional to help you navigate the divorce process usually takes away stress and helps you reach a better outcome.
  • Cons: If you don't have the funds, paying a professional to help you with your divorce can cause you to take on debt.
Settlement vs. Litigation Out-of-Court Settlement: There are many alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes that can be used to lower the cost of divorce, from an informal discussion with your spouse to mediation involving a neutral third party.
  • Pros: You can resolve matters faster, keep the case out of court, and keep control over the outcome of your divorce.
  • Cons: If your ex doesn't want to communicate or play fair, out-of-court settlement might not work.

Note: Some judges will make settlement efforts such as mediation mandatory (especially for cases with young children).

Going to Court: If you and your spouse can't agree on an issue, the case will be heard in court in front of a judge. You will need to pay your attorney's fees (if you hire an attorney) and other court costs.
  • Pros: Both sides may take the session more seriously. If you have a power imbalance in your relationship, the judge can help level the playing field.
  • Cons: The judge can make decisions that you may not like, such as sending you to mediation anyway, or deciding your divorce terms for you. Litigation is typically much, much more expensive than out-of-court settlement.
Pro-Se vs. Hiring a Lawyer Proceeding Pro-Se: Many people choose to represent themselves in a contested divorce, which is referred to as appearing "pro se."
  • Pros: You will save money by not paying a lawyer to represent you.
  • Cons: You might not get a positive outcome, especially if your spouse is represented by a lawyer. You might struggle with completing the forms and following the procedure required by the court on your own. It is a significant time investment.
Hiring a Lawyer: A lawyer advocates on your behalf and helps you reach the best possible outcome.
  • Pros: You can expect that your lawyer will make sure your best interests are protected and that you get a fair outcome. You save time and avoid added stress by having a lawyer do the "arguing" on your behalf.
  • Cons: Paying a lawyer for their time is usually expensive, although you can look for a lawyer who charges a reasonable rate.
Limited Scope vs. Full Scope Representation Limited-Scope Representation: You can look for a family law attorney who will help you with only the parts of your divorce that you can't do on your own.
  • Pros: It will save you money to not pay for full-scope representation.
  • Cons: You may have a hard time figuring out what you need help with and what parts of the divorce you can handle on your own.
Full-Scope Representation: Most people hire lawyers to represent them throughout the entirety of their divorce.
  • Pros: Your lawyer will get to know you and your case better and can more effectively advocate for you every step of the way. You can still save money on attorney fees by asking your lawyer to handle some of the legwork (like preparing documents) on your own.
  • Cons: Full scope representation is more expensive because you are getting a more comprehensive service.
Legal Process vs. Holistic Approach Legal Process: The vast majority of divorces focus on legal and financial divorce issues, and leave out emotional and holistic needs that are addressed in processes such as Collaborative Law.
  • Pros: You save on the additional costs of support professionals during the divorce process. You can always work with a therapist or coach separate from the divorce.
  • Cons: You and other family members may miss out on the added benefit of a more holistic, supportive process. You could miss out of the opportunity to leave the divorce feeling "whole" and having a good foundation to co-parent from.
Holistic Approach: Collaborative Law takes a more holistic approach to divorce and puts the needs of family first by bringing on other professionals such as financial, mental health, and child specialists.
  • Pros: The holistic process encourages healing and reaching an outcome that is fair and supports the best interests of everyone involved. A good foundation is created for parents who must continue to be involved in each other's lives as co-parents.
  • Cons: You will pay for the involvement of other professionals, which can get expensive. Some people would rather just focus on the financial and legal aspects.

How Much Are Divorce Filing Fees in Georgia?

Filing fees will vary by county in the state of Georgia, but they typically range from $200 to $400. To find your exact filing fees, you should call the clerk of court in the county where the divorce will be initiated.

Another fee that many people filing divorce in Georgia encounter right away is the service fee, which has to be paid to have your spouse served with the divorce papers by the sheriff (if you choose this option). The service fee is $50.00 in nearly all Georgia counties.

Court users are required to pay fees for filing and for other court services, which is set out in state statutes (laws). Keep in mind that all states allow low-income people to ask to have their filing fees waived or reduced.

In Georgia, you can file an Affidavit of Indigence or Poverty Affidavit (also know as a Pauper's Affidavit in some Georgia counties). Essentially, this affidavit informs the court of your financial status, provides proof of your income, and asks the judge to waive the mandatory filing fee, service fee and other court costs.

How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in Georgia?

Most attorneys charge from $100-$300 per hour depending on their experience. Many offer payment plans for legal fees and some may offer a flat fee divorce package. Attorneys who focus on specific areas, such as divorce with children with special needs or incapacitated adults, may charge more.

Choosing a divorce attorney that understands your specific situation is worth their weight in gold, however. If one spouse is in the military, has multiple businesses, owns property or assets overseas, or needs international custody — you absolutely need someone who knows these laws inside and out.

Keep in mind that every issue you can resolve with your ex before involving an attorney is money saved. If you can resolve who keeps the house, the dog, and the parenting plan, and you just need some help determining child support, you will save hundreds.

If you are low income and don't think you can afford a lawyer, consider looking for a pro bono attorney. Contact Georgia Legal Aid or Georgia Legal Services for more information.

Can I File for Divorce in Georgia Without a Lawyer?

Yes, you can file "pro se" for divorce proceedings in Georgia. This means you will file on your own behalf and represent yourself in court. It does not mean you can't ever have help from an attorney.

You might use an attorney only to complete your documents or advise you during your divorce hearings. Or, you might start the case on your own and then decide to get legal representation later on.

How Long Will a Divorce Take in Georgia?

An uncontested divorce can move quickly, usually taking between one to three months. This is the most expedited option unless you need a temporary divorce order until a more final document is signed.

Long, drawn-out divorce battles can take months or years in court. The timeline depends on the spouses coming to an agreement and the judge setting a court date (and being willing to sign the agreement you present).

There is a 30-day waiting period in the state that starts when your ex is served the paperwork. From that point on you, your ex and the judge will be the deciding factors in how long a divorce takes.

When to Fight, When to Negotiate

A family law attorney is there to counsel you on when to fight and when to negotiate, and they will fight for what you want. If you feel like you are not winning (or will not win) the things you want, calling a divorce attorney to discuss the case is a good first step.

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