When preparing to divorce in Georgia, it’s important that you make sure you’re filing your divorce papers in the correct venue. If you file for divorce in the wrong location, the judge can dismiss your case, leading to a serious waste of time and money. Each state has its own residency requirements that spell out the length of time you or your spouse must live in the state before you can file for divorce in the state’s courts. This article will help you decide if Georgia is the proper state for filing your divorce.
Residency rules are meant to protect the defendant of a divorce case from having to respond to litigation in a location that’s improper or inconvenient. For example, if you and your spouse live in Alabama, but your spouse filed for divorce in Georgia, you’d probably wonder if it’s meant to make the litigation difficult on you, or if your spouse gains some other advantage by filing across state lines. Residency requirements restrict a spouse’s ability to “forum-shop,” or otherwise purposely make participating in the litigation difficult for the other spouse.
In Georgia, courts can’t grant a divorce to a spouse who hasn’t been a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing the complaint for divorce. In Georgia, the plaintiff—the spouse seeking divorce—must file for divorce in the county where his or her spouse resides. The defendant spouse can’t waive this venue requirement; courts can’t proceed on a case without proper residency.
If both spouses live in Georgia, but in separate counties, the plaintiff spouse should file for divorce in the county where the defendant spouse lives. Also, if you live outside of Georgia, but your spouse has lived in Georgia at least six months, you can file for divorce in the county where your spouse resides.
The six-month residency requirement doesn’t mean your spouse must have lived continuously in the state without leaving. A spouse can leave Georgia and reside other places, so long as that spouse intends to return to a specific residence within the state. Also, a spouse can’t leave the state after hearing that the other spouse wants a divorce and then claim residence elsewhere—the court will certainly still find that Georgia is the proper jurisdiction for the divorce case.
There are, however, exceptions to the general six-month residency rule. If you’re in the United States military, you can file for divorce in any county adjacent to the military reservation or post, if you’ve lived in the state for one year before filing. Where a military spouse is stationed outweighs the spouse’s military “home of record” for divorce purposes. Still, a military member must follow the rule of filing for divorce in the defendant spouse’s county.
Immigration status doesn’t impact a person’s ability to establish residency in Georgia for the purpose of filing for divorce. In other words, just because a spouse isn’t a citizen or legal resident won’t prevent a judge from presiding over the divorce case. Non-citizens are subject to the same six-month residency requirement as citizens.
If you still have questions about where you should file for divorce after reading this article, contact an experienced family law attorney for advice.