Does Legal Separation Need to Precede a Divorce in GA?
Not exactly, because Georgia doesn’t recognize legal separations. If you and your spouse are not sure if you want a divorce yet but want to be separated, you can opt for separate maintenance. This will allow you to stay married in the eyes of the law.
It is a great option for couples who need the court to decide on family issues, such as alimony, property division, child visitation and support, so they can begin living separate lives while remaining married. The entire separate maintenance ends when one spouse files for a formal divorce.
There is a Separation or Cooling Off Period Before You Can Get a Divorce
While spouses must be separated before they can file a divorce in GA, this does not necessarily mean that one of you must move out of the house or file for separate maintenance before getting a divorce. Under the law, the court will consider a married couple separated if they maintain separate households and don’t have any marital relations, even if they live in the same home. Likewise, you do not need to have any type of agreement while separated unless it’s necessary.
Once you file your divorce paperwork and serve a copy to your spouse, the court must wait for at least 30 days before it can schedule your final divorce hearing. Ideally, you can use this time to resolve all your divorce-related issues. If you and your spouse are able to agree on all your issues, you can put the terms in your divorce agreement, which the judge must review to ensure that it’s fair for all parties. Otherwise, the judge must make the decisions for you and schedule a trial.
Why Some Couples Choose Separate Maintenance Over Divorce
Choosing between divorce and separate maintenance is an immensely personal decision. Some couples have simply drifted apart but are not ready to get a divorce just yet. Separate maintenance is likewise an option for couples that think that reconciliation is possible.
Other couples opt for separate maintenance because it is against their religion to get a divorce. For these couples, while they remain legally married, they can be free from their traditional marriage roles while staying true to their religious beliefs.
In addition, if one spouse is receiving medical coverage through their spouse’s employer, getting a divorce will terminate the coverage. If this applies to your situation, it’s best to talk to the medical insurance provider to make sure that filing for separate maintenance will not terminate the coverage.
While 30 days may seem like a short time to wait before the divorce proceedings can begin, it may feel unbearably long for some couples, so they choose to file for separate maintenance because the judge can initiate it within three days of both spouses getting the paperwork.
Seek Legal Advice From a Top Family Lawyer in GA
If you need legal advice about separate maintenance, divorce, or other family law issues, please reach out to Banks, Stubbs & McFarland. You can schedule your free case consultation with our GA family lawyer by calling 770-887-1209 or sending us an online message.