How to Divorce a Missing or Abandoned Spouse in Georgia

By Jennifer Williams

The state of Georgia provides a variety of recourse for spouses needing divorce by default. Divorce by default in Georgia includes situations in which a spouse is missing, has abandoned the family or simply does not respond to a Petition for Dissolution. While Georgia maintains a no-fault "irretrievably broken" ground for divorce, abandonment and desertion are also grounds and these grounds may apply, even if your spouse's whereabouts are known.

Fault and No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

Abandonment as a grounds for divorce in the state of Georgia means a spouse has left the marital home and relationship with no intention of returning. If one spouse forces the other to leave through abusive behavior, the victim spouse can name constructive desertion as a divorce ground. While Georgia also provides the no-fault ground that the marriage is "irretrievably broken," naming grounds in the Petition for Dissolution allows the court to consider fault in decisions of spousal support, custody and property division.

Filing for Divorce

An individual must be a permanent resident of the state for six consecutive months before filing for divorce in a Georgia state court. The process begins by filing a Petition for Dissolution. The petition should state the grounds for the divorce. Fault grounds should be accompanied by a description of all negative effects the other spouse's actions have had on the petitioning spouse and family.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


The Petition for Dissolution must be served on the other spouse, after which he has 20 days to file an answer. If the other spouse does not respond within the required 20 days, the petitioning spouse may move for a default judgment of divorce. When a spouse cannot be found to be served, the petitioning spouse must conduct a diligent search before asking for a default judgment of divorce. A diligent search consists of contacting relatives, friends, professional organizations, sending a Freedom of Information Act request to the Postal Service for the last address of record, and searching DMV records, police and jail records and even local hospitals in an effort to locate the missing spouse.

Dilligent Search - No Response

If a diligent search for a missing spouse produces no results, a sworn statement must be filed detailing the search and state the missing spouse cannot be found. The court considers the statement and, if satisfied, issues an order of publication allowing notice of the pending divorce to be published in a local newspaper for four consecutive weeks. If, after that time, the missing spouse still has not responded, the petitioning spouse moves for, and is granted, a default judgment of divorce. However, jurisdiction is limited when service is achieved by publication. The court may grant the divorce and custody of any minor children, but is precluded from dividing property or ordering spousal or child support.

Settlement Agreement...Or Not

If the spouse is not missing and service was achieved, it is in the best interest of both spouses to come to a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is an agreement of all issues, such as property division, spousal support, custody, child support and visitation. Any issues not agreed upon by the parties are decided by the court, which considers any grounds named in the petition while making its decision. This means the petitioning spouse is more likely to get what she asks for when grounds are named in the petition.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Get Divorced From Someone in Prison in Georgia


Related articles

Texas Divorce Due to Abandonment of Deported Illegal Aliens

Although there is no specific reference to illegal aliens in the Texas Family Code, deportation of an illegal alien spouse may be considered abandonment and grounds for a divorce. A criminal conviction or the couple living apart are also grounds for divorce that may be supported by the deportation of the illegal alien. Any divorce petition must be served on the deported spouse, which has its own challenges; however, they may be overcome. Texas law also provides for no-fault divorce.

The Inability to Serve Divorce Papers in Texas

It's frustrating when the respondent in a lawsuit is dodging process, especially in a divorce case. Ordinarily, a divorce petition is served by hand-delivering it to the respondent. But the case can proceed even when the respondent is avoiding service of process. A petitioner can serve the respondent by having the process server tape the divorce petition to the respondent's front door, or by publishing a notice of the divorce suit in a local newspaper, with the permission of the court.

What Is the Difference Between a Default Divorce & No Fault in Arizona?

Arizona’s no-fault divorce laws make it easier to obtain a divorce than in other states where you must prove wrongful conduct on the part of your spouse. Even though Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, your spouse has the right to challenge your request to end the marriage by filing opposing papers with the court. If your spouse does not file the papers in time, the court may grant you a divorce by default.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Steps to Filing for Divorce in Pierce County, Washington

The state of Washington permits you to obtain a divorce if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. State law ...

How Do I File for Divorce in Oregon?

In Oregon, divorce is called dissolution of marriage. Either spouse can file for dissolution and must do so in ...

Texas Divorce Procedures for a Missing Spouse

There are times when a spouse wants a divorce, but the other spouse has either disappeared or moved out of state. The ...

How to File a Divorce in the Dallas County Courts

To file for a divorce in Dallas County, Texas, at least one party to the divorce must be a resident of Texas for a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED