Georgia Divorce Laws - FAQ | Cordell & Cordell

Georgia Divorce Laws

Georgia divorce laws

Georgia divorce attorneys provide answers to frequently asked questions about Georgia divorce laws and divorce in Georgia.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about divorce laws in Georgia:

What are Georgia Divorce Laws?

Georgia divorce laws require at least one spouse to be a resident of the state for 6 months. Divorce in Georgia is no-fault based, and the most common ground is irreconcilable differences, meaning the parties simply cannot get along and their marriage is at an end. Other grounds for divorce in GA include adultery, habitual intoxication and abandonment. Georgia courts require a 30-day waiting period after filing for divorce in order to allow for the couple to possibly reconcile.

How much does it cost to file for divorce in Georgia?

There is no way to predict the total cost of a divorce. The best way to control fees is to ensure you have a solid litigation plan. A solid plan is one based on clear communication between a client and their attorney.

Do I really need to hire an attorney?

Yes. Domestic law is complex. Never try to represent yourself. You will agree to things you might otherwise not have to agree to. If you go to court unrepresented, you are charged with knowing all the rules of civil procedure just as a licensed attorney would.

Does Georgia grant divorces based on marital fault?

Georgia is not a fault-based state. Fault, such as adultery, can be used as a factor in determining alimony. Other fault issues can also figure into custody determinations.

Can I get maintenance or will I have to provide maintenance to my spouse?

Alimony, as it is called in Georgia, is determined on a case-by-case basis. Typical factors used to determine if alimony will be awarded and how much alimony will be awarded include a significant income disparity between the parties and whether one of the parties has been out of the workforce for a significant period of time.

How long do you have to be married to get alimony in GA?

This answer will vary between cases. However, a marriage of fewer than three years is rarely awarded alimony in Georgia. Marriages of less than a decade could be awarded alimony but the amount and period of alimony will typically be a third of the length of the marriage. 

What is a spouse entitled to in a divorce in Georgia?

Under Georgia law, each spouse is entitled to an “equitable” share of the marital property. This does not equate to an equal division, but instead a “fair” split between the parties. 

Is Georgia a 50/50 state when it comes to divorce? How are assets divided in a divorce in Georgia?

Georgia is an equitable distribution state, meaning instead of dividing the marital property equally, a judge will divide the property fairly based on each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage.

Can I change my name at the time of divorce in Georgia?

The wife may have her maiden name returned by having language included in the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce indicating that her maiden name is restored.

Can I get an annulment in Georgia?

Annulments are rarely used. Generally, the only basis for an annulment is an allegation of fraud.

When can I file for a divorce in Georgia?

You must have lived in Georgia for at least six months prior to filing a divorce action.

How long do you have to be separated to get a divorce in Georgia?

Georgia does not require spouses to physically separate before filing for divorce. Under Georgia law, the only requirement to file for divorce is that both parties must suspend “marital relations” with the intent to divorce. So there is no specific timeframe of separation required in Georgia to get a divorce. 

When is my case going to be over?

The length of time a case takes to reach a resolution is entirely dependent on the facts and circumstances in that case. Uncontested cases – cases in which there are absolutely no disagreements as to any issues in the divorce – can be resolved rather quickly. But contested cases involving custody or the division of substantial assets can take much longer to resolve.

Additionally, each party’s respective approach toward litigation (cooperative, difficult, just out to make the other party mad, etc.) always influences the time a case takes to reach a final resolution.

Do I have to go to court?

If your case can be resolved in an uncontested manner – be it on a temporary or final basis – you would not likely have to go to court. Some courts, however, will require a party to appear at the conclusion of an uncontested case (where the parties have entered into a Settlement Agreement) to swear under oath to the elements of the divorce.

If attempts to serve my spouse do not work, what is my next step?

In order for a case to proceed, you must achieve service. If the sheriff cannot serve your spouse, it is not uncommon for a private investigator to be hired to serve the spouse.

Can you date while separated in GA?

From a legal standpoint, you should not date during separation in Georgia. You are still legally married to your spouse under Georgia law even if you are physically separated from them. Extramarital activities could be considered adultery and negatively impact your divorce proceedings. 

At what point during the divorce process can a spouse remarry or start dating in GA?

Only at the conclusion of the case.

What if my spouse does not want the divorce?

It does not matter. If one party wants to be divorced, the court will grant that party the divorce.

Do the other issues – child support, child custody, alimony, and property – have to be decided before finalizing a divorce in Georgia?

Yes.

After I file for divorce, do I have to continue to live in Georgia?

No. By filing an action for divorce in Georgia, you are submitting yourself to the court’s jurisdiction. It is often difficult, however, to litigate a divorce from another state. So I would advise remaining in the state while your case is pending.

What if I am in the military and out of state?

Generally, members of the armed forces are considered to “live” in their home county and not where they may be stationed for a mission. So your home state would retain personal jurisdiction for your divorce.

What forms do I need to file for a divorce in Georgia?

There are a wide variety of documents you need to file for a divorce. Each county can require different forms. So it is always best to hire an attorney to represent you. Never attempt to represent yourself in any legal action.

How and where is a divorce complaint filed in Georgia?

Generally, a divorce action is filed in the county in which the defendant lives. The initiating documents are filed with the Court Clerk for the Superior Court of whatever county in which the defendant lives.

How do I serve the divorce complaint on my spouse?

Your spouse may execute an Acknowledgment of Service, which prevents your spouse from being formally served. Alternatively, your spouse may be served via sheriff or by a private investigator authorized by the court to serve litigants in that respective county.

How is a divorce in GA granted? Will I have to go to court?

In uncontested cases – meaning a case that has been settled between the parties without the necessity of the court’s intervention – a divorce is granted after all the necessary paperwork is filed with the court. In contested cases, a divorce would only be granted following a trial where the parties cannot settle the matter between themselves.

What typically happens if I go to court to obtain my divorce myself?

The results of a trial are never typical. The events in a trial or any hearing can vary widely based on the subject matter of the hearing or trial and the evidence presented in the case. If you try to represent yourself, you will be held to the same standards of an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia.

How do I prove fault for divorce in Georgia?

Georgia is a “no fault” state. This means that you do not have to prove fault. If you are electing to proceed on a fault basis, such as adultery, the standard of proof is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This means you must show that it is more likely than not that your spouse is guilty of adultery and that the affair was the cause of the dissolution of the marriage.

At any time can a parent change a minor child’s last name without the other parent’s permission during a divorce in GA?

Generally, no. If a child has not been legitimated, however, it is conceivable that the mother could change the last name of the child without the consent of the father.

Can a couple become legally married by living together as man and wife under Georgia law (common law marriage)?

No. Georgia does not recognize common law marriage.