What is the difference between a separation and a divorce in Georgia -- and what are the rights of separated spouses? Answers to these and other questions about divorce and separation in Georgia are provided below. (For more information on Georgia family law, see our Georgia Divorce and Family Law page; you can find articles on getting a divorce in our Divorce Process area.)
Do my spouse and I have to live separately before we can divorce?
In some states, spouses who want a no-fault divorce -- in which neither spouse claims that the other committed misconduct -- must live apart for a period of time. In a no-fault divorce, one or both spouses typically claim that "irreconcilable differences" have led to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and that there is no chance of reconciliation.
In Georgia, however, there is no legal requirement that spouses live separately before they can get a no-fault divorce. One spouse can file a divorce petition and claim simply that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." Once 30 days have passed after the spouse serves the divorce papers on the other spouse, the court can grant a divorce. (Of course, some divorces take much longer than a month to finalize.)
What is a separation?
A separation happens when a couple decides to live separately and apart without formally ending their marriage through divorce.
Georgia allows a spouse to ask the court for spousal support and child support, just as if the couple was getting a divorce, if:
- the spouses have voluntarily separated, or
- one spouse has abandoned or driven off the other.
Why do couples choose to separate rather than to divorce?
A couple may have religious or personal reasons for wanting to stay married; in some cases, financial considerations play a role. No matter what the reason, the couple is still legally married unless and until they divorce. This means, for example, that neither spouse may legally remarry.
How do I provide for myself and the children during the separation?
Once separated, there are a couple of ways to get support:
- You and your spouse may reach a voluntary agreement for support of yourself and your children.
- You may ask the court for support for yourself and/or your children. In this situation, the court will consider your request and issue a judgment just as it would in a divorce case.