What To Expect
Every single Family Law case is different, but in general, wheather an intial case for Divorce or a Modification of an already existing Order, they follow this same general path. We will advise you every step of the way on the next steps in your case.
This is a formal declaration filed in Court telling your Ex what you want in the action you are filing. The Petition contains a request (or prayer) for relief, telling the Court and your ex what it is you want. It is a wish list really, as it can be amended and ajsuted as the case moves forward. Georgia requires the Petition to state what statute you are uperating under and give your Ex a basic idea for the foundation of your case, but it doesn't need to be extremely detailed.
After a Petition is served, the other party is entitled/required to file a Response. The Response lets the Court know where you agree or disagree with the Petition, and also lets the Court know you are involved in the case and you want notice of further proceedings. Georgia law requires that a response be filed within thirty (30) days from being served with the Petition. If you have been served with a Petition, make sure you or your attorney meets the deadline for filing a response or you may suffer legal consequences for not responding. In other words, come and see us as soon as you get those papers so we can plan and proceed within all required time limitations.
Because the issues in family matters are so important and involved, care must be taken in making proper arrangements for maintaining basic civility while the case proceeds to final resolution. Family law litigation can take a long time, and children need to be raised and bills paid while the case is proceeding. In an effort to put some guidelines in place while this careful process occurs, many couples agree on terms for how to manage affairs on a temporary basis, or ask the Court to issue temporary orders. Temporary Agreements or Orders only address pressing issues and only address them on a temporary basis, so it isn't the final resolution of your case, but it can create some stability while we get to the final resolution.
The most dreaded and misunderstood part of the process. TV legal shows don't really ever cover this part of litigation. They show the intial meeting and then the trial. Well in between is taken up with discovery. This is how each party and their lawyers develop a common set of documents and facts to either make informed decisions in settlement or to assist in making legal arguments at trial.
For example, many of our clients don't have full knowledge of all of the assets of their marriage. Sometimes they don't know because of a controlling spouse, but sometimes they simply don't know because the retirement account statements only come in their ex's name. Discovery will require this information to be shared - so everyone has the same base of knowledge. All those Court cases you see on tv, all the attorneys have the same information, there are very few "surprises" for the attorneys, that is because everyone has completed his or her discovery.
Another example, in a Modification of Child Support action, it is unlikely you will know exactly what your ex is earning, but you may know their quality of life has improved dramatically since a job change, so discovery will require you each to share your income information. This information is critical and the Court requires it to be shared (subject to general confidentiality of course).
Discovery is an essential part of the process but without question not a whole lot of fun. Our team will work with you to respond effectively to requests for information from your ex, and issue requests to your ex that are customized, cost effective and will most likely lead to the critical information you most want/need. We take a team approach, so you won't be doing this alone.
You know a trial. It is both very similar to tv and nothing at all like tv. It is similar in that it is formal, there is a Judge on a high bench, bailiffs, a court reporter, and counsel tables in front of the Judge where you and your attorney sit. But that is usually where it ends. What you don't see on tv is the very formal and structured method used to present your case. It is well developed and crafted to get to the truth, but not a particularly entertaining process, thus wehere it varies from television. They don't show that most Judges have 10 - 15 cases report on any given trial calendar day, so you often wait a fair bit (as in sometimes as much as 5 or 6 hours). They don't show that Judges are BUSY people and often seek to move your case forward quickly. The Courts are exceptionally busy, and they care very deeply about doing the righgt thing for every family that comes before them, but they are human and variable and unpredicatble.
And no one mentions this, but ask anyone who has been through it, a trial is incredibly anxiety inducing. We are your advocates and will try to prepare you as much as possible for what to expect, but there are no guarantees. Presenting your life to a Judge in a few short hours, being questioned about the choices you have made, not knowing what the outcome will be, are all very anxiety inducing. We do an amazing trial, but we do even more work trying not to make a trial part of your expercience.
Trials are unpredictable, and no lawyer, no matter how good or experienced, can predict the exact outcome of a case. Every case is treated individually, so there is no one certain way to determine the final result of a case at trial. Because of this unpredictability, trial is used as a last means of resolution in most cases.
Final Judgment and paperwork
You will be impressed with the number of documents that needed to be customized and submitted for your families' case to be complete. We have this down to a science. This is important and detailed work and we take care that our work product accuraetly reflects the agreements our clients reach and/or decisions of the Court.
Within certain time limits, a decision from a Judge might be appealable to a Higher Court. Family Law Appeals are unique and our team has extensive expercience in the appeals process. Now, without question, our goal is always to get the best possible result at the Trial Court, but that isn't always the case. Or, as is more common, we do great at the Trial Court and your ex seeks to Appeal and you are in a position of defending the excellent result you got in the Trial Court. If you haven't begun your case, don't worry about Appeal, it is an exceedingly unlikely part of the process for you, very few family law cases go to appeal. If you already have an Order from a Judge and are thinking of appealing, call ASAP. the time limits are exceedingly limited and once they pass there is very little that can be done to extend them.