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Grounds for Divorce Under Georgia Divorce Laws

In the State of Georgia (the number one producer of the three p’s: peanuts, pecans, and peaches. Yum!). Georgia divorce laws state a divorce may be granted on any of the following grounds:

  1. Incest
  2. Mental incapacity
  3. Impotency
  4. Force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage
  5. Pregnancy of the wife by one other than the husband at the time of marriage, unknown to the husband (so, just to be clear, if you planned the pregnancy of your wife by another man, it’s not okay to then divorce her on those grounds)
  6. Adultery by either party
  7. Willful and continued desertion by either party for one year (if you have not seen your wife nor have any idea where she went off to for over a year, it’s probably time to move on and file for divorce)
  8. Conviction and imprisonment for at least two years for a crime of moral turpitude (these types of crimes generally involve fraud, larceny, and intent to harm others)
  9. Habitual intoxication or drug addiction (divorce is an option; rehab is also an option)
  10. Cruel treatment (your wife’s terrible cooking does not fall under this category; yes, it is unfortunate but unless she force-feeds you, it doesn’t count)
  11. Incurable mental illness
  12. The marriage is irretrievably broken

Waiting Period

A divorce based upon the irreparable destruction of the marriage will not be granted under Georgia divorce laws until at least 30 days after the divorce papers have been served to the other party.

Residency Requirements

In the Peach State, the person who files for divorce must be an actual and bona fide resident of the State for at least six months before being eligible to file for divorce.

Additionally, petition for divorce must be filed in that person’s county of residence. In the event that the person filing for divorce is not a resident of the State, the other spouse must be a resident for six months and the divorce must be filed in the county where that person lives. In short, at least one of you must be a resident of the state for six months in order to file for divorce in Georgia.

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

The place where you go to file for divorce is called the Superior Court. The action initiating the divorce proceeding is the Petition, while the action granting the divorce is referred to as the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. The filing party (this is the person who asks for the divorce) is called the Petitioner, while the other spouse is referred to as the Respondent.

Legal Separation

When the spouses are separated, Georgia divorce laws permit either party to petition the court for support on that party’s behalf or on the behalf of any minor children of the marriage.

Conciliation/Mediation

In any county with alternative dispute resolution programs, the court may refer all contested petitions for divorce to those programs. In addition, in counties without such programs, the court may still refer any disputed divorce case to participate in any reasonably available alternative dispute resolution program as it sees fit.

Alimony

Alimony may be awarded to either spouse on either a permanent or temporary basis in accordance with that party’s needs and the other party’s ability to pay. Some exceptions to this rule include:

  1. Adultery
  2. Desertion

In both of these cases, alimony is neither deserved nor owed so if you are the victim of adultery or desertion, you can rest easy knowing that you have one less problem to worry about.

The amount of alimony will be determined by the court after consideration of the following factors:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, physical and emotional condition of each party
  • The financial resources of each party (in simpler terms: the one with the higher income will be paying the alimony)
  • The time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education and training to find suitable employment
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage (what did she bring into the marriage? What did you bring into the marriage?)
  • The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity and fixed liabilities of each party
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant and just (basically anything the court thinks is important enough to warrant the payment of alimony)

Distribution of Property

And now we come to the fun part of the divorce process – distribution of property. The ever popular game of “What Belongs to Who?” If you don’t own any property, you can just sleep through this part. But the rest of you probably want to know what will happen to your house, your new car, and possibly even your dog (hey, I named him so I’m keeping him). So okay, any property acquired outside of the marriage is yours to keep (gifts given to your spouse do not count – Indian-giving is frowned upon in all 50 states and Canada). Any property acquired during the course of the marriage will be equitably distributed by the court as it sees fit.

Child Custody

The issue of custody of any minor children of the marriage will be determined by the best interests of the child. The court shall not prefer one party over the other on the basis of sex (or so they say). The court will consider instances of domestic violence in determining custody and may also order a psychological or medical evaluation of the family as it deems necessary.

Child Support

Either party may be ordered to pay child support. Georgia has enacted child support guidelines, which establish the presumptively correct amount of support to be paid. Deviation from these guidelines require a specific written finding on the record of the proceeding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust in the particular case. The record must further state what the amount of support would have been under the guidelines.

Justification for deviation from the guidelines include such things as:

  • The ages of the children
  • Educational costs
  • A child’s extraordinary medical costs
  • Day-care costs
  • Shared physical custody arrangements
  • A party’s support obligation to another household
  • Income that should be attributed to a party because of that
    party’s artificial suppression of income
  • In-kind income for the self-employed
  • Other support a party is willing to provide
  • A party’s own extraordinary expenses
  • Extreme economic circumstances
  • Historical spending in the family for children
  • Cost of living factors
  • Any other factor the court deems to be required by the ends
    of justice

Child support must be paid until the child turns eighteen, dies, gets married, or becomes emancipated (whichever happens first). In some cases, the court may order the continued support of a child who is enrolled in a secondary school until this “child” reaches the age of twenty.

The court may also order a party to provide medical insurance for the child if such insurance is reasonably available.

Name Change

In all divorce actions, the court will restore a party to a former or maiden name upon request.

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