How to File Divorce in Georgia

Filing a divorce in Georgia

Georgia, the Peach State, is a wonderful place to live but not every marriage works out. Here is some basic information about the process in Georgia if you are considering a divorce.

1. Residency

You must file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse lives, and you must have been a resident of Georgia for six months before filing for divorce.

2. Grounds for divorce

At one time, you could only get divorced if your spouse did something wrong. You would have to prove this wrongdoing in court. Many states have abolished these “fault” divorce proceedings, and even where they are still allowed they are rare. Most couples that decide to end their marriage simply want to go their separate ways with minimal hassle.

Georgia is one of the states that still has fault grounds for divorce, though.  These include incest, mental incapacity, impotency, duress in obtaining the marriage, pregnancy by another man at the time of marriage, adultery, desertion, conviction of a serious crime, habitual intoxication, cruel treatment, incurable mental illness, and habitual drug addiction.  

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Most couples are going to ignore all those possibilities and instead file divorce on the one no-fault ground in Georgia, that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”  That just means that the couple wants to be split and there is no real chance of them reconciling. Just one spouse seeking a divorce usually demonstrates this.

A spouse trying to stop a divorce can at best only slow it down.

3. The divorce process

Divorce process

The first step in court is filing a complaint for divorce.

That complaint will ask to terminate the marriage and also ask the court to address related matters involving money and children. This complaint has to be “served” on the other spouse, generally meaning a person called a process server must be hired to hand deliver the complaint to the other spouse.  

The other spouse will have an opportunity to respond, and then the couple will enter a period called discovery. During discovery, each spouse can obtain information from the other.

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Finally, the case will proceed to a final hearing where the judge will make final determinations on the couple’s divorce, as well as issues related to money and children.

In Georgia, a judge has discretion over how to divide up a couple’s assets.

A judge can also award alimony, and the cause of the divorce can be a factor in this decision.  While many states go out of their way to make sure that being a bad spouse does not impact financial issues, Georgia judges can take things like adultery into account.  

A cheating spouse is not supposed to get alimony.

Judges will also review a family’s situation to help choose the best custody arrangement for a child, and may order one spouse to help the other pay the expenses of rearing a child.  

Keep in mind, this whole contested process can be short-circuited by a settlement between the couple. In fact, most divorces will end with the couple agreeing on money and child-related issues, and the judge will usually just review the agreement to make sure it is fair and then order the divorce.  

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