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Know the Laws: Georgia

UPDATED September 29, 2016

Basic information about divorce in Georgia.

back to topWhat are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Georgia?

To file for divorce in Georgia, you or your spouse must have been a resident of Georgia for at least 6 months before filing.*

A member of the armed forces can file in Georgia if s/he has resided in any U.S. army post or military reservation within Georgia for 1 year before filing the petition.*

* Georgia Code § 19-5-2

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back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in Georgia?

“Grounds” are legally acceptable reasons for a divorce.  The judge can grant you a “no-fault” divorce in Georgia based on the marriage being “irretrievably broken” (impossible to fix).*  The other reasons that a judge can grant a divorce are if you or your spouse:

  • are too closely related to each other as defined by law;
  • was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage;
  • was impotent at the time of marriage;
  • forced, threatened, or deceived the other into getting married;
  • was pregnant at the time of marriage by a man other than the husband, and the husband did not know this;
  • commits adultery (cheats);
  • have willfully deserted the relationship for a period of 1 year;
  • are convicted of a crime that involves moral turpitude and have been sentenced to prison for at least 2 years;
  • are habitually intoxicated;
  • engaged in “cruel treatment” by intentionally causing physical or emotional pain that  reasonably causes fear of serious injury or danger to one’s life or health;
  • have an incurable mental illness, which has been “certified” by a court or by two physicians who have personally examined the patient, and the patient has been institutionalized for a period of 2 years before the filing of the divorce; or
  • are addicted to drugs (any controlled substance).**

* Georgia Code § 19-5-3(13)
** Georgia Code § 19-5-3(1)-(12)

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back to topCan I get alimony?

Alimony is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse.  Either you or your spouse can request alimony while the divorce case is ongoing, and the judge may grant temporary alimony until a final decision is made.*  However, you cannot get alimony if it is proven in court that the reason for your separation was that you committed adultery or desertion.  The judge will also consider evidence of the conduct (behavior) of each spouse to the other.*1  If you ask for alimony and the judge decides to grant it in your case, the order can be either permanent or end after a certain period of time.*2  However, all permanent awards of alimony end if the party receiving alimony remarries.*3

If the judge decides to grant you permanent alimony, the judge will consider certain factors to determine a fair amount.  These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The age, and the physical and emotional condition of you and your spouse;
  • The financial resources of you and your spouse;
  • The time necessary for you or your spouse to get sufficient education or training to help with finding suitable employment;
  • Your contributions and your spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including services given in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other spouse;
  • The financial condition of you and your spouse, including separate property, earning capacity, and the fixed expenses of you and your spouse; and
  • Any other factors the judge decides are fair and proper to consider.*4

* Georgia Code § 19-6-3(a)
*1 Georgia Code § 19-6-1(b),(c)
*2 Georgia Code § 19-6-1(a), see also McCoy v. McCoy, 642 S.E.2d 18 (Ga. 2007)
*3 Georgia Code § 19-6-5(b)
*4 Georgia Code § 19-6-5(a)

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back to topWhat are the basic steps to file for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow in most states:

  • First, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of the state you want to file in.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage, which may include a no-fault ground such as irreconcilable differences.
  • Third, you must file the appropriate divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse - for the exact rules for serving the papers, contact your local courthouse or an attorney.
  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling her/his side.  This may be called “contesting the divorce.”  If s/he contests it, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out.  If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then s/he may sign the appropriate divorce papers and send them back to you and/or the court (depending on your state).  If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this may be called an “uncontested divorce.”  Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce).
  • Fifth, if there is property, assets, a pension, debts, or anything else that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, then these issues may have to be dealt with during the divorce or else you may lose your chance to deal with these issues.   The issues may be worked out during settlement negotiations and incorporated into the divorce decree or in a series of court hearings during the divorce.  Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

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back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce laws in Georgia?

Georgia Legal Services Program has a brochure that answers frequently asked questions about divorce in Georgia.  Atlanta Legal Aid Society has an explanation of the divorce process.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites.  We provide these links for your information only.

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