What are the grounds for Divorce in Georgia? What does that even mean? Well, the grounds for divorce are the specific circumstances under the law where the court can grant a divorce. A person seeking a divorce must state one of the grounds and be able to prove this to the court. Each state has different sets of grounds for divorce.
There are 13 grounds for filing a divorce in Georgia which are found in O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3. However the most used is the “no fault” ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken. For this to be sufficient there must be no hope of reconciliation between the parties.
Other commonly used grounds would include adultery, habitual intoxication, habitual drug addiction, and cruel treatment. These grounds will require certain types of proof.
For adultery, the act must have been committed during the marriage. Circumstantial evidence can be used to prove the adultery. (You don’t have to have pictures of your spouse in the act.) Sometimes proving this is a tricky thing. An experienced attorney can advise you on this.
For habitual intoxication one instance of intoxication is not enough. However, the spouse does not have to be continuously intoxicated for this ground to be sufficient. The same issues apply for habitual drug addiction. There is a wide range between one time and continuously. It will all depend upon the circumstances of your case.
For cruel treatment to be sufficient, the treatment must be willful (on purpose) and cause apprehension of danger to the spouse. Unless it is a severe act, generally one act of personal violence is not considered cruel treatment. There are a lot of factors to be considered before filing a divorce solely on the ground of cruel treatment.
Other less commonly used grounds for divorce include: a marriage formed between people too closely related; mental incapacity at the time of the marriage; impotency at the time of the marriage; pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband at the time of the marriage and unknown to the husband; willful and continued desertion by one of the parties for a year; conviction of a party for a crime involving moral turpitude in which there is a two year or longer sentence of imprisonment; and incurable mental illness. Although these are not as common, they may be relevant to your personal situation.
Often, if the parties can work out an agreement for an uncontested divorce, the general no fault ground is used even if there are other grounds for the divorce. There is no need to cause additional drama if an amicable divorce is possible.
Your situation may include one or more of the grounds for divorce. Your family law attorney can help you decide on the proper strategy for your situation.
An often asked question is “Do I need an attorney for a divorce?” The answer is it really depends on your circumstance.
Some people can and do file their own divorce. There are forms available online that some people are able to use effectively. This is especially true if there are no children from the marriage and few if any assets or debts to be divided. And some people have enough confidence to represent themselves in court.
If children are involved it becomes more complicated. There are forms for child support and parenting that must be filled out completely and correctly. If the paperwork is not correct or complete, the Court will not grant the divorce. The letter from the Court will often contain language that the lay person does not understand. They will have no idea what is wrong and how to fix it. Sometimes untangling the documents filed in a do-it-yourself divorce takes an attorney longer (and costs more money) to fix than if an attorney drafted the paperwork at the start.
In addition, it is very important to get the custody, visitation and child support issues right in the divorce decree. It sets the standard for changing those things in the future. It is also how your children’s lives will operate in the future. An attorney can provide valuable advice on these things.
If there are significant assets or debts to be divided, the language used in the agreement is very important. For example, there could be serious tax consequences that you might not understand. It is unlikely that an attorney can change these things later if the agreement isn’t exactly what you thought it was.
If your spouse has an attorney and the divorce is contested, you are at a disadvantage if you don’t have one as well. If the divorce ends up in a trial, your spouse’s attorney will know the rules of evidence and court procedure… and you will be on your own.
Some people just can’t represent themselves in court. They are so nervous and afraid that they can’t function. They don’t know what to bring to court, what to say, they have a hard time speaking in a crowded courtroom, or they don’t even know what they really want the court to do. For those people, an attorney is a must. The attorney can prepare that person and conduct the hearing in a way to help make them more comfortable. (Everyone is still nervous!)
Many attorneys will review documents and give advice for a small fee.
If money is an issue, and you really need an attorney, think about taking out a loan, using a credit card, or finding an attorney who has some sort of a payment plan. Many people find the money they spend on a good attorney will save them time, money, and hassles in the long run.
But the decision is yours and based on your unique circumstances.
Often I have a potential client come for a consultation and ask “Do I need a divorce?” I always tell them that they are the only one who can answer that question. No one else knows exactly what is going on in that marriage. No one else has to live with the consequences of whether they get a divorce.
Of course there are situations where there is pressure from other people to either stay or leave a marriage. They may be concerned about safety issues, financial issues, or family relationship issues. But the decision must be made by the individual living in the situation.
Some couples are able to work through issues including extramarital affairs, domestic violence incidents, alcohol and substance abuse issues, and financial issues through counseling. If the counseling works, the couple often end up with a stronger marriage.
On the other hand, some people just aren’t able to trust their partner again after such issues arise whether they go to counseling or not. And some people would never consider sharing their issues with a counselor.
All of it is very personal and differs from person to person.
Sometimes a person just needs to explore all of their options before making a decision. If so, a consultation with a family law attorney might help.
What happens if you want to move out of state and the other parent doesn’t know or doesn’t want the children to go? Well…it depends.
In Georgia, the Court can’t generally enter an order that prohibits you from leaving the state after a final order is entered. But the Court can decide whether the move is in the best interest of the child.
That means you can’t just take the children and move. Generally there are provisions in the Parenting Plan, Settlement Agreement and/or Divorce Decree that require you to provide notice to the other parent before moving with the children. We usually see that the custodial parent should provide 30 days notice (or as soon as practical). But you should check your documents to see what provisions apply to you.
The notice provides time for the non-custodial parent to file a lawsuit with the Court to modify the custody or visitation provisions.
If you are on good terms with the other parent, the two of you may be able to agree on an uncontested modification. That is, maybe the two of you can agree on where the children will stay and how you will change visitation (including transportation). If so, contact an attorney as soon as you have an agreement so everything can be legally done as close to your move as possible.
If not, and the other parent files a modification action, you should discuss the situation with an attorney immediately. Your attorney can assess the specific facts of your case including but not limited to: the reason for the move, the support system in the new state, the benefits to the child in the new state, the child’s wishes regarding the move, and any other relevant factors.
If you find yourself in this situation, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss the specifics of your case.
Illinois law changed on January 1, 2018 to include pets when dividing possessions and responsibilities in a divorce. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Atlanta is the nation's 9th best city for dog owners, according to a 2016 survey from Realtor.com. More than 54 percent of Atlantan households own a dog, according to a study by Realtor.com. Just under half of all Georgia households own a dog, and 55% own either a dog or a cat (or both) according to ASPCA estimates.
Although many couples consider their pets as their children, the law has not generally allowed the courts to consider them as such. In Illinois the courts can now consider the best interest of the animal when deciding on sole or joint ownership in a divorce. The ownership of the animal is decided using the same guidelines used for child custody and/or property division. The law does not apply to service animals.
There are many local ordinances that deal with the number and type of pets allowed in certain Georgia communities. Nonetheless, there are no provisions in the Georgia divorce laws that specifically mention pets. As such there are no specific guidelines for the Georgia courts to use if ownership of a pet is an issue in a divorce.
In my experience, the judges have not been willing to consider the ownership of a pet in a divorce action. I have, however, had several divorces where the ownership of one or more pets was the most emotional issue of the divorce. In those instances the parties either agreed on the ownership or the person with current possession was able to retain the animal.
So if ownership of your pet may become a primary or emotional issue in your Georgia divorce, you should avoid confrontation with your spouse and speak with an experienced attorney. The attorney may have suggestions for negotiating a reasonable agreement with your spouse.
Nedra K. Howard
Nedra has represented clients in matters relating to divorce, separate maintenance, child custody and support, family violence protective orders, adoption, prenuptial agreements, business disputes and litigation, personal injury, property damage, and wills.