Legal Grounds for Divorce in Georgia

Legal Grounds for Divorce in Georgia

Grounds for Divorce in Georgia

Learn about meeting the need to cite at least one of thirteen legally recognized reason for filing for divorce in Georgia.

Georgia divorce law provides for 13 legal grounds for divorce. Persons involved in a divorce need to identify only one of the legal grounds, but they may claim multiple grounds.

Each of the legal grounds for divorce requires certain conditions to exist in order to formally assert any particular reason for getting a divorce in Georgia.

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce in Georgia

Getting a divorce in Georgia does not require determining fault, meaning Georgia is not a fault-based state. However, of the 13 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 impact decisions on awarding alimony (spousal support).

The 13 Legal Grounds For Divorce In Georgia

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 referring to illicit, non-mutually agreed-to sexual relations outside of the marriage.
  • Criminal Conviction for a crime of moral turpitude that requires two or more years of incarceration.
  • Cruel Treatment relative to any verifiable proof or demonstration of mental abuse or physical abuse.
  • Force, Duress or Deception effectively meaning manipulating your spouse to get married when they otherwise would not be willing to do so.
  • Habitual Addiction / Intoxication involving alcohol without action to address their problems.
  • Habitual Addiction / Intoxication involving pharmaceuticals and/or illegal substances without action to address their problems.
  • Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage. This generally claims that you or your spouse were incoherent or mentally incapable of clear thinking at the time of the ceremony. This can include people with known mental disorders, being severely intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, or similar conditions at the time of the marriage.
  • Impotency at the time of your marriage and without your knowledge of the condition of impotency.
  • Intermarriage by persons with close blood lines wherein the relationships between the husband and wife which would generally qualify as incest.
  • Incurable Mental Illness which requires a history of being institutionalized, and formal testimony from at least two psychiatric professionals or doctors.
  • Irretrievably Broken, also known irreconcilable differences, requires agreement by both divorcing parties. This provides a certain level of privacy regarding detailes for the divorce.
  • Pregnancy of the wife, not by the husband, prior to the wedding and without knowledge of the husband.
  • Willful Desertion (abandonment) applies if either party leaves the marriage, with no intent of returning to the marriage, 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. 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 and Poole.

FOOTNOTES

  • 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