E-Filing Camden County Divorce: Good or Bad?
Like it, or not, starting January 1, 2019, e-filing becomes mandatory for lawyers who file Georgia divorce matters. So says the State of Georgia.
Since it first became available in Georgia, our firm has used e-filing for every case that we could use it. At first, only a few counties would permit e-filing. Paulding County was one of the first to adopt it and they did a good job. A short time later, Fulton County made e-filing mandatory for divorces — even if you were filing your own divorce case. Camden County got on the e-filing bandwagon a little later. We are very glad to have e-filing Camden County divorce capability. We found that, in general, e-filing was a real benefit for the way that we handle divorce matters.
Now, for all the counties in which we offer divorce services, we always use e-filing if it is available. Fortunately, e-filing is available in Camden County.
The Good about E-Filing in Camden County
Compared to manual filing a divorce in Camden County, e-filing is efficient and relatively fast — but not instantaneous. We find that it reduces the time to complete a typical divorce case by around a week or even 10 days. Since, like most of our clients, we like to complete a divorce case as soon as legally possible this is a really bid advantage. It has also allowed our office to become more efficient and made our process much more “paperless.” Although all of the divorce documents must start as old-school paper documents, before they are filed they become electronic copies too. To the maximum extent possible, we create and use paperless documents for all of our case files.
Camden County uses “Peachcourt” for the the e-filing system. It is one of two systems that are in common use in Georgia. In our opinion, Peachcourt is better/easier to use than its competitor.
The Bad about E-Filing:
Many of the courts and clerks offices simply do not have the technical expertise or vision to fully take advantage of e-filing. There is a lot of variation from office to office and county to county in the way that e-filing is implemented — or not. Some counties, like Camden, Cherokee and Paulding, have really done well and take full advantage of the software features and benefits of e-filing. Others, like Fulton, e-filing is a confusing mish-mash of electronic and manual procedures. This makes it hard on lawyers who practice in multiple counties to know exactly how to comply with the requirements of a particular judge in a particular county. But, even the confusion and lack of standardization of procedures do not outweigh the benefits of e-filing.
Camden County has done a very good job of implementing e-filing. The deputy clerks know how to use it and they do a good, consistent job with the documents that we e-file for divorce matters in Camden County.
Now, the not-so-good. Recently, the State of Georgia has changed the way that the e-filing portal companies can charge for their services. Now, for a divorce case, we must pay a flat rate of $30.00 for e-filing a small case. Previously, it was only about $17 for a typical divorce (although it could be much more for an active, litigated case). E-filing costs are generally paid by credit cards. So, there are processing fees that the courts add — typically about 3%. When combined with the high case filing fees (typically $210 to $220), the all-in court costs for a simple, uncontested divorce now approaches $275. We estimate that the total increase in court costs for our typical divorce cases have increased by 23% due to the direct and indirect costs of e-filing.
The Bottom Line on E-filing Camden County Divorce Matters
While our clients are not particularly happy with the increased court costs resulting from e-filing, they are very happy to get their divorces completed more efficiently and quickly. Unfortunately, we must pass the increased court costs on to our clients. But, we are glad to have the increased efficiency that e-filing has brought to our office and Camden County Clerk of Superior Court.
We hope that the e-filing system becomes more standardized from county to county and from judge to judge as time goes own. We fear that the court costs will continue to creep upward over time. Will the benefits and improvements over time justify that cost increase? We think so but time will tell.
E-filing is here to stay and we think that is a good thing. We just wish that all of the counties did as good a job at e-filing divorce matters as Camden County has.