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What happens if I get a complaint for divorce?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Complaint for divorce in Georgia Terms Resources

Complaint for divorce in Georgia

What should I know? +

Contents


What is a Complaint for Divorce?

The Complaint is the first step to a divorce. Sometimes a Complaint for Divorce is also called a Petition for Divorce. It is a document filed with the court by one spouse, who is the plaintiff or petitioner. It explains why the spouse would like to get divorced and on what grounds. It states specific information regarding the marriage, such as the dates of marriage and separation. It includes the names and birthdates of the children. The Complaint also tells the court what the plaintiff wants from the divorce. 

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What are my rights?

If you are being served the Complaint, you are the defendant. You can file an answer to state what you want from the divorce or your objections are to the Complaint. You can also file a motion to dismiss the Complaint. 

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What are my responsibilities? 

Any type of court papers that you are served with must be answered by a deadline. Unless the summons says otherwise, you should file an answer with 30 days from the date your were served. Your answer must be in writing and must be filed with the Clerk of the Court of the County and State printed on the petition. 

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What do the papers mean?

What is a summons?

A summons is a paper that provides information about the case. 

It will include:

  • The name of the Court and the County 

  • The State

  • The name of the plaintiff (the person who filed for divorce)

  • The name of the defendant (the person the divorce is filed against)

  • The case number

  • The attorney’s name and address of the plaintiff

  • The number of days you have to file a written answer with the court.

 
What is a sheriff’s entry of service?

When a person is served, the sheriff serves the papers. A sheriff’s entry of service is a paper that provides the date you were served with the Complaint for Divorce. It will say who received the papers in your home. It also starts the clock for the deadline to file an answer.  Unless the summons says otherwise, you should file an answer with 30 days from the date your were served.

 

What is a rule nisi?

A rule nisi is a one page document signed by a judge that states the date and time of a hearing. In a divorce case, this is a hearing to settle temporary issues before the actual final hearing.

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What can I do? +

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What happens if I get a Complaint for Divorce?

You can file an answer to the Complaint for Divorce. You can also file a motion to dismiss the Complaint for Divorce. 

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How do I answer a Complaint for Divorce?

 

1. The document titled "Summons" will state the number of days you have in order to file your answer. Normally, you have 30 days from the day you were served. You must file your answer with the Court within the number of days stated on the Summons.  

2. Your answer must be in writing and must be filed with the Clerk of the Court of the County and State printed on the petition. 

3. On the top part of your answer, copy the information from the top of the Summons - your name, your spouse's name, the name of the Court, and the Case Number. 

4. Title your document ANSWER and then write out what you agree with and what you do not agree for every numbered paragraph in the petition. You may want to disagree with certain parts of a numbered paragraph if all the information is not true. 

5. After you have written out your answer, sign your name and write the date. Your answer must be signed in the presence of a Notary Public who will notarize your answer. 

6. Make two copies of your written answer. Mail one copy to your spouse or to the attorney for your spouse, whose name and address is on the Summons you received. Keep one copy for yourself. Take or mail the original to the Clerk of Court to file with the Court before the deadline passes. 

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What can I write in my answer?

You should deny or admit every allegation in the complaint and you can state two or more defenses to the Complaint for Divorce.

  • Allege that the case was filed in the wrong county

  • Plead that you are covered under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Relief Act

  • Allege that the court lacks jurisdiction, that the case is in the wrong court, or that you were not properly served with the Complaint

  • Plead that there was a prior existing valid marriage

  • Plead insanity at the time of the alleged wrongdoing

  • Allege charges against the plaintiff and ask for a divorce

  • Plead that the plaintiff committed similar acts (on the grounds that the plaintiff is using for divorce)

  • Plead that the plaintiff agreed to the conduct with the intent of causing a divorce

  • Allege that the plaintiff has condoned this and that cohabitation with the defendant has occurred after the act alleged in the complaint

  • Plead that the plaintiff consented to the acts alleged in the complaint

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What happens after I file my answer? 

Sometimes you may be ordered to participate in mediation, but you always will receive notice of the final hearing. Mediation is an attempt to settle issues through active participation of a third party (mediator) who tries to help you and your spouse reach an agreement. However, mediation does not always result in a settlement and there has to be a trial at the final hearing. 

 

You will receive notice of the final hearing. Regardless of whether you have an attorney or not, you should attend the hearing so that you can present your position to the Judge. Depending on the issues of the divorce case, the Judge may require that you hire an attorney. The Judge will make the final decisions in order to conclude the divorce case. A final decree will be prepared by the Plaintiff's attorney. The Judge's orders will be stated in this document. Both the Plaintiff and you must abide by this order.

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Terms

  • Answer: a written pleading filed by a defendant to respond to a complaint in a lawsuit filed and served upon that defendant; an answer generally responds to each allegation in the complaint by denying or admitting it, or admitting in part and denying in part
  • Defendant: an individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law
  • Divorce: the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body
  • Petition for Divorce: the petition for divorce is a legal document filed in court by a spouse who seeks a divorce; it is another name for Complaint for Divorce
  • Plaintiff: a person who brings a case against another in a court of law
  • Rule nisi: a one page document signed by a judge that states the date and time of a hearing to settle temporary issues before the actual final hearing
  • Sheriff’s entry of service: a paper that provides the date you were served with the Complaint for Divorce
  • Summons: a paper that provides information about the case

Resources

  • Watch our video to learn what to do if you are sued. 
  • View Greater Boston Legal Services’ document that explores the myths and realities behind changing identities for survivors of domestic violence. 
  • There are family law self help centers throughout Georgia that can help you file and answer to a Complaint for Divorce on your own. You can find these self help centers in the “Find Help” section of our website.
Last Review and Update: Dec 20, 2019