Last updated on June 1, 2023

Divorce in Georgia: Does it matter who files first?

On behalf of Samuel Siemon

Although rushing to file for divorce out of spite is not a good idea, those planning for divorce may find some benefits to filing first. These benefits are gaining attention throughout the media, and were outlined in a recent article in Forbes magazine.

What are the benefits of filing first in a divorce?

  • Having the first choice when gathering needed professionals
  • More time when preparing paperwork
  • Reducing the risk of an ex-spouse hiding assets

In most cases, it is wise to meet with an attorney prior to filing for divorce to save time and money while navigating through the court process. Finding the right professionals can take time. In addition to a qualified divorce attorney, those completing a divorce can also profit from having a therapist to provide guidance through the emotional turmoil connected with a divorce. In situations with a complex mix of assets, a divorce financial analyst is also recommended.

While putting together this team of experts, it is also wise to begin gathering the paperwork needed to finalize the divorce. A wide range of documents are needed to help provide a fair settlement, including tax returns, insurance documents, estate plans and information about stocks and retirement plans.

These assets are generally protected during the divorce proceeding through Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, or ATROs. An ATRO is a court order that protects assets by freezing accounts. In most cases, ATROs prohibit either spouse from transferring property rights, insurance documents or bank accounts as well as not allowing a spouse to change the beneficiary on insurance policies.

ATROs are designed to reduce the risk of one spouse hiding or destroying assets in an attempt to keep them from the separating spouse. By being the first to file, one can better ensure these protections begin before the other spouse has an opportunity to hide assets.

Georgia divorce law

Filing for a divorce in Georgia begins by filing a complaint with the court. This document, also known as a divorce petition, should include the cause of the divorce, a list of assets and an explanation of arrangements made for children if children are present in the marriage. The petition is filed with the Superior Court, generally in the county of residence for the non-filing spouse.

Georgia recognizes 13 causes for divorce. Most petitions site the marriage is irretrievably broken, but adultery, intoxication, drug addiction and cruel treatment can also serve as grounds for granting a divorce.

Whether filing for a divorce or receiving divorce paperwork from a spouse, going through this process is never easy. If you are going through a divorce, contact an experienced Georgia divorce lawyer to explain your legal options and help protect your best interests.

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