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How Separate Maintenance Works in Georgia

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How Separate Maintenance Works in Georgia

Strictly speaking, Georgia does not offer a formal legal status called “separation,” notwithstanding the fact that many Georgia couples are, in fact, separated. 

What Georgia does offer, however, is a legal action it calls “separate maintenance,” which is essentially the same as a legal separation.

What Is Separate Maintenance?

Separate maintenance can resolve the following issues:

Like with a divorce, it is best that the spouses resolve these issues amicably. Nevertheless, a court will resolve whatever matters the spouses cannot agree on. 

A court might even refuse to recognize terms that the spouses can agree on if they deviate from the best interests of a child in the marriage.

Prerequisites to Separate Maintenance

To file for separate maintenance, you must prove the following facts:

  • The couple is currently married;
  • The couple is living separately; and
  • There is no divorce decree pending.

Georgia courts realize that some couples may wish to separate before they can afford to move out and maintain two households. Consequently, “living separately” doesn’t necessarily mean moving out of the family home.

However, living separately definitely does mean suspending conjugal relations (sex) and similar intimacies incident to a typical marital relationship. It is certainly easier to convince a court that you have suspended intimacy, however, if you have moved out of the family home.  

Why Couples Seek Separate Maintenance

Separate maintenance resembles a de facto divorce even though the couple is still legally married. Some of the reasons why couples choose this option include:

  • They no longer wish to live as a married couple, but their religion forbids divorce;
  • They do not want to pursue divorce just yet because they still hope for reconciliation;
  • They wish to maintain certain benefits such as tax breaks and cheap health insurance;
  • They seek to divorce soon, but want to get started within the 30-day “cooling off” period that Georgia applies to couples seeking a divorce. 
  • They fail to meet residence requirements for a Georgia divorce.

Other reasons may apply as well, depending on the circumstances.

How To File for Separate Maintenance

Take the following steps to formalize your separate maintenance arrangement.

Draft and Sign a Settlement Agreement (If You Can Agree on Anything)

If you can agree on anything, both spouses should sign a settlement agreement detailing the matters you have agreed upon (such as child custody).

It might be the case that you can agree on some issues but not others. If so, include whatever you can agree on in your agreement and let the court resolve whatever matters you cannot agree on. 

Complete the Filing Paperwork

One party must initiate the action by filing the appropriate paperwork. There is a lot of paperwork to fill out, including the forms of Complaint for Separate Maintenance, Domestic Relations Filing Information, Final Disposition, and Verification.

You will also need to submit supporting documentation (a copy of your marriage certificate, for example). There is a filing fee of several hundred dollars.  

Service of Process

Service of process provides formal notification of the proceedings to the non-filing spouse so they can respond. Of course, your spouse can voluntarily accept service of process if the action is consensual. 

If it is not consensual, the filing spouse can still maintain the action over the other spouse’s objection. In that case they will need a neutral third party to deliver the documents to the objecting party. 

Hearing(s)

The court will resolve the separate maintenance action through one or more hearings. In complex or contested cases, you might need several hearings. The court will issue orders on child support, child custody, etc., which will ideally be identical to the terms you and your spouse have already agreed upon.

Contact a Family Law Attorney for Help With Your Case

As you can see from the foregoing description, separate maintenance agreements are complex matters. Don’t even think about trying it on your own, because there are too many ways for it to go wrong. Instead, hire an experienced family lawyer for assistance.

Contact the Georgia Family Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law for Help Today

For more information, please contact Bardley McKnight Law to schedule a confidential consultation with a divorce lawyer in Douglasville today.

We proudly serve Douglas County and its surrounding areas:

Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law Offices
12461 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Suite 470
Douglasville, GA 30134

(470) 308-5409

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