Legal Grounds for Divorce in Georgia
Legal Grounds for Divorce
There are 12 legal grounds for divorce in Georgia. Stating your reason (grounds for divorce) is a required part of your divorce petition. You must cite at least one of the established grounds for divorce. "Irreconcilable Differences" is probably the most frequently stated reasons for filing divorce.
Learn about meeting the need to cite at least one of 12 legally recognized reason for filing for divorce in Georgia.
Georgia divorce law provides for 12 legal grounds for divorce. Persons filing for divorce in Georgia are required to state at least one of the legal grounds. If applicable, a divorcing spouse may claim multiple grounds.
Some of the legal grounds for divorce cited may require proof in order to remain as part of the divorce Complaint. This could include assertions of adultery, drug use, alcoholism, etc.
No-Fault vs. At-Fault Divorce in Georgia
Filing for divorce in Georgia does not require determining fault because Georgia is not a fault-based state. However, of the established legal grounds for divorce, there are grounds that may be cited which do create a condition of fault.
Regarding fault-grounds in Georgia, the DivorceNet website describes this option as< "Yes, one spouse can allege that the other spouse caused the breakdown of the marriage. Some fault grounds for divorce include adultery, desertion, mental incapacity at the time of marriage, marriage between people too closely related, impotency at the time of marriage, force or fraud in obtaining the marriage, conviction and imprisonment for certain crimes, mental or physical cruel treatment, habitual intoxication or drug addiction, and mental illness."1.
Do the Grounds Affect the Outcome of My Divorce?
Generally speaking, the specific reasons for getting a divorce can play a role in how your divorce is settled. What typically plays the most significant role, especially when filing contested divorce in Georgia are the details surrounding the grounds for divorce.
Many low-conflict uncontested divorces, particularly divorces not involving children, cite irretrievably broken and avoid excessive public disclosure of facts. Whether uncontested or contested, if the facts of your married life involve criminality, egregious or salacious behaviors a judge may apply bias in the final terms of the divorce.
Certain grounds for divorce can provide a strategic advantage. Grounds for divorce that reflect unacceptable behavior can create a condition of "at fault" which can affect decisions regarding the award of spousal support.
The 12 Legal Grounds for Divorce
The Georgia Code Title 19 – Domestic Relations Chapter 5 – O.C.G.A. 19-5-3 (2010) 19-5-3 is where you can find the exact language of the laws regarding grounds for total divorce in Georgia.2
- Adultery is sexual relations outside of the marriage by either husband or wife. This may not apply in open marriages, and must meet certain requirements.
- Irreconcilable Differences (irretrievably broken / no-fault) generally means both parties agree to wanting a divorce without citing any specific problems.
- Habitual intoxication or addiction relative to your spouse being alcoholic, drug or substance abuser, and has they have not taken actions to resolve their addiction problems.
- Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage. This means at the time you were married either person was incoherent or mentally incapable of clear thinking. This includes personsthat are severely intoxicated, have known mental disorders, or under the influence of drugs, or similar conditions at the time of the marriage.
- Force or fraud used to cause the marriage. This includes using any means to get your spouse to marry you when they may not otherwise be inclined to do so.
- Pregnancy of the wife by another man prior to becoming married, and unknown to the husband.
- Impotency at the time of the marriage, and the wife unaware of this condition.
- Cruel treatment including physical or mental abuse.
- Intermarriage by persons with close blood lines wherein the physical relationship between the husband and wife which could generally be considered incest.
- Conviction of any crime involving moral turpitude which results in incarceration of two or more years.
- Incurable mental illness which requires a history of being institutionalized, and testimony from at least two psychiatric professionals or physicians.
- Willful desertion applies if someone leaves the marriage, with no intent of returning, for a period of one year or longer.
Is Adultery Grounds and a Crime?
Per the LegalBeagle® website, "In Georgia, adultery is still considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail3. It’s worth noting that it has been over a century since anyone was jailed in Georgia for adultery. The website goes on to define adultery in Georgia as follows, "Georgia state law defines adultery as heterosexual or homosexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than the spouse. Oral sex practices, including fellatio and cunnilingus, are not included in this definition and so cannot be used as grounds for divorce. The sexual act must include penetration but does not need to reach completion.".
Desertion vs. Abandonment
Abandonment is a challenging situation for a person wanting a divorce in Georgia. Georgia does not officially recognize abandonment as a reason to file for divorce. However, if your significant other walks out a divorce judge will almost certainly hold that person accountable for breaking up the marriage. Considering such action as constructive desertion the Court will usually apply negative consequences to the offender.
Georgia law requires an absence of a year or longer to formally apply a condition of desertion for the purposes of filing divorce. It’s important to know that this is willful desertion which excludes situations such as being deployed for military service.
Don’t get the assertion of constructive desertion flipped on you. As stated on the LegalZoom website, "Georgia law contains a catch. If he returns to you in “good faith,” and you turn him away, you become the spouse guilty of constructive desertion, because you’ve mentally ended the marriage. Good faith means that he honestly wants to save your marriage. If he comes home because he lost his job and can’t afford his own rent, you can usually feel free to refuse to take him back."4.
Citing grounds for a divorce can be a strategic part of filing for divorce. To learn more about what is right for your situation, contact an experienced divorce lawyer at Grisham, Poole & Carlile.
- 1 DivorceNet, "Georgia Divorce FAQ", March 27, 2017, Available from DivorceNet
- 2 Justia, "Grounds for Total Divorce", May 3, 2019, Available from Justia
- 3 Carole Wegner, "Adultery & Divorce in Georgia", July 21, 2017, Available from Legal Beagle
- 4 Beverly Bird, "Divorce & Abandonment Laws in GeorgiaE", June 19, 2018 Available from LegalZoom
- Photo by Cottonbro Studios, available at Pexels.com