Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Divorced in Georgia
- Georgia divorce prerequisites
- Georgia divorce forms and fees
- Steps to divorce in Georgia
- Property division overview
- Child custody overview
- Spousal support overview
- Child support overview
Navigating a divorce is not only overwhelming, but it is also complicated. If you are considering filing for a divorce in Georgia, here are things you should know before you get started.
Georgia divorce prerequisites
Do you meet the residency requirement?
To file for a divorce in Georgia, you or your spouse must have been a resident of Georgia for at least six months before filing. Additionally, you or your spouse must have lived in Georgia immediately prior to and at the time of filing for your divorce.
Proof of your residency is typically by sworn complaint, but in case you are asked to verify your residency, you will want to take a valid driver’s license, a copy of your lease or deed, or recent bank statements or utility bills that have your address on them.
Do you have a reason for divorce (grounds)?
Divorcing in Georgia requires that you have a legally recognized reason for seeking a divorce. These are called “grounds.” Georgia allows for both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce.
To file for a no-fault divorce, you are asking the court to end your marriage because it has become irretrievably broken. Neither you nor your spouse will need to be found at fault. However, no-fault divorces require a mandatory waiting period of 30 days after papers are served before your divorce can be granted.
Fault-based grounds require wrongdoing by one spouse. Fault-based grounds in Georgia include:
- Adultery that occurred during the marriage
- One spouse’s criminal conviction of two or more years for a crime of “moral turpitude”
- Cruel treatment
- Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage
- Force, coercion, or fraud in obtaining the marriage
- Habitual addiction
- Habitual intoxication
- Incurable mental illness
- Impotency at the time of the marriage
- Intermarriage with someone of close blood ties
- Incurable mental illness
- Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband
There is no waiting period for a fault-based divorce. However, it is important to understand that the conduct or fault of the other spouse must be proven in court to obtain a divorce based on on any of these fault-based grounds in Georgia.
Will you proceed with or waive financial disclosures?
In a contested divorce in Georgia, you and your spouse are legally required to exchange and file financial affidavits as part of your divorce settlement. But in an uncontested divorce, it is assumed you have already discussed your income and assets when you negotiated and filed your settlement agreement and you will not be required to provide financial disclosures.
Understanding each other’s financial situation during your divorce is essential to making fair decisions concerning your property division, child support, or alimony. You will want to ensure that your spouse is being honest about their financial circumstances and not hiding assets or income that could potentially affect your settlement agreement and lead to a poorer outcome for you.
Are you required to take a parenting class?
Parenting seminars are required for all divorcing parents in Georgia, and registration and fees for these seminars will vary by county. While both parents do not need to attend at the same time, a divorce case will not be completed until both parents have completed the required seminar.
Georgia divorce forms and fees
Several forms must be completed and filed when you file for a divorce in Georgia. The forms you must file will vary depending on the county in which they are being filed and the type of divorce you are seeking.
Documents must be filed with the Superior Court Clerk in the county where your spouse lives. If your spouse lives out of state or has moved out of the county in the past six months, you may file with the Superior Court Clerk in the county where you live.
Some of the forms (all here) you may be filing include:
- The Divorce Complaint
- Case Filing Form
- Domestic Relations Standing Order
- Affidavit of Poverty to request a waiver of fees
- Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit
- Child Support Worksheets for those with children
- Parenting Plan for those divorces with children
- Summons and Sheriff’s Service form
- Acknowledgment of Service
- Settlement Agreement
- Divorcing Parents Seminar Certificate of Completion
- Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce
- Domestic Relation Case Disposition Form
- Answer to Divorce if you are the respondent and have been served a Divorce Complaint
The Georgia Judicial website has forms and self-help information and videos that can guide you in completing these forms, or you can check the Superior Court website in the county where you are filing your divorce.
A simplified divorce procedure
If you have filed for an uncontested no-fault divorce in Georgia, you may be able to divorce without a hearing by filing a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Sometimes, the judge will review your paperwork and sign your final decree if everything appears in order. But if there are questions about the case, you may still be asked to attend a hearing.
What are the basic divorce steps in Georgia?
The steps of a divorce can vary depending on the type of divorce you are seeking and the complexities of your case, but the basic steps of the divorce process include
- Completing and filing the Divorce Complaint
- Serving your spouse with paperwork through a private process server or the sheriff’s office
- If your spouse is cooperative, you can avoid the service process by having your spouse sign the Acknowledgement of Service and file this with the court.
- Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the Complaint after service. He or she has the right to disagree with any of the terms in the Complaint and file a counterclaim. Once there is a disagreement, this will be considered a contested divorce.
- If your divorce remains uncontested, you and your spouse will negotiate a settlement agreement setting out property division, child custody, child support, and alimony.
- Once a settlement has been reached, a final Judgment and Decree of Divorce will be prepared, signed, and filed with the court.
- If your divorce is contested, there will be other steps and requirements before it can become final. If you and your spouse cannot come to a settlement agreement through negotiation, the court will decide the terms of your divorce.
Property division overview
You and your spouse will be required to divide your marital property as part of your settlement agreement. Marital property are the assets and debt you acquired as a couple during your marriage. Separate property are the assets and debt each of you came into the marriage with and will be retained by each of you.
Georgia is considered an equitable distribution state. This means that marital property must be divided between spouses equitably and fairly but not necessarily an equal split.
Georgia courts examine many factors when trying to decide what is fair property division between spouses, including:
- The duration of the marriage
- Debts and liabilities of each spouse
- Current and potential income of each spouse
- Contributions of each spouse to the marital unit
- The age and health of each spouse
- The parental responsibilities of each spouse
If you and your spouse can agree on a fair way to divide your property and debts, this will avoid getting the court involved in these decisions.
Use our free downloadable Property Division Spreadsheet Template to make the process easier.
Child custody overview
Custody is the legal and practical relationship between parents and their children. There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the main decision-making right of a parent. Physical custody is where the child will primarily live.
Married parents have equal rights to the custody and visitation of their children in Georgia. Georgia courts prefer that both parents be involved in the major decision-making regarding their child’s upbringing and usually award parents joint legal custody. But when parents can’t come to a mutual agreement, the parent with primary physical custody usually makes the final decision.
Physical custody can also be shared, but it is more common for one parent to be awarded primary physical custody and the other a secondary role. Courts will make physical custody awards based on many factors, but typically it will be the parent who has been the primary caretaker of the child during the marriage.
Judges will always make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. Sometimes the court will place restrictions on custody or visitation when they feel it is warranted.
What to know about spousal support
Spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, is never guaranteed in a Georgia divorce. For alimony to be awarded, one spouse must demonstrate a financial need for this support, and the other must have the ability to pay it.
When making an alimony award decision, the court will consider:
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and physical and emotional health of both parties
- The financial resources of both parties
- The earning capacity of both parties
- The standard of living they enjoyed while married
- Contributions made by both parties, including homemaking, child care, and sacrifices made by one for the professional career building of the other
Permanent or short-term alimony may be available depending on the circumstances.
- Short-term alimony is generally a temporary measure to enable one spouse to get back on their feet after divorce. This is typically awarded when one spouse has stayed home during the marriage and will require additional training or school to become self-supporting.
- Permanent alimony is usually only awarded after a long-term marriage when one spouse is no longer able to work because of age or physical or mental illness.
Child support in Georgia
Child support is the financial support paid by one parent to the other after divorce to help care for their child’s basic needs, including the costs of housing, clothing, food, education, and medical care.
Georgia uses what is known as the Income Shares Model in calculating child support. This estimates the total that both parents would spend in caring for their child in an intact family and then splits this amount proportionately according to the parents’ incomes. The noncustodial parent will pay the primary custodial parent their share of the support.
The Georgia Child Support Commission provides worksheets and calculators to estimate the amount of child support you can expect. Calculations must include all income, including:
- Commissions, tips, and fees
- Any self-employment income
- Dividend income
- Military pensions
- Unemployment insurance benefits
FAQ about Georgia divorce
How long will the divorce process take?
An uncontested divorce in Georgia typically takes six months to one year. The more you and your spouse can cooperate and agree to terms, the quicker your divorce will be. Contested divorces in Georgia can take anywhere from six months to several years, depending on the complexities of your case.