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Georgia Divorce Facts

Do I need to live in Georgia to get a divorce here?
No, it is not necessary for you to live in Georgia to file for divorce here. However in order to file at least one spouse must be living in Georgia and must have lived in the state for at least 6 months prior to the filing to establish residency. You should file for the divorce in the appropriate jurisdiction for either you or your spouse and it may be necessary for you to consult an attorney to determine court jurisdiction is special cases.

Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Georgia?
No, it is not necessary for you to have an attorney. In a civil case however you will not be provided an attorney so it will be left up to you on whether or not you seek legal representation. Under state and federal law you have the ability to represent yourself—as “pro se”. In order to represent yourself pro se you will need to be able to file the correct documents, navigate the legal system, and develop your own case with substantiated evidence and case law. You may be able to receive limited assistance on the local courts website, the clerk of the courts office, or through legal aid.

Where do I file for divorce?
You will file a complaint for divorce in the Superior Court clerk of courts office. The petition for divorce should be filed in the jurisdiction in which the other spouse resides or if the other spouse lives outside of the state then you may file in your own county of residence. You may only file in your county if the other party consents to the jurisdiction or if the other party has not yet established residency in another jurisdiction or county.

Can I file for divorce even if we’re still living together?
You may still live together if you file for divorce; however, you must be legally separated. In the state of Georgia parties are considered to be legally separated if they meet the following requirements: the parties are no longer engaging in a marital relationship and they consider themselves to be in the act of separation/ legally terminating the relationship.

What is separate maintenance?
A separate maintenance is a separate filing from divorce. The separation maintenance is an order that recognizes your separation for the purposes of separating finances and debts. Individuals who file for a separation of maintenance are seeking an alternative to divorce without legally terminating the marriage. During the separate maintenance hearing the judge will have the authority to address any contested issues that could be brought forth in a divorce case. A separate maintenance petition may be utilized in cases where the parties are unsure about divorce, but wish to maintain separate lives or in cases that a divorce would violate the party’s religious beliefs. Separate maintenance may also benefit those who are waiting to divorce so that they may qualify for insurance, social security, or spousal military benefits.

Does Georgia have “no-fault” divorce?
Yes, Georgia does have a no-fault divorce option for parties seeking divorce. In order to file for a “no-fault” divorce in Georgia the filing party must state their belief that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”. This status must be clearly reflected in both court documents, petition, and filing paperwork.  “No-fault” divorces are also frequently filed as uncontested divorces.

Does Georgia have “fault” divorce?
Yes, Georgia does have an option for a spouse to allege that the other spouse has created the fault leading to the divorce. Grounds for a fault divorce include adultery, abandonment, mental incapacity at time of marriage (annulment), marriage between close relatives, impotency, fraud, force, criminal conviction and imprisonment, abuse, drug addiction/ chronic intoxication, or mental illness.

How do I actually file for a Georgia divorce?
In order to file for divorce the person seeking divorce i.e. the petitioner must complete and file the necessary paperwork in the superior courts clerk’s office. The paperwork necessary is referred to as the “divorce complaint” or “divorce petition”. The information contained in the paperwork should include an outline of the entire case and should include information; such as, residence/ living arrangements, children, debts, and marital assets. Once the copy of the necessary paperwork is filed with the court then a copy will need to be given to the other party. The copy must be personally delivered to the other spouse by a sheriff, a private process server, or through publication if the other party cannot be located. Once the other spouse is reached with the paperwork they will sign the document in front of the delivery agent who will then provide an affidavit stating that the document was received. Once the document was received then the defendant or other spouse will have 30 days to file a written response to the petition and to send the petitioning party their response.

How long will the Georgia divorce process take?
The length of the divorce process is dependent on several factors that are unique to ever case. Simple cases may be handled relatively faster than more complicated cases. The length of the case may also depend on the amount of conflict between the parties and whether or not the issues can be negotiated without having to go to court. If the parties are able to negotiate then the process may be resolved faster and be less costly. If the parties can reach agreement on all issues then they qualify for an uncontested divorce which can be completed after a 31 day waiting period from the date the initial documents are filed. In the event of having to go to a final trial the divorce will not be finalized for months to years after the initial filing date. Your attorney may be able to give you estimates on the amount of time it may take to complete your case, but the amount of time it may take is only a prediction and may change if new issues arise during your case.

Can I get the court to help me immediately?
The court recognizes that there are some issues that need to be resolved before the final conclusion of a divorce decree and for this they allow for temporary hearings to resolve the issues. Temporary hearings may resolve the following issues: visitation, custody, child support, alimony, payment of debts, and possessions of marital property. The resolution of the issues during a temporary hearing will settle the matters on a temporary basis and the orders can then be maintained or be modified at the time of the final hearing. Under Georgia case law the determination of a temporary hearing does not necessarily weigh precedence during a final hearing. During a temporary hearing the testimony will be limited and the matter at hand will only decide one issue at a time. During your hearing you will present your testimony to the judge the same as you would at trial. The results of the temporary hearing may also place limitations on the parties; such as, prohibiting the transfer or selling of possessions and or the relocation of children outside of the court’s jurisdiction, out of state, even on a temporary basis.

Who will get custody of the children?
Custody of the children may be permanent or temporary. Either placement of custody will be awarded in terms of the “best interest standard”. Meaning that the child will be placed in the custody of the parent who the court believes well represents the best interest of the child. There is a list of criteria that judges weigh on to determine which parent is the best fit for custody based on the interest of the child. Some of the factor may include the sex of the child, the age of the child, and each parent’s previous relationship with the child. In the state of Georgia a child age 14 may choose which parent they wish to have custody—so long as it is also reflective of the child’s best interest. Furthermore, a judge may take into consideration wishes of any child ages 11-13 so long as they are believed legitimate and the child appears capable of making a decision in conjunction to their best interest.

Can the other parent and I share custody?
Yes, the courts typically allow for both parents to share custody through a joint custody arrangement. Today’s courts are more reluctant to the award of sole custody even in high conflict situations. There are two separate types of custody that allow for parents to share custody; those being joint physical custody and joint legal custody. In joint physical custody parents are able to spend equal amounts of time with both parents; however, one parent is still referred to as the primary custodian and the other the secondary custodian. In joint legal custody parents may share equal responsibilities for the child’s major life decisions in regards to religion, education, extracurricular activities, and health/ wellbeing.

What are our child support obligations?
Child support obligations in the state of Georgia are mandated until the child reaches the legal age of adulthood 18. Dependent upon your particular order you may be required to pay beyond the age of 18 for instance until the child completes high school if after 18 or until the child completes college. You are required to fulfill any support obligations contained within your particular court order. In most cases the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support obligations in accordance to the state guidelines and offset as directed through the child support worksheet. Typically the amount of child support will be the non-custodial parent’s income offset by necessary living expenses and offset by the custodial parent’s income/ necessary living expenses. Your child support obligations may also include amounts for the custodial parent to provide the child with health insurance, medical or dental expenses, and or life insurance if it is not necessary for the non- custodial parent to provide these independently. Georgia judges have strict guidelines, in OCGA section 19-6-15, which determine how they should calculate child support in child custody cases. External factors may also play a part in determining child support. Child support may also be determined on the amount of visitation with the non-custodial parent, age of the child, daycare cost, education cost, medical cost, and significant finances of either household including new spousal contributions. In order to determine child support it is necessary for both parents to prepare a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit and or a child support worksheet.

What about alimony?
Yes, the state of Georgia does award alimony. Alimony may also be referred to as spousal support. Alimony is a financial support payment from one spouse to another. Alimony is typically not awarded to a spouse that is at fault for the divorce nor is it available to spouses married for a “short amount of time”. Alimony may be awarded on a temporary basis, on a permanent basis, for life, until the other spouse dies or remarries, or may even be paid in a lump sum. A judge may determine the amount and payment of alimony dependent upon the number of years married, the health status of each spouse, the independent assets of each spouse, the expenses of each spouse, and the contributions of each spouse. In most cases spouse that receive alimony assisted the financially stable spouse in their business pursuits, in their education pursuits, and or raising their children.

What happens to “our” property?
During a divorce in Georgia all marital property is subjectable to equitable division between the spouses. Marital property may even include separate properties obtained before the marriage but used for marital use or expanded assets during the course of the marriage. However, property received through a third party inheritance is generally not included as a marital property during a divorce. An equitable division of the property means that the property will be shared fairly, but not necessarily equally. In the state of Georgia there is not set formula for dividing property and the spouse who primarily contributed to the development of the premarital property may or may not receive credit for the asset. Most of the determinations of property are settled on a case by case basis and Georgia case law may be a determining factor on how the courts decide to equitably divide particular assets.

If you are considering filing for divorce in Georgia then you should contact the Coleman Legal Group LLC. for a consultation regarding your case. Our divorce and family law attorneys at Coleman Legal Group, LLC have experience in a wide variety and myriad of divorce and family law cases. Please call us today at 770-609-1247 to schedule speak with an attorney or schedule a consultation or to discuss your case with one of our attorneys.

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