Wondering if legal separation in Georgia is right for you?
Or you already know, but you want to learn more about legal separation.
Either way, this blog is for you.
This article is your deep dive into legal separation in Georgia.
You’re going to learn things like:
- What Is Legal Separation?
- How Legal Separation Works
- How To Separate Without Messing Things Up
- Legal Separation Costs You’ll Have To Pay
- Georgia Separation Laws You Need To Know About
- Key Differences Between Legal Separation vs Divorce
- The Truth About Legal Separation In Georgia
- Issues Your Marriage Separation Agreement Addresses
- How To Get Legal Separation Papers
- Important Details About Legal Separation In Georgia
- How To Have A Quick and Easy Legal Separation
So, let’s dig in.
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Legal Separation In Georgia
Okay, here’s the deal. Georgia laws make this topic super confusing.
For normal family laws:
- Legal separation is living separate lives without legally divorcing.
- Separation maintenance is spousal support for legal separation. (It would get called alimony if it was a divorce instead of a legal separation.)
But for the family laws in Georgia:
- Legal separation is informally separating right before you file for divorce.
- Separation maintenance is living separate lives without legally divorcing.
Notice how Georgia calls separation maintenance legal separation. They SHOULD be referring to separation maintenance as spousal support for legal separation.
I am going to refer to legal separation as legal separation since that’s what it’s normally called.
There are two main concepts to legal separation in Georgia. They are:
- separating prior to filing for divorce in Georgia
- separating instead of divorce
So, what is a legal separation?
Related: Questions to Ask A Divorce Lawyer
What Is Legal Separation
Legal separation is a court-ordered arrangement where a married couple leads separate lives. A legal separation is good for couples who are unsure about divorce but want to split up. A legal separation will establish financial boundaries and responsibilities. They determine things like:
- how assets are divided
- how debts are divided
- child custody
- child visitation
- child support
Now that you know what is legal separation, let’s talk about how legal separation works.
How Legal Separation Works
How legal separation works is like this. A legal separation will not legally end your divorce. A legal separation allows you to move on and live separate lives but remain legally married. When you get a legal separation, the separation agreement is a court-ordered agreement. Meaning if your spouse violates the agreement, it can get enforced by the courts.
If you are considering a divorce in Georgia, you have to start with legal separation.
This does not mean that either you or your spouse have to move out of the house. It just means that you have to have separate rooms and suspend “marital relations.” Basically, this means that you cannot be intimate with each other.
Related: Reasons a Judge Will Change Custody
How To Separate In Georgia
There are a few steps you need to take when figuring out how to separate. When you’re figuring out how to separate, take into consideration:
- Where are you moving to? Or are you staying in the marital home?
- What’s the purpose of separating, but remaining married?
- Get legal advice to navigate the complexities of legal separation.
- Determine what you want your spouse to gain from your leaving.
- Explain what’s going on to your kids.
- Establish boundaries and responsibilities for you and your spouse. Especially about the children.
Now that you know some of the things to consider, let’s talk about how to file for legal separation.
How To File For Legal Separation
Are you trying to figure out how to file for legal separation? Your attorney will handle everything for you. But maybe you’re trying to file for legal separation in Georgia on your own. Or you just want to know what the steps are to filing for legal separation. Either way, here are the steps.
How to file for legal separation:
- confirm that you meet the state’s residency requirements
- file the petition for legal separation
- file the legal separation agreement
- serve your spouse with the legal separation agreement
- negotiate and settle unresolved issues
- sign and notarize the legal separation
- receive your separation orders from the judge
How Long Does It Take To Get A Legal Separation
How long does it take to get a legal separation depends on the reason for the legal separation. Legal separation with the intent to divorce is faster than legal separation without the intent to divorce. With intent to divorce, legal separation can happen as soon as one spouse meets the separation requirements. One spouse has to move out of the house or into another bedroom with the intent to divorce. If there is no intent to divorce, legal separation takes much longer. For this, you will have to go through the legal separation process with the courts. This means that legal separation can take as little as 30 days or up to a year. It depends on how contested the legal separations are. If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the separation, it is uncontested. This means that your separation process will be as little as 30 days. If you are contesting issues like child custody, alimony, and division of assets, then it will take much longer.
Related: Grounds for Full Custody of Child
How To Separate From Spouse While Living Together
Not everyone can afford to move out immediately when they decide they want a legal separation. Some people are trying to figure out how to separate from a spouse while living together. Let’s talk about some guidelines on how to separate from a spouse while living together.
- establish and maintain the intent to separate
- use separate bedrooms
- don’t have sexual relations
- make your spouse responsible for maintaining their space
- establish separate finances if possible
- establish who gets what groceries
- establish who does the cooking, cleaning, yard work, maintenance, etc.
- figure out each spouse’s schedule with the children (if any)
Related: How to Leave Your Husband
Legal Separation Costs
What are the legal separation costs that you will deal with? Legal separation costs are the same as the costs of divorce. You will have to pay for:
- filing legal separation papers
- a family lawyer who specializes in legal separation in Georgia
- mediation (to help you settle disputes)
- court appearances
Legal separation costs can range from ~$1,200 up to $30,000. The amount of legal separation costs you’ll pay depend on how contested the separation is. The more contested and drawn out the separation is, the more it’s going to cost you and your spouse.
How Much Is A Legal Separation
How much is a legal separation depends on how contested the issues are. If you and your spouse agree on all issues, legal separation costs an average of $4,100. If the legal separation has contested issues, it costs an average of $20,400. Fighting over custody of children drives up the legal separation costs significantly.
Georgia Separation Laws
What Georgia separation laws are important? The Georgia separation laws state that the grounds for legal separation in Georgia are:
- The separation between the parties was by a mutual agreement (no-fault).
- The separation between the parties was due to misconduct on the part of the Defendant. (The Plaintiff must explain the nature of this misconduct. This may be adultery, excessive drug use, domestic violence, abandonment, etc.)
This is basically saying that you can get legal separation for irreconcilable differences or based on fault.
Another aspect you have to consider about the Georgia separation laws are the residency requirements. There are no residency requirements to get a legal separation in Georgia. But the courts MUST have personal jurisdiction over the person being served separation papers. So, what are the main differences between legal separation vs divorce?
Legal Separation vs Divorce
The topic of legal separation vs divorce can be confusing. There are some key differences when it comes to legal separation vs divorce. The overarching difference with legal separation vs divorce is that your marriage is dissolved in a divorce. The other differences in legal separation vs divorce are that legal separation:
- allows spouses to keep health insurance
- means you have not been legally divorced
- allows spouses to continue making medical and financial decisions for the other spouse without a power of attorney in Georgia
- means that debts and liabilities may (or may not) get separated
- allows spouses to maintain property rights in the event of a spouse dying without a last will and testament
- allows the spouses to more easily have reconciliation
Not that we have talked about the key differences in legal separation vs divorce, let’s talk about the similarities. The similarities for legal separation vs divorce are:
- spousal support (called separation maintenance)
- child custody
- child visitation
- assets get divided
- debts get divided
Why would you get a legal separation instead of a divorce?
Why Would You Get A Legal Separation Instead Of A Divorce?
You’re wondering what are the reasons why would you get a legal separation instead of a divorce. People get a legal separation instead of a divorce because of:
- religious beliefs
- pensions that get paid to surviving spouses
- social security
- filing taxes jointly
- keeping the family together legally for the sake of the children
- one spouse needs to maintain their health insurance
- aversion to divorce even though they want separate lives
- a legal separation is reversible
- not being eligible for a divorce per the residency requirements
Disadvantages of Legal Separation
You’re considering legal separation vs divorce. So, what are the disadvantages of legal separations in Georgia? The disadvantages of legal separation in Georgia are that:
- they can take as long, be as complex, and cost as much as a divorce in Georgia
- the emotional toll of remaining married, but legally separated
- having sexual relations with someone else can be considered adultery
- you’ll have to go through the process again if you end up getting a divorce
These are the main disadvantages of legal separations in Georgia.
Benefits of Legal Separation
Are there any benefits of legal separation? And if so, what are those benefits of legal separation? The main benefits of legal separation are:
- being able to save the relationship during the trial separation
- maintaining health insurance during separation
- tax savings from filing jointly
- helping secure loans and mortgages
- social security benefits
- maintaining military benefits
- upholding cultural or religious beliefs
The Truth About Legal Separation In Georgia
Let’s look at this study on legal separations in Georgia. They found that legal separation is not sustainable for most couples. The future of their relationship during separation was too unclear. Spouses who make the decision to separate rarely gave clear information on things like:
- how long the separation would last
- the REAL reason for separation
- the boundaries for their relationship during the separation
- the future goals of the relationship
Most people who were recipients of a legal separation had zero clarity on where their relationship stood. They had increased feelings of sadness, pain, and confusion as time passed. For this reason, most people just want the marriage to end after they have been legally separated for some time.
How Long Can You Be Legally Separated
When it comes to how long can you be legally separated, there is no set time limit. You can be legally separated for 3 months or 25 years. But what if you are using legal separations in Georgia as a basis for divorce? There is no rule for the amount of time you need to be separated before the divorce. In Georgia, you just have to have initiated the separation to get a divorce.
Average Length of Separation Before Reconciliation
The average length of separation before reconciliation is:
- three years who spouses who reconcile after getting divorced
- two years for spouses who reconcile after getting separated
80% of spouses who go through legal separation get divorced. Most of these happen within three years.
Related: Grandparents Rights In Georgia
Chances Of Reconciliation After Separation
The chances of reconciliation after separation are 40%. 75% of people report reconciling twice after a legal separation. The most common reason for reconciliation after separation is children.
How To Tell Your Husband You Want A Separation
So you’re thinking, “I want to leave my husband.” But you’re trying to figure out how to tell your husband you want a separation. This is not the time to lay blame or have a heated argument. When you tell your husband you want a separation, you need to be firm and direct. But you need to tell him with respect and kindness. The goal of this conversation is only to tell your husband you want a separation.
Related: Annulment in Georgia
Issues Your Marriage Separation Agreement Addresses
You’re probably wondering what gets included in a marriage separation agreement. A marriage separation agreement spells out the following terms:
- Who gets to keep possession and use of the marital home
- Who is be responsible for the expenses of the marital home (mortgage, utilities, insurance)
- If legal separation gets converted to a divorce who will pay for the expenses of the marital home
- How will assets and debts acquired during the marriage be divided.
- Whether spousal support will be offered
- Whether spousal benefits, such as medical insurance, will continue during the separation. And who will pay for them.
- The terms of child support, custody, and visitation rights
You may have special circumstances surrounding your legal separation in Georgia. In this case, work with your family lawyer to spell those out. These can include but are not limited to scenarios for:
- rental properties
- vacation rentals
- investment accounts
- business ownership
Related: Common Law Marriage in Georgia
How To Get Legal Separation Papers
When you hire an attorney, they will provide you with Georgia legal separation papers. They will tailor your legal separation papers to match your scenario. But you can also get generic copies of legal separation papers at your local Superior Court. If you get these legal separation papers, you will need to fully comprehend Georgia separation laws. Georgia separation laws can get complex quickly. Your family lawyer will also file your legal separation papers for you. If you are doing it yourself, file your legal separation papers at your local Superior Court.
Separation Maintenance Decree
A separation maintenance decree is the court order you will receive from the judge. A separation maintenance decree determines each spouse’s boundaries and financial responsibilities. A separation maintenance decree does not dissolve the marriage.
Important Details About Legal Separation In Georgia
There are some important details about legal separations in Georgia that you should know about. Things like:
- who pays the joint bills?
- do you have to pay for your spouse’s car insurance?
- can you remove your spouse from health insurance
Related: Child Support Laws Georgia
During Separation Who Pays The Bills
During separation who pays the bills depends on the separation agreement. Usually, who pays the bills will get spelled out in the legal separation agreement. Let’s say that your spouse is going to stay in the marital home while you move out. In this case, the separation agreement should show that your spouse is responsible. They should be responsible for the bills that they use. If they are living in the marital home, this would be things like:
- property taxes
If your name is still on these bills, you may have to have it changed to your spouse’s name. Otherwise, you run the financial risk of them not paying bills in your name. This can ruin your credit and cause you to go into collections.
Related: Emergency Custody
Can I Remove My Spouse From My Car Insurance
Another question we get asked a lot is, “Can I remove my spouse from my car insurance?” You cannot remove your spouse from your car insurance without their consent. They are still on the policy. And a car insurance company cannot remove your spouse without their consent. If you are legally separated, your spouse will remain on your car insurance. That is unless they consent to be removed from the car insurance.
Health Insurance During Separation
What happens to health insurance during separation? When you get legal separations in Georgia, health insurance will stay the same. A spouse cannot cancel health insurance during separation. The only way that they can cancel health insurance during divorce is if both spouses consent to it. One spouse cannot remove another spouse without their consent. And a legal separation in Georgia does not dissolve the marriage in the law’s eyes. So, health insurance during separation is not affected.
How To Have A Quick and Easy Legal Separation
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