How To End A Marriage In Georgia: A Primer

Obviously, you wouldn’t be checking out a family law website if you weren’t thinking about ending your marriage. With so many different legal terms in use and a variety of ways to end a marriage in Georgia, Family Matters Law Group thought it would be a good time to simply walk through some of the legal basics.

Despite all the excitement about wedding vows, pretty gowns, and romantic honeymoons, the legal fact is that marriage is a contract. You have to dissolve a contract in a certain way. You cannot just walk away from a marriage. That is considered abandonment and it’s a crime. Even if you walk away, you still have a legal obligation to support your children and legally, you cannot remarry until your previous marriage is ended by the court.


An annulment occurs when, after a marriage, it is determined that one spouse was never legally eligible to get married in the first place. If one partner was ineligible to get married, the marriage can be declared invalid through an annulment. This essentially means the marriage, in the eyes of the court, never took place. If, however, the marriage has produced a child or one is on the way, annulment is off the table and will not be granted.

There are a variety of circumstances that would make an annulment valid. For example, one person may have been tricked into getting married or may be mentally incompetent to the point that they did not understand they were getting married. One partner may have been underage at the time of the wedding. Do not assume your marriage is void automatically — you still need to go through a court and get an order.

Legal Separation/Separate Maintenance

Most people know the term legal separation, however in Georgia, we specifically use the term separate maintenance. Both terms give the same effect. With a legal separation, the marriage does not end but both parties act as if they are divorced. It’s a legal avenue to essentially treat the marriage as if it is ending, for all intents and purposes, without actually legally ending the marriage contract. It’s as if you are married in name only.

Sometimes people do not want to end a marriage on religious grounds. It could also be the case that there are financial reasons (such as a retirement plan or pension) that require two people to stay legally married. In either case, a separation is a way to move forward but not create a legal hassle.

Just like a divorce, a legal separation must be granted by the court and issues such as financial assistance, custody, and visitation rights must be decided upon. Grounds for a separation are the same as grounds for a divorce.

No Fault Divorce

In a no fault divorce, either party can request the dissolution of the marriage without having to give any specific reason other than “irreconcilable differences” (although you are still allowed to bring up the conduct of the other party in court). Most divorces in Georgia are no fault. After a divorce in Georgia, both parties are considered single. 

Fault Divorce

The state of Georgia allows people different reasons to claim a fault divorce. In a fault divorce, one party accuses the other of damaging the marriage beyond repair. While this accusation does not affect child support, it can affect alimony and asset division. This situation needs to be taken seriously.

There are five fault reasons that apply to the initial marriage date.:

  • The parties were related by marriage or blood.
  • One party was impotent.
  • One party was mentally incapacitated.
  • The marriage was obtained by force or fraud.
  • The wife was pregnant by another man and failed to inform her husband.

There are also reasons that apply to the time period during the marriage:

  • One or both parties has committed adultery.
  • One or both parties has deserted the marriage for at least a year.
  • One or both parties has committed a felony (usually involving a high level offense such as murder or rape)
  • One party has developed an addiction, alcoholism, or incurable mental illness.
  • One party is demonstrating regular cruelty towards the other.

Remember that the state of Georgia does not grant automatic divorces. After the defendant is notified of the divorce, there is a 30 day waiting period for the other side to file an answer and then thereafter the court may grant the request.

Ending a marriage in Georgia can be confusing. However, it must be done legally and correctly. Your best option is to find an experienced, caring family law attorney who can guide you through the process.

Family Matters Law Group has been helping clients throughout the Atlanta metro area for years with divorce and custody cases. We pride ourselves on fighting hard for your family and your assets. If we can help, contact us today and set up an initial consultation. We’re ready to hear your story and fight hard for you!