Divorce Process in Georgia

By Tom Streissguth

Georgia state laws govern the process of divorce. The state has adopted “no-fault” divorce, meaning you do not need specific grounds to file a divorce petition, other than a claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” A hearing in civil court will be necessary, however, and the state also has residency requirements for couples seeking a divorce.

Petitions

As the spouse filing for divorce, you are the petitioner, and the other party is the respondent. You must file the divorce petition in the county where the respondent lives or the county where you lived as a couple if the respondent has moved out of the state. The parties must be legally separated, and one of the parties must live in the state for at least six months before the divorce petition is filed.

Grounds

Georgia allows 12 grounds for divorce, in addition to the “no-fault” ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and the parties are unable to live together or reconcile. Fault grounds include adultery, desertion, abuse, impotency, drug addiction and mental illness. The respondent does not have to agree to or acknowledge the divorce grounds – fault or no-fault -- in order for the court to grant the divorce.

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Service

The petitioner files a complaint in superior court and then has the complaint served on the other party, unless the respondent acknowledges the action by signing a waiver. Law enforcement or a private process server may deliver the petition to the respondent. If the respondent does not want the court to grant the divorce, he or she may file an answer requesting that the court set out the terms of a legal separation, division of property and support. The petition may later ask for a final divorce decree.

Annulment

If there are no children, the court may grant an annulment instead of a divorce. This action acknowledges that no valid marriage took place due to fraud, incapacity or other legal grounds. If children are involved, you must file for divorce and must have child custody and child support approved by the court.

Settlement Agreement

If the parties agree to the terms of the divorce then they may submit a settlement agreement on the division of property, child custody and other matters. A superior court judge reviews the agreement and may approve it or ask the parties to attend a hearing at which they can argue the terms of the agreement. The court must wait at least 31 days after service of the petition on the respondent to grant an “uncontested” divorce. Contested divorces result in a court hearing and a final decision on the terms by a judge or a jury.

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References

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