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Complaint for Divorce
A Complaint for Divorce (also called a Petition for Divorce) is the legal document that initiates divorce proceedings. In order to begin proceedings, the plaintiff, usually through his or her attorney, must file the original complaint or petition with the Clerk of the Court in the appropriate county, along with the appropriate filing fee. Additionally, a copy of the complaint or petition must be served on the defendant.
Practice Pointer - Elements of a Complaint
To be legally sufficient, a complaint must contain or allege the various elements.
For example, a complaint must allege:
- That the court has jurisdiction over the parties.
- That the action is being brought in the proper venue.
- The date of the marriage.
- The date of separation.
- The grounds for divorce.
- Verification by the plaintiff.
- A specific demand or prayer for the relief sought.
PLEASE NOTE THIS LIST IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A COMPLETE LIST OF THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS REQUIRED AND THE REQUIREMENTS VARY FROM CASE TO CASE. IT IS ADVISABLE THAT YOU SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY (AT LEAST TO REVIEW THE DRAFT OF THE COMPLAINT) PRIOR TO FILING.
The requirements regarding Jurisdiction, Venue, and Grounds for Divorce will be discussed subsequently. However, the requirements of verification by the plaintiff and specific demand or prayer for relief deserve further explanation.
In Georgia, every petition or complaint for divorce must be verified. For a verification to be legally sufficient there are three requirements that must be met: 1) there must be a written oath embodying the facts as sworn to by the affiant. This oath normally takes the form of an oath stating that everything in the complaint or petition is true and accurate to the best of the plaintiff’s knowledge; 2) the verification must be signed by the plaintiff; and, 3) the verification must be notarized.
In addition to the verification, Georgia law requires that every complaint state a specific demand or prayer for relief. Satisfying this element normally involves providing a short statement at the conclusion of the complaint that states what the plaintiff would like the court to grant or to order. Prayers for relief normally include requests that the court grant the plaintiff a total divorce, that child support be awarded to the plaintiff, etc.
In Georgia, the superior courts have jurisdiction to hear all domestic relations matters to include divorce, alimony, child support, and child custody. Before a superior court may grant a decree in a domestic relations matter, three elements of jurisdiction must be established…(continue reading).
As discussed in the section entitled “The Complaint for Divorce: Jurisdiction,” in order for a Georgia court to grant a decree of divorce or enter a valid judgment in any other domestic relations matter, the court must not only have personal and subject matter jurisdiction, but venue must be proper as well…(continue reading).
Failure to Respond
Upon being served with a complaint and summons for divorce, a defendant has 30 days in which to respond. Thus, it is important for a defendant to act quickly in retaining an attorney, or gathering the necessary information to submit an answer on their own behalf so that they may meet this deadline…(continue reading).