What is Legal Separation?
Although Georgia does not recognize legal separation per se, it does allow for a married couple with religious, moral, or other opposition to divorce to separate while establishing custody arrangements and dividing any assets and debts. The term “legal separation” means the couple is no longer acting as a married couple.
Couples with a maintenance order do not necessarily need to live in separate homes, but they do need to show they intend to end their relationship.
To receive a maintenance order, couples must be legally married, neither spouse can file for divorce, and at least one person must have lived in the state for at least 30 days.
Is a Separation Different from Divorce?
There is a significant difference between divorce and separation maintenance orders. Divorce permanently terminates a marriage using grounds for divorce, or no-fault divorce. Separation maintenance orders do not dissolve a marriage.
If you pursue a separation maintenance order and seek to resolve your issues with your spouse, you can terminate the order and resume marital relations. Divorces are final.
You may seek separate maintenance to work through temporary marital problems, if you have religious or moral opposition to divorce, or if you want to separate but continue to share some of health, insurance, or other benefits that one spouse may have.
Divorce proceedings are different. Even though a judge will make a final ruling for both divorces and maintenance orders, couples pursuing a divorce will need to have lived in Georgia for at least six months. Judges issue a final verdict and make decisions about child custody, support, spousal support, and property division for both divorces and separation orders.
How does a Separation Affect my Day-to-Day Life?
Your separation maintenance order operates like a divorce judgment. You and your spouse will agree on the financial support and custody, as necessary. You’ll submit this agreement to a judge. They can review the agreement; if they find it suitable, they’ll sign it. This makes it effective as a court order.
You might be “separated,” but it’s critical to remember you are still married. You and your spouse can resolve your issues, pursue a final divorce, or continue your separate maintenance.
What do I Need for a Legal Separation?
As mentioned, one spouse will have to have lived in the state for at least 30 days in order to file in Georgia. Your attorney will draft an agreement that dictates any relevant child support, child custody, spousal support, and property division.
A judge will review several factors when considering how to determine these aspects of your separation maintenance order, like the length of your marriage, why you feel you need a separation, and that you are living away from your spouse. You don’t necessarily need to live in another house, but you do need to “live” somewhere in the house. For instance, you could stay in the main bedroom while your spouse takes the guest room.
A Marietta separation lawyer will understand what you need as you seek a maintenance order, so contact one for help.
Legal Separation FAQs
Will We Need a Divorce After a Separate Maintenance Order?
Once you’ve received your separate maintenance order, you do not necessarily need to get divorced. Your order is indefinite. You can also work to resolve the separation so your marriage can resume or you can seek a divorce.
If My Spouse Ignores the Maintenance Order, are There Consequences?
Anyone ignoring court orders will face consequences. If your spouse owes you child support payments during your separation, you can pursue a contempt judgment. This should encourage them to follow the court order.
Can a Separation Order be modified?
Like other court orders, you can modify your separate maintenance order. If your or your spouse’s circumstances have changed, you can adjust the original order. For instance, if you lose your job and need more support from your spouse, you can approach the court for a modification.
How Long Does a Separate Maintenance Order Last?
These orders can last indefinitely. A maintenance order can change if you and your spouse reconcile or decide to seek a divorce. It’s important to remember you are still married; you won’t be able to remarry.
How Can a Family Law Attorney Help Me?
A separate maintenance order offers an alternative to divorce. It can provide breathing room for you and your spouse to analyze the problems at the core of your marital strife before you jump into a divorce. It can also provide a permanent solution is you’d like to maintain separate residences but remain married.
A Marietta family law attorney can provide insight into your options. Finding an empathetic and experienced attorney who hears your concerns and gives you a road map through this process can make all the difference in your life.
A family law attorney will understand the process, review all the pertinent details, then help you determine the best option for your needs. They can file the paperwork necessary to apply for your separation maintenance order.
Call The Gentry Law Firm Now
It’s not easy to file for a separation, but The Gentry Law Firm understands your situation. We’ve helped clients find the best option for their families. A separate maintenance order may help you reach an outcome that better protects your health, family, and future.
We are ready to hear your story and work with you to file for a separation order. Our firm has been focused on family law since our inception, so we are well-versed in Georgia family law. We’re here for our clients throughout the Metro Atlanta area, along with Cobb, Cherokee, Paulding, Bartow, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Clayton counties.
Call (770) 425-5573 today or use our contact form to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.