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Introduction to Divorce in Georgia 


It is the public policy of the State of Georgia to preserve marriages. Consequently, the State has set out strict rules for obtaining divorces. This section seeks to set out some of the facts and law concerned in Georgia divorce actions. Some of these facts and laws may involve one divorce and not another, and not all of the laws, issues and rules are set out here. What is set out on this website is to assist you in understanding divorce, but it is absolutely necessary to consult an attorney before taking any action based upon information presented here.

Valid Marriage: In order to obtain a divorce, the parties must have a valid marriage. Georgia recognizes ceremonial marriages and some ‘common-law’ marriages. A ceremonial marriage is one in which a marriage license is obtained and some sort of ceremony is performed by an authorized person such as a minister or judge. Georgia also recognizes common-law marriages which occurred before 1997. A common-law marriage is one in which the parties simply agreed they were married and never obtained a marriage license holding themselves out to the community as married. For a valid marriage, both parties must not have a living spouse at the time of the marriage.

In order to marry, a Georgia resident must be 18 years of age. However, persons 16 and 17 may marry with parental permission, and pregnant women under the age of 18 may marry without parental permission.

For details on rules and procedures on how to obtain a license, click http://www.cobbcounty.org/judicial/probate/marriage_lic.htm.

Grounds for divorce: To obtain a divorce you must have a legal reason. The law refers to this reason as a ground for divorce. The most common ground for divorce in recent years is that the marriage is irretrievably broken [see ground 13 under 'Grounds for Divorce']. This ground is the basis for the so-called ‘no fault’ divorce. There are several other statutory grounds for divorce based upon the ‘fault’ of one of the parties to the marriage. The implication of an at fault divorce is such that one spouse should be denied or limited in the receipt of either property or rights upon the actual divorce.

Uncontested divorce: Even when the ground for divorce is based upon the fault of one of the parties, the parties often reach an agreement on all issues concerned in the divorce. The agreement of the parties is written down in a ‘settlement agreement’, which is filed with the court and made a part of the Final Decree of Divorce. This is referred to as an uncontested divorce. Ironically, even though the parties can agree on almost every aspect of the divorce settlement agreement, the State’s policy against divorce prevents the parties from agreeing that they are going to be divorced. Only the court can decide the issue of whether the parties can divorce. Most often, a judge is amenable to allow a divorce and is unconcerned except as it relates to the couple's minor children.  That is, support, custody and visitation.

In most metro Atlanta counties if there are minor children as a result of the marriage the local court rules mandate in all but the most unusual cases that both parents go to a divorcing parents’ seminar. In Cobb County the Superior Court website at http://www.cobbcounty.org/judicial/superior_admin/sca_programs.htm#focus  gives a detailed description of the process.

Contested divorces are often times the most difficult because the emotion of such a stressful event overshadows the reasonableness of the litigants.  Several counties in Metro Atlanta mandate that if the parties cannot reach an agreement on there own that prior to the court allowing the lawsuit to be placed on a final hearing calendar the parties must attend to a mediation meeting with a court appointed mediator who’s fees for the meeting will be split evenly between the parties and the parties are ordered to participate in such mediation in good faith.  Frankly, people are generally much more satisfied with an agreement if they participate and achieve a negotiated resolution of there case as opposed to a judge or jury mandating the circumstances which will govern their lives from that point forward.

Revised 040323

The sublinks in this website are designed to be general information on the subjects given.  It is very important that whatever facts you have be given to the attorney because your special circumstances may effect the advice given to you.