(a) Total divorces may be granted in proper cases by the superior court. Unless an issuable defense is filed as provided by law and 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.
(b) In any county in which there has been established an alternative dispute resolution program pursuant to Chapter 23 of Title 15, known as the “Georgia Court-annexed Alternative Dispute Resolution Act,” the judge may, prior to trial, refer all contested petitions for divorce or permanent alimony to the appropriate alternative dispute resolution method. In counties in which an alternative dispute resolution program has not been established, a judge may nonetheless refer any disputed divorce case to an appropriate alternative dispute resolution method if a method is reasonably available without additional cost to the parties.
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