Divorce in Georgia
How to Get a Divorce in Georgia
Divorce in Georgia requires filing for an uncontested divorce (no fault) or a contested divorce. In certain situations an annulment may be used to nullify a marriage.
This page will give you an overview of Georgia divorce laws and how the process works.
Legal Requirements to File for Divorce
To begin the divorce process you must meet certain legal requirements. If you qualify, the divorce process requires filing the proper paperwork with the Superior court in your home county. The Georgia residency requirements for filing divorce are as follows:
(Per Georgia Code – Sections: 19-5-5) No court shall grant a divorce to any person who has not been a bonafide resident of this state for six months before the filing of the petition for divorce, provided that any person who has been a resident of any United States army post or military reservation within this state for one year next preceding the filing of the petition may bring an action for divorce in any county adjacent to the United States army post or military reservation; and provided, further, that a nonresident of this state may file a petition for divorce, in the county of residence of the respondent, against any person who has been a resident of this state and of the county in which the action is brought for a period of six months prior to the filing of the petition.
Three Options for Filing Divorce in Georgia
1. Hire Separate Lawyers and Litigate. This is the common way divorces are managed. You and your spouse each hire a lawyer. Your lawyer asks you what you want and negotiates on your behalf to reach a formal settlement.
2. Mediation and Arbitration. If you and your spouse can work together without conflict mediation may be right for you. Mediation and arbitration keep stress and costs to a minimum.
3. Handle your Own DivorceThis is an extremely bad idea in 99.99% of divorce cases. Divorce laws are very complex and you are on your own. Georgia State Law O.C.G.A. §15-19-51 forbids court personnel from giving legal advice. The only person allowed to help you in the preparation of these forms is a licensed attorney. Before you decide to represent yourself, meet with a lawyer to get informed of the risks.
Hiring the best divorce laywer you can afford is a smart move. You have to live with the final results for a very long time.
Prepare & File the Petition for Divorce
There is a formal Petition for Divorce which must be completed and filed with the Superior Court in the county where you live. The person who files for divorce is known as the "Petitioner" and the other person is known as the "Respondent". The Superior Court Clerk's Office will process your petition, and formal divorce papers will be served to your spouse. Your spouse then has has 30 days to file a formal response to the petition.
What Information is Needed in My Divorce Petition?
Your divorce petition needs to include the following information:
- 1. Your stated grounds for divorce
- 2. Your request for temporary orders
- 3. Personal information (income, financial, etc.)
1. Grounds for Divorce in Georgia
There are 12 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.
The 12 Legal Grounds for Divorce
- 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.
2. Temporary Court Orders
When you file for divorce the repercussions move throughout your personal life. Your lawyer will work with you to draft your desired living conditions. This will be submitted to the court for consideration in determining temporary orders. Your spouse has the right to submit their own requests. The judge will make the decision on all points.
It is customary to request the court to confirm living arrangements that will be in place until your divorce becomed final. Temporary Orders typically address living arrangements, disposition of property, child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and similar matters.
During the divorce process you will usually be forbidden from selling or disposing of assets, property or otherwise significantly altering marital assets.You are legally obligated to follow all points of a court order. Violating a court order is grounds to be charged with contempt of court.
3. Personal Information
In order for the court to make decisions for temporary orders you are required to submit certain personal information. Examples of personal information that are or may be required are income and expense declaration forms, financial statements, and lists of accounts with balances. If you have children you need to provide information such as ages, special needs, etc.
At this point, with temporary orders in place, the terms of your personal life are set while you work through your divorce. This is usually a very stressful and frustrating period. As your divorce lawyer we will keep you informed on challenges, needs and progress on your case. Your top priorities should be taking care of yourself and any chldren, and being very mindful of your personal conduct.
The next step of the process is to mutually develop and agree on all points in a Divorce Settlement Agreeement.
The Settlement Agreement
The Settlement Agreement is a legally binding contract that defines the terms of your divorce. Your Settlement Agreement can include almost anything. It normally includes terms on property division, financial asset distribution, and all aspects of parental rights and obligations. It takes considerable time to negotiate each point and come to an agreement.
In order facilitate the development of the Settlement Agreement your lawyer will work with you through a discovery process. The purpose of the discovery process is to gather and document facts and evidence that are used in your case. Types of information that may be needed are living expenses, income, marital and financial assets. Other information that may be needed to manage your case is evidence of adultery, physical abuse, molestation, criminal conduct and similar issues.
What if We Cannot Agree on Settlement Terms?
If you and your spouse cannot reach agreement on the terms of your divorce your case will be decided by a judge. This adds a degree of uncertainty to the nature of the outcome. A judge may direct a resolution that is different from what either spouse requested. You and your spouse should make every reasonable effort to not move your case into court. When the matter of the Divorce Agreement is settled your case will move forward for the court to issue a final decree of divorce.
The issuance of a final decree means you are legally divorced. You should familiarize yourself with every aspect of your agreement. Failure to comply with any point may be grounds for your ex to file a motion for contempt. If this happens our law firm can represent you to file the motion or defend you from contempt charges.
Can I Ever Change My Divorce Decree Settlement?
After your divorce decree has been granted (finalized) any changes to your Settlement Agreement are made through a formal motion for modification. People usually wait at least a year to file a motion for modification.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Georgia?
Theoretically it's possible to get a divorce in Georgia is as little as 31 days. The reality for an uncontested divorce in Georgia is six months to one year from filing to receiving your final decree. A contested divorce in Georgia can range from six months to several years. Our low-conflict approach works to minimize fighting and maximize productivity.
What makes it take so long? The common cause for a divorce dragging on is probably the same as why you are getting divorced - you and your spouse cannot agree on major items. Arguments over money, property, child custody, visitation and related matters take time to settle. Our expertise in divorce laws and negotiating skills can keep fighting to a minimum.
How can I speed up my divorce?
There are numerous reasons your spouse or their lawyer may try to drag out your divorce. If possible, you should develop a divorce plan before you file. With a good strategy you can prevent and manage common obstacles thta stall getting a divorce finalized. We can develop a divorce strategy that can lower the cost of a divorce and keep things moving forward.
As your divorce lawyer we work to have productive communications with your spouse's attorney, thereby expediting agreement on every item. We will work hard to protect your interests and deliver stellar results.