December 30, 2011

In Georgia, am I legally separated after I file my divorce action?

Georgia divorce attorneys are often asked whether the filing of a divorce action means the parties are legally separated. This question often comes from people who are interested in starting to date other people during the pending divorce.

Please keep in mind that Georgia does not recognize legal separation. Therefore, nothing changes about your marital status until your final divorce decree has been signed by the Judge. Until you receive your final divorce decree, you are still married in the eyes of the law and sex with anyone who is not your spouse is considered adultery. Whether this adultery is considered to be the cause of your divorce is a different question. It is important to note, however, that the Judge can take your actions both before and during the pending divorce action into consideration in awarding alimony, custody, and equitable division of assets.

September 18, 2008

Can I be legally separated from my spouse in Georgia?

In some states, such as California, spouses can be legally separated from one another. Unfortunately, Georgia does not honor legal separations. If you and your spouse, however, wish to be separated, but do not wish to file for divorce, there is another option.

According to O.C.G.A. § 19-6-10, you can file what is called a separate maintenance action when there is no divorce action pending between spouses. A separate maintenance action is very similar to a divorce in that you and your spouse will enter into an agreement resolving all issues from who will have custody and visitation rights for minor children to how debts will be paid and the amount of alimony and child support that may be appropriate in a case. In short, all issues that could be addressed in a divorce can generally be addressed in a separate maintenance action with the obvious exception of a formal divorce decree being entered into between the parties.

The advantage of a separate maintenance action and agreement is for when the parties really want to keep working on their marriage (or don’t want to get divorced at this time for some reason). It can provide financial and emotional security and clarity to the parties as to what a post-divorce world would look like while enabling the parties to attempt to reconnect and work on their relationship. In the event that the parties are unsuccessful, the separate maintenance agreement can even be incorporated into a divorce settlement agreement to avoid additional costs in the event of a party electing to pursue a final divorce.