Georgia Divorce FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about divorce and related issues in Georgia.

To get a divorce (also called "total divorce") in Georgia, you'll need to follow all the state and local divorce laws. Here are answers to common questions about the Georgia divorce process.

Do I need to live in Georgia to get a divorce here?

To get a divorce in Georgia, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-5-2 (2022).)

My spouse and I agree on all matters concerning the divorce. Do we still need a lawyer?

When you and your spouse agree on all matters concerning your Georgia divorce, you can file an uncontested divorce. It's generally much easier to DIY your divorce without a lawyer (proceed "pro se") when it's uncontested—you won't have to fight over items such as property division, alimony, or child custody like you would in a contested divorce. To navigate the legal system and file the appropriate documents, you'll need to know your court's rules. You can usually find a lot of self-help information on your local court's website. The Judicial Council of Georgia also provides divorce videos and forms online.

Where do I file for divorce in Georgia?

Generally, you file a complaint for divorce in the superior court in the county where your spouse lives. You can file in the county where you live if:

  • your spouse no longer resides in Georgia, or
  • within the previous six months, your spouse moved from the county where you lived as a couple (and you still live in that county).

(Ga. Const., Art. VI, Sec. II, Par. 1 (2022).)

Can I file for divorce even if we're still living together?

Yes, you can file for divorce in Georgia even if you're still living with your spouse. Unlike some states, Georgia does not require spouse to live separately and apart before filing for divorce.

What is "separate maintenance" in Georgia?

Although Georgia law doesn't recognize "legal separation," it does allow a divorce-alternative called "separate maintenance." Separate maintenance is like a traditional divorce in that it permits the couple (or the judge) to resolve custody, child support, and alimony. To qualify for separate maintenance, you must demonstrate all of the following:

  • you and your spouse are legally married
  • you and your spouse are living without separately or without cohabitation, and
  • there's no pending divorce action.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-10 (2022).) At the end of the separate maintenance process, the spouses live separate lives but remain legally married until one or both request a formal divorce.

Some people request separate maintenance rather than divorce because of religious beliefs, to keep a legal benefit (insurance or Social Security, for example), or other reasons. If a couple decides to divorce after a separate maintenance action, the divorce orders will take the place of the separate maintenance orders.

Does Georgia have "no-fault" divorce?

Yes. To obtain a "no-fault" divorce, one spouse must simply state a belief that the marriage is over, or "irretrievably broken." (Ga. Code § 19-5-2(13) (2022).) This means that the rift between the spouses is so significant, the marriage can't be saved. Most divorces in Georgia are no-fault divorces. When a spouse files for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, the court can't grant the divorce until at least 30 days have passed from the date of service on the non-filing spouse.

Does Georgia have "fault" divorce?

Yes, Georgia allows fault-based grounds for divorce. These include:

  • intermarriage by people who are too closely related
  • lack of mental capacity at the time of marriage
  • impotence at the time of marriage
  • force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage
  • pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of marriage, and unknown to the husband
  • adultery by either of the parties
  • willful and continued desertion for a year or more by either of the spouses
  • conviction and a sentence of imprisonment for two years or longer of either party for an offence involving moral turpitude
  • cruel treatment
  • incurable mental illness, and
  • habitual drug addiction.

(Ga. Code § 19-5-3 (2022).)

How do I actually file for a divorce in Georgia?

To file a divorce in Georgia, the person seeking the divorce (the "plaintiff" or "petitioner") must file a Complaint for Divorce in the appropriate superior court. The complaint contains information such as current living arrangements, children, marital assets and debts, and the specific reason for seeking divorce. Many counties have their own forms, so check with the clerk of the court where you'll file to see if there are local forms you must file.

A copy of the complaint will be served on (personally delivered to) the other spouse (the "defendant" or "respondent") by a sheriff of the appropriate county, or that spouse may acknowledge service by signing a document in the presence of a notary public. The defendant has 30 days to file a written answer to the complaint.

How long does a Georgia divorce take?

It depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. If you file an uncontested divorce, the judge can grant the divorce as early as 31 days after the non-filing spouse is served. However, the length of time for a divorce to be finalized often depends on how busy the court is. You can ask the court clerk about the court's calendar and how long most divorces are taking to be finalized.

If you and your spouse can't resolve the issues in your divorce and have to have a trial, it can take months to even years to finalize the divorce. The length of time will depend on factors such as the court's calendar, how many motions (requests for decisions from the court) each party files, and how long each side needs to present their side of things at trial.

Can I get the court to help me immediately?

If you need the court to quickly resolve questions of child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, debts, or possession of property, you can request a temporary court order. The court will schedule a short hearing, you and the other spouse will make your arguments, and the judge will issue an order that applies only until the time of the final trial. The temporary order might also prohibit you and your spouse from giving away or selling assets, or taking the children out of state.

Who will get custody of the children?

Typically, until a court ruling or agreement, married parents share custody. The judge will try to fashion a custody plan that is in the "best interests of the child." The judge will consider many factors, including the child's bonds with parents, each parent's overall involvement with the child, and the ability of each parent to care for and nurture the child. Children over age 14 has the right to select the parent with whom they desire to live, and the child's choice will govern unless the judge determines the arrangement wouldn't be in the best interests of the child. A judge may take into account the wishes of children aged 11 to 13. (Ga. Code § 19-9-3 (2022).)

Can divorced parents in Georgia share child custody?

Yes. Georgia child custody laws allow both parents to share custody—an arrangement called "joint custody." There are two types of joint custody: Joint legal custody, where both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child; and joint physical custody, where the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents. The court may order joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both.

What are parents' child support obligations in Georgia?

Georgia courts rely on a set of state guidelines to determine the amount of child support. (Ga. Code § 19-6-15 (2022).) The state model estimates the total amount that parents would spend on a child in an intact family unit, and then splits this amount proportionally based on the parents' incomes. Typically, the non-custodial parent is required to pay a reasonable amount to the custodial parent to assist with living expenses. Child support may also include payment for health insurance, medical and dental expenses, and life insurance. The amount is based on factors including time the non-custodial parent spends with the children, the ages of the children, daycare costs, medical costs, education costs, the income (or debt) of both parents, and any obligations either parent might have to support another household. The guidelines are revised frequently. Each parent is required to prepare a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (available on most superior courts' websites), setting out their financial circumstances.

How is alimony in Georgia determined?

Alimony in Georgia is a payment from one spouse to the other for purposes of support. When calculating alimony, Georgia courts will consider the fault of the spouses in causing the divorce, even in a no-fault divorce: Alimony is generally not available to a spouse whose adultery or desertion caused the marriage to end. (Ga. Code § 19-6-1 (2022).) Alimony can be temporary or permanent. (Ga. Code §§ 19-6-3, 19-6-5 (2022).) In determining the amount of permanent alimony, Georgia courts consider factors such as the length of the marriage, standard of living established during the marriage, health of each spouse, each spouse's assets and expenses, and the contributions of each spouse to homemaking, child raising, and the other's career. (Ga. Code § 19-6-5 (2022).)

How do courts divide spouses' property in a Georgia divorce?

Marital property is generally all property acquired during the marriage, except for property received by gift from a third party or by inheritance. Georgia uses an "equitable division" approach to divide property: Each spouse is entitled to an "equitable" (which means fair, but not necessarily equal) share of the marital property. There is no set formula for splitting up marital property; however, credit may be given to a party who contributed "separate" or "premarital" property to the marriage. Georgia case law sets forth a complicated formula to determine how the contribution of "separate" property to the marriage is to be handled.