Most people picture a divorce proceeding as a case that a judge presides over and is the ultimate trier of fact, but this is not always the case. In fact, Georgia and Texas are the only two states in which couples seeking to dissolve a marriage have the right to divorce by jury. Under Georgia law, “Unless{…} a jury trial is demanded in writing by either party on or before the call of the case for trial, in all petitions for divorce and permanent alimony the judge shall hear and determine all issues of law and of fact and any other issues raised in the pleadings.” Thus, if either spouse in a divorce case requests a jury trial, that spouse will generally be awarded a jury trial, absent any extenuating circumstances. It is important to note thought that both parties must agree to a trial by judge. If one party opts for a jury trial, then that is his or her right and will be how the case will be tried.   In Georgia, a jury can decide alimony, child support, and distribution of assets and debt.  However, a jury may not decide issues of child custody, visitation, or whether one spouse is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. These are matters solely left to a judge to decide. If your divorce goes to trial, you will need to decide whether to seek a judge or a jury trial.  There are benefits and drawbacks to each situation. In a divorce decided by a judge, there will only be one person who decides issues. However, a jury consists of twelve people. Many believe that because of the difference in numbers, a jury trial provides for the most fair outcome for all parties. For instance, a judge could be biased or have certain pet peeves, but a jury trial should alleviate those concerns. There are many things to consider when deciding if you want your case to be heard by a jury or a judge. To begin with, in a jury trial, twelve strangers will be hearing your case. Not only will they be privy to all of your personal and financial information, but they will be making decisions that will affect the rest of your life. You may not be keen on having strangers know such intimate details of your life. Next, a jury case can be time consuming and expensive. Jury trials will likely add at least two extra days to your case. As an example, if your attorney charges you $300 per hour for court time, two extra days of seven hours in court each day would be an extra $4,200 to your already expensive divorce, and that does not include the additional court costs associated with a jury.   If you are contemplating a divorce, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our experienced attorneys will take the time to discuss the divorce process with you including whether or not to have your case heard by a jury.   Popular Resources:
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