Georgia Divorce Laws

divorce lawyer with clients and papers
Apr 5, 2024 | Content

Divorce is not an easy thing to go through. Like many things in life, however, it is less stressful when you know what to expect.

Understanding Georgia divorce laws can help you form reasonable expectations for what your life will be like after divorce. Once you have decided dissolving your marriage is the best option, reach out to a seasoned divorce attorney to help you reach your goals.

Consider Your Grounds for Divorce

A spouse must state an acceptable legal justification in their court petition seeking a divorce. The Official Code of Georgia §19-5-3 describes the legal grounds for divorce. The state offers fault-based grounds and no-fault grounds for divorce.

There are twelve fault-based grounds listed in the law. They include abandonment for more than one year, adultery, cruelty, and habitual addiction, among others. If you cite a fault-based ground, you must have evidence to prove it.

You could cite the no-fault ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Citing a no-fault ground relieves you of the burden of proving your spouse’s conduct led to the breakdown of your marriage. However, there are sometimes strategic advantages to citing a fault-based ground, so make the decision about grounds in conjunction with your divorce attorney.

Divorce Has Major Financial Implications

You and your spouse must divide your marital property when you divorce. The marital property is everything either of you acquired individually or as a couple since the date of your marriage. If, for example, you used the money you earned while you were married to buy a car titled in your name and you pay for all the maintenance and upkeep, your spouse still has an interest in that car.

Separate property is anything you owned before marriage that you treated as separate during the marriage. Gifts to one spouse from a third party, inheritances, and anything a spouse purchased with inherited money are also separate property. A marital agreement like a prenup or postnuptial agreement could designate certain property as separate even if it would otherwise be marital property.

Georgia is an equitable distribution state. When a judge or jury must decide property division, they decide based on what is fair under the circumstances. Property division could be 50/50, but an unequal division is also possible. You can have more say in property division matters by negotiating a settlement with your spouse rather than allowing a third party to decide.

How Georgia Handles Child Custody Matters

If you are divorcing or even considering divorce, concerns about maintaining a healthy environment for your children and a close relationship with them might dominate your thoughts. The law states that when a judge must consider matters that directly affect children, they must decide based solely on the children’s interests, not the parents’ needs or desires.

If the parents are having a custody dispute, only a judge can decide the matter. Neither parent has an inherent advantage. Either parent could receive physical or legal custody, or both, depending on factors like the:

  • Physical and mental health of each parent;
  • Bonds each parent has established with the child;
  • Each parent’s familiarity with each child’s physical, emotional, social, and educational needs and ability to meet them;
  • Stability and safety of the home each parent could provide;
  • Children’s preferences.

A judge could consider these and any other factors they find relevant in the circumstances.

When a judge must determine custody, they often appoint a Guardian ad Litem to get to know the children and make a recommendation to the court. However, all parties benefit when parents can decide on custody and parenting themselves. A parenting plan is more likely to be workable when the parents create it, and negotiating the plan spares the children the extreme stress a custody dispute can create.

Pursue Your Divorce Goals With a Local Attorney

Divorce is frightening in part because your life is turning out differently than you thought it would. Knowing what the Georgia divorce laws require can help you to position yourself to thrive after your marriage ends.

Work with an experienced local legal professional to help you meet your goals in the divorce. Get in touch today.

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