Legal Separation Doesn’t Exist in Georgia, But Separate Maintenance Agreements Do

In many states, getting a legal separation gives couples a way to stay married while living apart and taking a break during some rough times. It offers couples a chance to make some changes potentially and, hopefully, keep things going in the face of a potential divorce.

Unfortunately, in Georgia, the courts do not recognize legal separation. That doesn’t mean that you are out of options. There’s a way to take a break and stay married. Let’s examine what separate maintenance means in Georgia.

No Legal Separation in Georgia

When couples speak of being legally separated, they’re usually referring to the fact that (a) they no longer live together, and (b) they are no longer engaging in marital relations. While some couples stay in the same house while separated (not the same room), this is not common. The advantage of being separated is that all the standard benefits of being married still apply because they are not divorced.

In Georgia, you have three options when trying to make changes in your marital status:

Annulment (ends a marriage if the marriage was invalid to begin with)

  • Divorce (ends a marriage outright)
  • Separate maintenance (decides property division, child custody, and financial arrangements, but does not end the marriage)

Think of separate maintenance as a divorce without an official divorce. In this process, you’ll go to court and work out all the various arrangements you would make with your spouse as if you were divorcing, but you’ll remain legally married. Separate maintenance may look like a divorce, but you’re still going to stay married.

Couples may want a separate maintenance arrangement for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they need to stay married to maximize their insurance coverage or take advantage of a financial benefit. Perhaps their religious beliefs are such that divorce is not an option. A separate maintenance agreement gives the court a say in the marital affairs but does not grant a divorce.

The Separation Agreement

To petition the court for a separate maintenance arrangement, two basic requirements must be met. First, one spouse must have been a resident of Georgia for six months before filing. Second, the petition must outline what the petitioning party seeks to accomplish; if you and your spouse have reached an agreement, then the separation agreement should be presented when the petition is filed.

A separation agreement is a legally binding contract between two spouses that serves as an agreement as to how the couple wishes to handle splitting finances, property distribution, and how they want to address child custody.

A separation agreement confirms that both spouses wish to make a change in their marriage and outlines how all the marital assets will be divided and what arrangements will be made concerning the custody of the children. This does not take the place of a court proceeding when you and your spouse cannot agree and it becomes necessary to have a judge make the decision.

Hiring an attorney is the best strategy, especially when you’re dealing with a highly complex separate maintenance case or when you have children involved. Depending on the marital situation, you may have many assets that you need to split. It could also be quite stressful coming up with a suitable custody arrangement. Because the separation agreement is a roadmap forward, talking with an attorney and having them draft it is the best way to proceed.

Family Matters Law Group Can Help

Family Matters Law Group Can Help

Anytime you want to make a change in your marital status, the most critical step you can take is to consult with an experienced, caring attorney. When property, finances, and children are on the line, the stakes are high, and you don’t want the court to approve an arrangement that goes against your best interests.

Family Matters Law Group’s Atlanta divorce attorneys have been working with clients across the metro area for years with great success. Setting up an initial consultation is easy: simply call our office or use our convenient online contact form.

While there is no such thing as legal separation in Georgia, you can still petition for a separate maintenance agreement, which allows you to stay legally married without having to live together. This is a viable option for many couples. We’re ready to help you move forward with the option that best suits your marriage.