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Domestic Relations
Domestic Relations

Divorce and Legal Separation

A divorce ends your marriage. After you get divorced, you will be single, and you can marry again. If you get divorced, you can ask the judge for orders like child support, spousal support, custody and visitation, domestic violence restraining orders, division of property, and other orders.

Although the procedure and most of the issues involved are the same, a legal separation does not end a marriage. You can't marry someone else if you are legally separated (and not divorced). A legal separation is for couples that do not want to get divorced but want to live apart. The court order generally defines the rights and responsibilities of the spouses between each other while living apart. Couples sometimes prefer separation for religious reasons.

Filing for divorce

You must file your petition for divorce with the Superior Court. In most cases, this will be the county in which the defendant resides. Title 19 Chapter 5 of the Georgia Code describes the specific details your petition must include. Click here to go to a site where you can search the Georgia Code. O.C.G.A. §19-5-5 lists all the items that are required to be included in the petition.

The grounds for the divorce have to be in the complaint/petition.The Georgia statutes list thirteen grounds for divorce. Most divorces are granted on the no-fault grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The twelve other fault grounds may be found in O.C.G.A.§19-5-3.

Once you have filed in the office of the Clerk of court, the clerk will file, record, and date stamp your petition. You must notify the defendant of the petition either by a waiver of service, personal service made by the Sheriff, Marshal or a private process server authorized by the court or by publication as appropriate under the state statutes. The court will charge a filing fee and you may also be required to pay a service or publication fee.

Rules and procedures

To obtain this information, you will need to research the Georgia statutes, uniform rules, and court procedures in your county law library, or consult with an attorney. Some Clerks of Court maintain lists of attorneys who can be retained to assist you, or you may wish to contact the local bar association for a list of attorneys.

Many of the superior courts require parties to attend a divorcing parents seminar. You should contact the judge's office in the county in which the divorce action is filed to determine the requirements.

The Hearing

Some courts may grant uncontested divorces without a hearing. Other courts require a formal hearing to be held in divorce cases and all parties involved must appear. You should contact the judge's office to find out if you are required to appear in court in your case.

A judge may or may not make a decision at the hearing. If a decision is not made at the hearing, there is no specific deadline for a judge to give a decision. In general, the judge tries to reach a decision as quickly as possible after the conclusion of the hearing.

Final divorce decree

A final decree of divorce may be granted no sooner than thirty-one days following the filing of the petition. The time may be longer if there are issues that need to be resolved by the court.

You may obtain a copy of your divorce decree from the Clerk of Superior Court in the county in which the divorce action was filed. Ordinarily there will be a fee for a copy of the decree.

You will have the legal authority to remarry after your divorce decree is final.

Annulment

An annulment is when a court says your marriage is not legally valid.

Annulments of marriages declared void by law may be granted by the superior court. However, annulments may not be granted in cases where children are born or are going to be born as a result of the marriage. See O.C.G.A. §19-4-1.

An annulment has the effect of a divorce between the parties of a void marriage, and returns the parties to their original status before marriage. However, a decree of annulment does not clear the parties to a marriage of criminal charges or responsibilities caused by the marriage. See O.C.G.A. § 19-4-5

A marriage that is incestuous or bigamous is never valid. Other marriages can be declared void because one or both parties were unable to contract marriage. For example, a person may be too young to consent to marriage. O.C.G.A. §19-3-2, 19-3-3.

Annulments are rare. If you ask to have your marriage annulled, you will have to go to hearing with a judge.

Parentage Overview

In parentage cases (also called "paternity cases"), the court says who a child's parents are. If parents are married when a child is born, there is usually no question about parentage. The law assumes that the husband is the father.

Parents who are not married when a child is born can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity before they leave the hospital or after. The acknowledgment is recorded in the putative father registry maintained by the Department of Human Resources. See O.C.G.A. §19-7-46.1

When people who are not married can't agree about paternity, the court can order genetic testing. The superior and state courts have concurrent jurisdiction in all proceedings for the determination of paternity of children who are residents of this state.

Usually a child's parentage must be established before you can get child support or custody and visitation orders. You can ask the judge for child support or custody and visitation orders as part of a case that establishes the child's parentage.