Grounds for Divorce
Georgia allows for no-fault divorces, which means that either spouse can file for divorce without having to show that the other did something wrong. Even though Georgia is a no-fault state, there are still 12 grounds for divorce, which include adultery and desertion by one of the spouses for a minimum of one year.
(Get answers to frequently asked questions about Divorce in Georgia.)
Residency Requirement and Waiting Period
In order to file for divorce in any county in the state of Georgia, one of the spouses must have lived in Georgia for a minimum of six months. This means that even if one of the parties moved out of the state, as long as one person has stayed, that person can file for divorce there.
The waiting period for a divorce in Georgia is 31 days from the date of filing. This is the minimum amount of time that is required to get a divorce, but most divorces take significantly longer than that.
Property Division in Georgia
Georgia is an equitable distribution state. This means that any property the parties acquired during the marriage (regardless of how title is held) will be divided fairly at the divorce. In an equitable distribution state, the marital assets and debts are distributed equitably, but not necessarily equally. Separate property is what each person had before getting married, and marital property is what the spouses acquired during the marriage.
(To learn more about dividing marital property, see Georgia Property Division Laws.)
Alimony (also called spousal support) is a payment from one spouse to the other for the recipient’s care and maintenance after the divorce. Alimony isn’t necessarily ordered in every single case—it is dependent on the earning capacities of both parties as well as several other factors, like the standard of living established during the marriage and the contributions of both parties to the marriage. The length of the marriage is also a significant factor—alimony isn’t usually ordered in a short-term marriage.
(See Understanding Alimony in Georgia for in-depth information.)
In order to determine child support, the court will look at the combined gross incomes of both parents and use state guidelines to establish support based on that income. For example, if the father’s gross income is $3,000 a month and the mother’s gross income is $2,000, their total gross income is $5,000. If the judge determines that the support should be $1,000 a month, then who pays how much would depend on which parent is the non-custodial parent. If the mother is the non-custodial parent, then she would pay 40% of the child support, or $400. If the father is the non-custodial parent, then he will pay 60%, or $600. There are also different factors that can change the amount of child support; for example, if one parent has other children to support or is paying for the child’s medical insurance. The Georgia Child support Commission provides a child support guideline calculator.
Child support can be paid directly from one parent to the other, but if the paying parent is delinquent, the judge may order a wage garnishment order which allows for the child support to come directly from the paying parent’s paycheck.
(Find more information on support rules in, Child Support Basics in Georgia.)
There are two forms of child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody determines where the child lives or visits, and for what period of time. Legal custody determines who makes decisions about the child’s health, education, and other needs. In a child custody proceeding, the court will use the best interest of the child standard to decide the custody arrangement. This means that the court will examine the health and wellbeing of the child with each of the parents as well as each parent’s living environment, in order to make a decision.
Georgia courts require that all divorced parents submit a parenting plan that accounts for every day of the year, including holidays, significant events such as birthdays, and includes transportation information. This parenting plan also must state which parent has what authority—for example, to make health care decisions—and whether there are any limitations to that authority. If the parents agree to have joint decision making authority, then there is also a provision in the parenting plan in which the parents have to decide what will happen if there is a disagreement. This part is left up to the parents, and can include things like using a neutral third party to work out the disagreement, or setting out rules for specific situations from the very beginning. If the parents disagree about this or any other part of the parenting plan, then each parent may submit their own proposed parenting plan to the court for the judge to decide.
Georgia also allows for children older than 14 to make a decision about which parent they choose to live with, as long as the court considers the decision to be in the child’s best interests. If the court disagrees, it may override the preference.
When one parents wants to move away with the child and the other parent objects, the court must evaluate the best interests of the child, and may not base its decision solely on the original custody order.
(Read about the rules for custody determination in, Child Custody in Georgia: The Best Interests of the Child.)