Beginning January 1, 2019 (or the county court’s early adoption date – notably the Superior Court of Cobb County, which made eFiling mandatory on October 1, 2018) attorneys must file pleadings in civil cases electronically. Uncontested divorces are civil cases and must be filed online in Georgia from now on.
What is eFiling?
Put simply, eFiling means that the documents that used to be filed by a real person in the Clerk’s Office are now scanned into an eFiling portal company approved by the county you are filing in. The efiling portal company keeps track of the scanned documents and makes them available to the person filing, the opposing party, the court and whoever else needs access to the case documents. It is meant to be an easily accessible repository of documents filed in Georgia. The most widely used portal is PeachCourt. There are websites explaining how it works. The person filing must set up an account to use the system. Persons representing themselves can set up an account too and avoid having to file in person.
How much does eFiling cost?
The total comes out to nearly $275.00 in Cobb County. PeachCourt charges an extra $30.00 on top of the base fee of $218.50, and 3% is tacked on for the payment by credit card plus a $5 convenience fee. Is it worth the cost? From a lawyer’s standpoint, it is worth it. No need to tie up personnel to file in person and it is faster. A typical uncontested divorce case eFiled in morning is delivered file-stamped by email in a couple of hours. Moreover, it can be filed at any time, even at night and over the weekend. The 31 day waiting period I Georgia begins when the documents are filed, not when they are delivered electronically. In sum, eFiling saves about 10 days in an uncontested case, but adds about 23% to the total cost of eFiling.
Will There be a Final Hearing?
In cases without children there will be no final hearing. In cases with children, it depends on which judge is assigned to the divorce action. When the case is filed, a case number is generated and a judge is assigned to that case at random. If you have children and draw a judge who requires a final hearing, your attorney (or the self-represented plaintiff) will have to schedule a final hearing at least 31 days after the Acknowledgment of Service is filed. In cases with children, about half the Cobb County Superior Court judges still require a final hearing. In these cases, a final hearing must be scheduled either before the assigned judge or a senior judge on the uncontested calendar.
What you need for the Final Hearing
If a final hearing is required, the presiding judge will usually only make sure that the formalities are complied with. The main ones are the filing of a parenting plan, the child support worksheets and schedules and certificates of attendance at the parenting seminar. A proposed final order and Report of Divorce must also be presented to the court.
What Happens in Cases without Children
In cases without children, 31 days after eFiling, the attorney representing the Plaintiff/Petitioner will file a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (MJOP) and request that the assigned judge sign a proposed Final Judgment and Decree. There is no set date for judges to sign the proposed Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. In Cobb County Superior Court, for instance, the time can vary from 1-6 weeks. As judges organize their offices to deal with eFiling, we hope that all final hearings will be done away with and that final orders will be signed and served electronically in no more than one week.