Residency Requirements and Grounds for Divorce
Either you or your spouse must be a resident of Georgia for six months to file for divorce.
Either spouse can get a no-fault divorce simply by stating in divorce papers that the marriage is "irretrievably broken."
If you and your spouse don't agree on the divorce, the spouse who wants to divorce must claim and prove grounds. Georgia has 12 grounds for divorce, including adultery and desertion.
A divorce case begins when you file a "Petition for Divorce" in the superior court where your spouse lives. You file in your county if you spouse doesn't live in Georgia. Your spouse is served with the paperwork and has time to file a response.
If your case is uncontested, the court can grant the divorce 31 days after your spouse is served. If there's disagreement on any issue, including support and custody, it might take months for the court to hear your case.
Either you or your spouse can ask for temporary relief while waiting for a final decision on your divorce. The court conducts a hearing and decides issues for temporary support, child custody, debt payment and treatment of property.
Dividing the Property
In Georgia, upon divorce, the court makes an equitable division of martial property. Marital property is made up of assets and debts acquired during your marriage. "Equitable division" isn't always an equal division. Rather, the focus is on what is fair to both spouses.
You keep your "separate property," which is property you owned before marrying, and property you inherited or received as a gift from a third party during your marriage.
Be prepared with information on your property, including when you purchased it, an estimate of value, and details such as account numbers, serial numbers and so forth. You'll be ready to meet with a Georgia divorce lawyer and it can save you a lot of time and money.
A court can order alimony in Georgia. A court will generally consider such factors as:
- Marriage length
- Financial resources of each party
- Time needed to acquire training or education to re-enter the workforce
- Each spouse's earning capacity
- Contributions to the marriage
A court can order temporary alimony while the divorce is pending. Most alimony is ordered for a specific length of time.
Child Custody and Visitation
Divorcing parents must submit parenting plans to the court, setting out the details for parenting their child post-divorce. If parents agree, they can submit a joint plan, and if they can't reach agreement, the court decides based on their separate proposed plans.
Parents can also submit a custody agreement for court approval. The court has broad discretion in deciding child custody issues if parents can't agree on custody, or their custody proposal doesn't serve the child's best interest. Joint and sole custody is possible. Courts look at a wide variety of factors, including relationships between the parents and children, how each parent would meet the child's needs, and living arrangements to name a few.
Once the court's judgment is entered, either party can ask for review and changes every two years. This waiting period doesn't apply when the request for review is based on material changes in the circumstances of either a parent or the child.
Georgia uses an "income shares" model in figuring a base child support obligation. The parents' combined gross income is calculated, along with each parent's share. The Child Support Obligation Table is used to get the basic support amount. The noncustodial parent pays support based on his or her proportionate income share. For example, if the noncustodial parent's income share is 40 percent, and the support amount is $1,000, the child support amount is $400.
In special circumstances, the court may adjust or deviate from the basic support amount if it's in the child's best interest. Examples of situations warranting deviation include educational, extracurricular activity, dental insurance expenses, or changes based on parenting time.
A Georgia child support order can be modified if there has been a substantial change in the income or financial status of either party or the needs of the children.
Questions for Your Attorney