Divorce is a difficult decision for many couples and undergoing the process can be even harder. Before taking the first step towards divorce, it’s important to understand the laws and procedures in Georgia.
Knowing the basics of divorce in Georgia can help you make informed decisions and navigate the process more easily. From the residency requirements to the division of property, here’s everything you need to know about divorce in Georgia before taking the first step.
Residency requirements for filing a divorce in Georgia
There are no specific residency requirements to file for divorce in Georgia. Technically, any couple who is legally married can file for divorce in Georgia. That said, you should be aware that certain factors may affect the procedures and timeline of your divorce.
If you’re seeking a divorce outside of your home state, you may be subject to whatever laws apply in that state. You may also be subject to different timelines—which can affect whether you can use mediation or have to go to court.
You may also have different rights regarding spousal support, property division, and custody. If you’re not sure whether you should file for divorce in Georgia or in your home state, you should consult with a divorce attorney.
Grounds for filing a divorce in Georgia
In general, couples can file for divorce in one of three ways: no-fault, unfaithfulness, or irreconcilable differences (also known as “irreconcilable breakdown”).
- No-fault divorce – No-fault divorce is when both parties agree to dissolve their marriage, but don’t have a specific reason for doing so. The advantage of no-fault divorce is that there’s no need to assign blame for the divorce, which can help to prevent conflict during the divorce process, and this will also be referred to as an uncontested divorce in Georgia. The disadvantage is that you don’t get to make any claims for spousal support or division of property.
- Unfaithfulness divorce – An unfaithfulness divorce is filed when one spouse accuses the other of cheating. This can be a messy and contentious divorce, particularly if there are children involved. To win an unfaithfulness divorce, you have to prove to the court that your spouse was unfaithful. Because of the sensitive nature of this type of divorce, it’s usually recommended that you have a lawyer represent you.
- Irreconcilable differences divorce – An irreconcilable differences divorce is filed when both spouses agree that the marriage is over but they can’t agree on why. This type of divorce is recommended for couples who want to keep things amicable and out of court.
Child custody and child support laws in Georgia
Both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children. If you have young children, you can ask the court for joint custody. In this case, both parents will share custody and be responsible for making decisions important for the child’s health and welfare. If a child is 12 or older, the court may grant the minor the right to make some important decisions on his or her own.
If there is a dispute about which parent should have custody of the children, the court will first decide if there is any reason to deny custody to one of the parents. If there is no reason to deny custody, the court will grant custody to the parent the child wishes to live with. In making this decision, the court will consider the child’s wishes, the child’s age and development, the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s health, the child’s school, and any other relevant factors.
The parent who doesn’t have custody will be ordered to pay child support to the other parent based on the Georgia Child Support Guidelines. The court will take the following factors into consideration when calculating the amount of child support: The combined gross income of both parents. The number of children to whom the parents owe child support. The ages of the children. The health of the children. The child care expenses for the children. The cost of health insurance for the children.
Division of property in a divorce in Georgia
Georgia is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that the judge presiding over your divorce will divide your property as equitably as possible. The division of property is one of the most contentious parts of any divorce—and it can be particularly problematic in an equitable distribution state.
There are a number of factors the judge will look at in an equitable distribution state when determining which assets should be awarded to whom, including: the length of the marriage, the spouses’ ages, the health of the spouses, either spouse’s ability to earn money in the future, which assets were acquired before the marriage, and the contributions made by each spouse to the marriage (including through child care, housework, and career choices).
Spousal support/alimony in a divorce in Georgia
If you earned more money than your spouse during the marriage, you may be required to pay spousal support to your former partner. The amount and duration of spousal support are determined by factors including the length of the marriage and each spouse’s financial situation.
The court will consider the following factors when determining spousal support: The earning capacity of each spouse (taking into account the job market in the state where the spouses live). The length of the marriage.
The standard of living established during the marriage. The age and health of each spouse. The financial resources available to each spouse, including educational background, employment skills, and employability, the availability of health insurance, and any other skills that can be translated into cash.
The amount of time it will take the receiving spouse to acquire the education or training to reenter the job market. The value of child care provided by each spouse during the marriage. Whether either spouse made contributions to a business owned by the other spouse. The taxability of the spousal support payments. The financial obligations of each spouse (debts, child support, alimony, etc.).
Mediation process in a divorce in Georgia
You can choose to have your divorce mediated instead of going before a judge. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps you and your spouse come to a settlement. You and your spouse can agree on a mediator. If you can’t agree on a mediator, each of you will submit a list of three mediators.
The judge will pick one from the two lists. Mediation is voluntary, and both spouses must agree to participate. If at any time either person decides they don’t want to continue with mediation, the divorce will proceed as normal. If you choose to mediate your divorce, you and your spouse will meet with a mediator in a neutral place (like a church, a school, or a community center).
The mediator will encourage both spouses to express their needs and talk about how to make the divorce as amicable as possible for everyone involved. The mediator will not give advice to either spouse. Instead, the mediator will encourage both spouses to discuss their needs and come up with solutions that work for both parties. At the end of the mediation process, both spouses sign a written agreement that details the decisions made during mediation.
How long does a divorce take in Georgia?
The length of a divorce varies greatly depending on a number of factors. Cases can take anywhere from two to five years to be decided. In general, there are three main factors that determine how long a divorce will take: The type of divorce you file (no-fault, unfaithfulness, or irreconcilable differences). The complexity of your divorce. How well your case is prepared (if you and your spouse have a written agreement, whether you hire an attorney, etc.).
How much does a divorce cost in Georgia?
The average cost of a divorce in Georgia is $15,000. Divorce attorneys’ fees are calculated on a per-hour basis, so the amount you pay will depend on how long the divorce process takes. The average hourly rate for divorce attorneys in Georgia is $300.
Couples often spend more money on divorce because they don’t know how to save money when going through a divorce. You can reduce the amount you spend on a divorce by being prepared, doing your research, and making sure you aren’t paying for unnecessary expenses.
What to expect during the Georgia divorce process
Georgia is a no-fault divorce state, which means that either spouse can file for divorce without providing a reason. However, if one spouse wants to be listed as the “initiator” of the divorce, the other spouse may pursue “reimbursement,” which is a reimbursement of expenses or a portion of property used during the marriage.
The state of Georgia requires a period of separation before a divorce can be finalized, and other requirements must be met as well. The divorce process in Georgia can be broken down into several steps:
- Filing for divorce – The first step is for one spouse to file for divorce.
- Division of assets and debts – Once the divorce has been filed, the court will order a division of assets and debts. The court will also likely order spousal maintenance.
- Mediation – Parties can choose to pursue mediation with a certified mediator. At this point, the terms of the divorce are negotiated, and the mediator helps the parties come to agreement on all issues, including child custody, visitation, and spousal maintenance.
- Finalizing the divorce – Once all issues have been resolved, the divorce will be finalized. This process can take anywhere between two weeks and six months.