A Georgia legal separation or an order for separate maintenance and support does not end a marriage. You can not marry someone else if you are legally separated and not divorced. A legal separation is for spouses that do not want to get divorced but want to live apart. The court order for separate maintenance and support will define the rights and responsibilities of the spouses while living apart and is enforceable through the contempt power of the court.
Either spouse may petition the court for alimony or child support without having a divorce pending. The other party will be notified of such a petition, and the judge can grant such an order, to be enforced in the same manner as a divorce. Georgia Code - Section: 19-6-10.
In Georgia, you may file for separate maintenance if you have a valid marriage and you are living in a state of separation. Unlike other states, you can still be sharing the same residence but not the same bed and your lives must be separate. There must not be a pending action for divorce. In Georgia a legal separation is fairly rare since there is no waiting period for a divorce. However, there may be reasons, such as maintaining health insurance, religious reasons or the possibility of reconciliation where a legal separation preferred over an absolute Georgia divorce.
There are some differences between a divorce and a suit for separate maintenance. First, there is no six month residency requirement. Second, the defendant must be personally served. Unlike divorce cases, there can be no decree where a defendant is served by publication. The place to file is in the county of the Defendant’s residence, or in the case of a nonresident defendant in the county where the Defendant is found.
In an uncontested suit for a legal separation, the parties work out a marital settlement agreement regarding issues such as child support, alimony, child custody, property division, and any other issues. The parties do not ask the Judge to settle arguments between them, but rather work things out by themselves. In an uncontested case, the Judge is only asked to approve the decisions which you have made together with your spouse. However, the agreement will be the basis for any future divorce action so you do not need to sign an agreement without the advice of a Georgia Divorce Attorney. The exact wording can make a great deal of difference in the future.
A contested suit for separate maintenance is one in which the parties cannot work out an agreement. The parties ask the Judge to settle the arguments between them, and each will have to present evidence at a trial. This process can be quite complicated and should not be attempted on your own. Your attorney will need additional documents in order to conduct discovery, which is a formal process of gathering evidence for use at trial. Discovery can include depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and other procedures. Here are the steps in a legal separation in Georgia.
STEP 1: Complete the Domestic Relations Filing Information and Final Disposition forms.
STEP 2: Complete the Complaint for Separate Maintenance.
STEP 3: Complete the Verification form.
STEP 4: Complete the Settlement Agreement, if possible.
STEP 5: Attach any other necessary documents.
STEP 6: Produce the required financial documents.
STEP 7: Pay the filing fee.
STEP 8: File the forms.
STEP 9: Serve the Defendant.
STEP 10: Prepare your case for trial, if no Settlement Agreement.
STEP 11: Receive the Final Judgment.
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