In order for a couple to get divorced in Georgia, there are certain issues
that, at a minimum, need to be identified, decided, and then memorialized
The difference between anuncontested and a
contested divorce is the manner in which the divorce issues are memorialized in writing.
If the parties have an uncontested divorce, these issues are addressed
by them in a divorce “Settlement Agreement” or a “Separation
Agreement”. The terms Settlement Agreement or Separation Agreement
are oftentimes used interchangeably. I prefer the use of the term Settlement
A Settlement Agreement is
a legally-binding contract between the two spouses that identifies and resolves the issues that,
by law, need to be addressed by them. The Settlement Agreement is drafted
by the attorney(s) or the parties (if the parties did not engage an attorney
or attorneys to assist them), and is drafted without a Judge’s participation
The Settlement Agreement would have to be signed by both spouses in front
of a notary public in order to be valid. The spouses do not necessarily
have to execute or sign the document together at the same location or
at the same time; the only requirement is that it be signed by them and
their signature to be properly notarized.
At our law offices, the domestic relations law attorneys as well as the
legal assistants are notary publics and we will not charge our clients
or their spouses extra to notarize their Settlement Agreement. Therefore,
the Settlement Agreement can be properly executed at our offices.
Otherwise, notary publics can typically be found at a bank, UPS, Mailboxes,
Etc., Soho or other similar type business, and they will charge a fee
for each page notarized. Their fees range anywhere from $7.00 upwards
for each document they must witness.
Once the Settlement Agreement is properly executed, it is filed with the
Court, and the parties ask for the Settlement Agreement’s terms
to be accepted by the Court, and incorporated into the parties’
Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. If the Settlement Agreement is in
the proper format, and covers all issues that need to be addressed in
writing, the Court simply adopts its terms and conditions without any problem.
Alternatively, if the parties are unable to negotiate and enter into a
comprehensive Settlement Agreement (even on one issue), the case must
proceed to a final hearing in front of the assigned judge. The judge will
then issue a written Order addressing all of those issues that must be
set forth in writing to finalize the divorce. The Court’s Order
is basically the judge’s decision as to how to resolve the issues
that the parties could not otherwise agree to resolve on their own. It
is much more expensive to have one’s divorce finalized by final
hearing in front of a judge rather than through negotiation, but, some
cases do require this.
If you have any questions about what the issues that are required to be
in writing and those that are not, but that still may be important to
you, please do not hesitate to call the law offices of Henrickson &
Sereebutra, LLC at (770) 505 – 4405.