Divorce is the legal recognition that your marriage has ended. If you or your spouse is an inmate in a state prison in Georgia, either one of you can still file for divorce. However, to file for divorce in Georgia, you must follow the proper procedure including meeting the state’s residency requirements, filing a divorce complaint with the appropriate court, and serving the other spouse with a copy of the divorce complaint.
For a Georgia court to have jurisdiction over your divorce, you must satisfy Georgia’s residency requirements. According to Georgia law, you must live in a Georgia county for at least six months prior to filing for divorce in that county. A prison or jail is not considered your county of residence. You can file in the Georgia county where you lived prior to your imprisonment, as long as you resided there for a minimum of six months and still consider it you place of residence. If your spouse has lived in a Georgia county for at least six months, you can file for divorce in your spouse's county of residence.
Filing the Divorce Complaint
To begin a divorce proceeding in Georgia, file the divorce complaint with the appropriate superior court. Due to your prison status, you may ask your spouse or an attorney to initiate the divorce complaint. When completing the divorce complaint, you will have the option of choosing a ground for the divorce. Georgia permits both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce. The no-fault ground is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. A no-fault divorce does not require either spouse to prove anything to the court or to show one spouse’s wrongdoing to obtain a divorce. There are several possible at-fault grounds for divorce in Georgia. Under each fault ground for a divorce, there is a provision for when you can bring the lawsuit against your spouse to the court. In all cases, you will need to submit the appropriate filing fee with your divorce complaint. Depending on the county, the filing fee for a divorce in Georgia can range from $200 to $250. However, the court may waive the fee if you submit a fee waiver request due to your status as a prison inmate.
Service of Process
After you file the divorce complaint, you must serve a copy of the complaint on your spouse. Providing your spouse with a copy of the complaint provides her with notice of the pending legal action. You can serve your spouse by mail, have the sheriff serve her, or hire a private process server. If your spouse is in prison, contact the prison to determine how an inmate accepts service of process. If you cannot find your spouse after a diligent search, then you must obtain documents for service by publication.
An incarcerated spouse is not able to attend the divorce hearing, unless he is to be released soon. Therefore, if you are not about to be released, you and your spouse should try to reach a settlement agreement on all the material aspects of your divorce, including the division of property and family support obligations, before you file the divorce complaint. As an inmate, you cannot request child custody. It may be difficult to discuss these matters when you are imprisoned; you can discuss them through the mail or during prison visiting hours.