Divorce

Divorce affects, directly or indirectly, virtually every family in the country. The following information is designed to briefly summarize Georgia’s divorce laws.

Marriage is a civil contract that the state has an interest in preserving. Accordingly, the marriage relationship may be dissolved only as provided by law through (1) a divorce or (2) an annulment; or altered by (3) a decree of separate maintenance granted by our courts. In any case, there must be a proceeding in the superior court of the county in which the defendant resides (or the county where the parties resided during the marriage if the defendant left the county within six months before filing) and the person seeking the divorce must prove grounds for divorce (valid reasons prescribed by law).

What are the grounds for divorce in Georgia?
In Georgia there are 13 grounds for divorce. One ground is irretrievably broken (sometimes referred to as the no-fault ground). The other 12 grounds for divorce in Georgia are fault grounds.

What is a no-fault divorce?
To obtain a divorce on this basis (irretrievably broken), one party must establish that he or she refuses to live with the other spouse and that there is no hope of reconciliation. It is not necessary for both parties to agree the marriage is irretrievably broken. Also, it is not necessary to show that there was any fault or wrongdoing by either party.

What are the fault grounds?
To obtain a divorce on one of the 12 fault grounds, one must prove that there was some wrongdoing by one of the parties to the marriage.

As an example, one fault ground is adultery. Adultery in Georgia includes heterosexual and homosexual relations between one spouse and another individual.

Another fault ground for divorce in Georgia is desertion. A divorce may be granted on the grounds that a person has deserted his or her spouse willfully for at least one year. Other fault grounds include mental or physical abuse, marriage between persons who are too closely related, mental incapacity at the time of marriage, impotency at the time of marriage, force or fraud in obtaining the marriage, pregnancy of the wife unknown to the husband at the time of the marriage, conviction and imprisonment for certain crimes, habitual intoxication or drug addiction and mental illness.

Is there a residence requirement for getting a divorce in Georgia?
Yes, one spouse must have lived in the state of Georgia for 6 months or Georgia must have been the last domicile of the marriage.

Must the husband and wife live apart when a divorce complaint is filed?
No, but the spouses must be considered separated in a legal sense before one can file for a divorce. Spouses may be considered separated even if they are living in the same house if they are not sharing the same room and/or not having a sexual relationship.

How does one file for a divorce?
The person seeking the divorce (the plaintiff) will file a document called a complaint with the appropriate superior court. This complaint includes information on the marriage including present living arrangements, children of the marriage, assets, debts and the specific grounds on which he or she is seeking the divorce. A copy of the complaint will be served on the other spouse (the defendant) by the sheriff, unless the defendant chooses to acknowledge service by law.

Where does one file for a divorce?
A complaint for divorce should be filed in the superior court of the defendant’s county of residence or, if the defendant has recently moved from the state of Georgia, in the county of the plaintiff’s residence. This would be considered the domicile of the marriage. Upon the defendant’s consent, the complaint may be filed in the plaintiff’s county of residence regardless of whether or not the defendant has moved from the state of Georgia.

What should I do if I receive a complaint for divorce that my spouse has filed?
The spouse who receives the complaint should promptly consult an attorney. The spouse may contest the reason claimed for the divorce or contest the claims for child custody, child support, alimony or property division by filing an answer with the court.

Is there a way to live apart without divorcing?
A party who wishes to live apart permanently, but who does not want to get a divorce, may file a separate maintenance action. The spouses will remain legally married although living apart. The court may order that alimony be paid by one spouse to the other and the court may divide property between the parties.

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