Divorce is a complicated process here in Georgia and the laws governing it can be difficult to understand. Indeed, each divorce court judge can add his or her interpretation of the law into the mix. But if you're considering divorce in Georgia, it's essential to understand the specific laws and procedures that apply to your case because you have so much riding on the outcome.
As local Roswell divorce lawyers we wanted to write a blog post to explore five crucial things you should know about divorce in Georgia to help you navigate this challenging journey with some confidence and understanding.
- Residency Requirements: First off, before filing for divorce in Georgia, you or your spouse must meet certain residency requirements. At least one party involved in the divorce must have been a resident of Georgia for at least six months before initiating the divorce proceedings. That doesn’t mean we can’t start the process internally before six months, but the technical residency requirement is six months. Additionally, you must file your divorce case in the county where either you or your spouse currently resides. Meeting these residency requirements is a fundamental step in initiating the divorce process.
- Grounds for Divorce: Georgia recognizes both "no-fault" and "fault-based" grounds for divorce. Understanding the grounds for divorce is essential because it can impact the divorce process and outcome.
a. No-Fault Divorce: This is often referred to as an "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." In a no-fault divorce under Georgia law, neither party is legally required to prove that the other is responsible for the marriage's failure. This option is available when both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
b. Fault-Based Divorce: If you choose to file for divorce based on fault, you must provide evidence of the fault.
Here are the 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia (Georgia Code Title 19, Chapter 5 – O.C.G.A. 19-5-3 (2010) delineates the grounds for divorce in Georgia):
- Adultery during the marriage
- The marriage is irretrievably broken
- Intermarriage by people within the prohibited degrees of kinship
- Impotency at the time of the marriage
- Habitual intoxication
- Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband at the time of the marriage (and unknown to the husband)
- Incurable mental illness
- Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage
- Cruel treatment
- Force, menace, duress or fraud in obtaining the marriage
- The conviction of a crime of moral turpitude that results in a prison sentence of two years or longer
- Habitual drug addiction
Understanding these grounds will help you determine the best approach for your specific situation.
- Division of Marital Property: Georgia law follows the principle of equitable distribution when it comes to dividing marital property during a divorce. Equitable distribution means that marital property is divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. Marital property typically includes both assets and debts acquired during the marriage. It's essential to note that separate property, which can include assets acquired before marriage or an inheritance, is generally not subject to division.
To ensure a fair division of assets and debts, it's crucial to create a comprehensive and specific list of marital property and seek legal guidance if you anticipate disputes over property division.
- Child Custody and Support: If you have children and are going through a divorce in Georgia, child custody and child support issues can be a significant part of your case. Georgia courts prioritize the “best interests of the child” when determining child custody arrangements. Factors considered in this determination may include each parent's ability to provide a stable environment, the child's relationship with each parent, and the child's own preferences, depending on their age.
Child support calculations in Georgia are based on specific guidelines that consider the income of both parents and the child's needs. It's essential to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that child custody and support arrangements are fair and in the child's best interests.
- Spousal Support (Alimony): Spousal support, also known as alimony, is financial assistance that one spouse may be required to pay to the other during and after a divorce. Georgia courts may award spousal support if one spouse can demonstrate a compelling financial need and the other spouse has the ability to pay. Multiple factors go into an award of alimony.
The amount and duration of spousal support can vary widely based on several factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse's financial situation, a spouse’s ability to earn a living, the educational attainment of each spouse, and the standard of living established during the marriage. Understanding the factors that influence spousal support awards is crucial for both paying and receiving spouse.
Divorce is a complex and technical process, but knowing the key aspects of divorce in Georgia can help you make the best decisions and defend your rights. Residency requirements, grounds for divorce, property division, child custody and support, and spousal support can all be vital considerations in a Georgia divorce.
An experienced family law attorney can make a significant difference in achieving your goals. If you're facing divorce in Georgia, or any family law issue, remember that you don't have to navigate this journey alone—we are a law firm dedicated to help you every step of the way!