Divorce, Alimony & Children in Georgia

by Elizabeth Rayne
Once a divorce if finalized, a change in circumstance can warrant a modificaion in child custody.

Once a divorce if finalized, a change in circumstance can warrant a modificaion in child custody.

Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

From property division to alimony and child custody, divorcing couples have a lot to consider. In Georgia, couples can divorce using either fault or no-fault grounds, meaning a spouse may or may not place blame on the other spouse for the dissolution of the marriage. The couple might agree on a parenting plan or how to separate property, but when they cannot agree, the court decides.

Grounds and Residency Requirements for Divorce

To obtain a no-fault divorce in Georgia, a couple divorces on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning neither party is at fault for causing the dissolution -- and reconciliation is not possible. Fault grounds for divorce in Georgia include adultery, desertion, habitual drunkenness, and mental or physical abuse. Additionally, to divorce in the state, at least one spouse must be a resident for 6 months prior to filing, or Georgia must be the last place the parties resided as a married couple.

Property Division

If the divorcing couple cannot come to an agreement on how to divide property, courts in Georgia follow the equitable distribution guidelines to determine how to split up the assets. Courts will only divide marital assets, which include most property acquired during the marriage, without regard to how the asset is titled, or which spouse actually acquired the asset. However, property received as a gift or inheritance is usually not considered marital property. Courts will determine how to fairly and equitable distribute the assets, meaning that the spouses will not necessarily receive an equal portion of the marital property following the divorce.

Child Custody

If the parents can come to an agreement concerning child custody, they can jointly submit a parenting plan to the court that makes it clear what time each parent will have with the child. If the parents cannot agree, Georgia courts will consider a number of factors when making custody determinations, with the primary focus on what is in the best interest of the child. The factors that the court will consider include the affection and bonding between the child and his parents and siblings, each parent's ability and familiarity with meeting the child's needs, the mental and physical health of each parent, and similar factors. A Georgia court might award joint or sole physical custody, which refers to where the child resides. In a sole custody situation, the noncustodial parent typically has visitation rights. The court might also grant sole or joint legal custody, which refers to how the parents will make major life decisions affecting the child. Even when parents have joint physical custody and the children live with each of them a fairly equal amount of time, judges typically name one parent as primary custodian for such purposes as school and medical paperwork.

Alimony

Georgia courts may award permanent or temporary alimony as part of the divorce decree. However, if separation of the parties was due to a party's adultery or desertion, the party at fault is not entitled to alimony. To make an alimony determination, the court considers the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the length of the marriage, the financial circumstances of each spouse after the divorce, and the spouse's ability to pay alimony.