Divorce in Georgia: everything you need to know

1 min readLast updated February 21, 2024by Unbiased team

From filing and records to costs and more, this guide will take you through divorce in Georgia and help you make informed decisions.

Summary

  • There are 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia which you must have before you can be granted a divorce.

  • The median cost of divorce in the US is $7,000, but this can fluctuate massively depending on your unique circumstances.

  • Georgia does not have a mandatory separation period for divorce.

  • A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.

What are the different types of divorce in Georgia?

Georgia recognizes two types of divorce: no-fault and fault-based.

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.
  • No-fault divorce: A no-fault divorce means that you do not have to prove that your spouse did something wrong to end the marriage. You can state that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no hope of reconciliation. A no-fault divorce is usually faster and easier than a fault-based divorce, as it does not require a trial or evidence.

  • Fault divorce: A fault-based divorce means that you have to prove that your spouse committed one of the 12 grounds for divorce in Georgia, such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, or mental illness. A fault-based divorce may be necessary if you want to seek a specific outcome, such as alimony, custody, or property division, that depends on the conduct of your spouse. However, a fault-based divorce is usually more expensive and contentious than a no-fault divorce, as it involves litigation and accusations.

How do you file for divorce in Georgia?

To file for divorce in Georgia, you must first meet the residency requirement, ensuring that either you or your spouse has lived in the state for a minimum of six months. The process involves several steps:

  1. Prepare Paperwork: Complete the necessary documents, including a complaint or petition for divorce, which should outline the grounds for divorce and the relief sought, such as child custody, alimony, or property division.

  2. File with the Clerk of the Superior Court: Submit the completed paperwork to the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where either you or your spouse resides.

  3. Pay Filing Fee: Accompany your filing with the payment of a filing fee, typically around $200, though the exact amount may vary by county.

  4. Serve Papers to Spouse: Serve a copy of the filed paperwork to your spouse through methods such as personal delivery, certified mail, or sheriff’s service.

  5. Wait for Response: Allow your spouse 30 days to respond to the complaint, during which they can either agree to the terms or contest them.

  6. Determine Divorce Type:

  • If both parties agree, you can proceed with an uncontested divorce, seeking court approval for the mutually agreed-upon terms.

  • If disputes arise, a contested divorce is necessary, and the court will be involved in resolving the issues.

How much does a divorce cost in Georgia?

The cost of divorce in Georgia depends on many factors, such as the type of divorce, the complexity of the case, the level of conflict, and the fees of the attorneys and other professionals involved.

According to a 2020 survey by Martindale-Nolo, the average cost of divorce in Georgia was $14,700, with $11,600 of that being attorney’s fees. However, the cost can vary widely, from as low as $4,100 for an uncontested divorce to as high as $41,500 for a contested divorce with complex issues.

Some of the costs that you may incur in a divorce in Georgia include:

  • Filing fees: These are the fees that you pay to the court to start the divorce process. They vary by county but are typically around $200.

  • Service fees: These are the fees that you pay to have your spouse served with the divorce papers. They can range from $20 to $100, depending on the method of service.

  • Attorney’s fees: These are the fees that you pay to your lawyer to represent you in the divorce. They can vary depending on the experience and reputation of the lawyer, the complexity of the case, and the hourly rate or flat fee that the lawyer charges. The average hourly rate for a divorce lawyer in Georgia was $280 in 2020, according to Martindale-Nolo.

  • Mediation fees: These are the fees that you pay to a mediator to help you and your spouse reach an agreement on the issues in your divorce. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process that can save you time and money by avoiding a trial. The average cost of mediation in Georgia was $3,000 in 2020, according to Martindale-Nolo.

  • Expert fees: These are the fees that you pay to experts who may be needed to provide testimony or evidence in your divorce, such as appraisers, accountants, psychologists, or child custody evaluators. The cost of experts can vary depending on their qualifications and the scope of their work.

  • Court costs: These are the fees that you pay to the court for various services, such as transcripts, copies, or subpoenas. They can vary depending on the county and the type of service.

How do you split assets in a divorce in Georgia?

Georgia follows the equitable distribution principle, which means that marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, between the spouses.

Marital property is any property that was acquired or earned during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title or deed.

Separate property is any property that either spouse owned before the marriage or that was received by either spouse as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. Separate property is not subject to division unless it is commingled with marital property.

The court will consider several factors when deciding how to divide marital property, such as:

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or improvement of the marital property

  • The income and earning potential of each spouse

  • The age and health of each spouse

  • The standard of living established during the marriage

  • The conduct of each spouse during the marriage

  • The needs and liabilities of each spouse

  • The tax consequences of the property division

The court will also consider any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements that the spouses may have signed as long as they are valid and enforceable.

How does alimony work in Georgia?

Alimony is a financial support that one spouse pays to the other after a divorce.

The purpose of alimony is to help the lower-income spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living and adjust to the economic changes caused by the divorce.

Georgia allows for two types of alimony: temporary and permanent.

  • Temporary alimony is paid while the divorce is pending in court, and it ends when the divorce is finalized.

  • Permanent alimony is part of the final divorce decree, and it continues after the divorce. However, permanent alimony is not necessarily for life. It can be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as remarriage, cohabitation, death, or retirement of either spouse.

When determining alimony, the court will consider several factors, such as:

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The income and earning potential of each spouse

  • The age and health of each spouse

  • The standard of living established during the marriage

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or improvement of the marital property

  • The needs and liabilities of each spouse

  • The conduct of each spouse during the marriage

  • The tax consequences of the alimony

What happens to children during a divorce in Georgia?

Georgia recognizes two types of child custody: physical and legal.

Physical custody refers to where the child resides. In contrast, legal custody refers to who has the authority to make major decisions for the child, such as education, health care, religion, and extracurricular activities.

Child custody is based on the best interests of the child. The court will consider several factors, such as:

  • The age and needs of the child

  • The relationship and bond between the child and each parent

  • The ability and willingness of each parent to care for the child

  • The stability and continuity of the child’s environment

  • The preference of the child, if the child is old enough and mature enough to express a reasonable preference

  • The mental and physical health of the child and the parents

  • The presence of any domestic violence, substance abuse, or criminal history of the parents

  • The cooperation and communication between the parents

How to protect your finances when going through a divorce in Florida

Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances.

You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.

Here are some ways you can protect your money when going through a divorce:

  • Organize your finances: Before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.

  • Consider mediation: Mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.

  • Think about Social Security: If you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.

  • Seek professional help: Divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.