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Some states permit married couples to legally separate, but Georgia is not one of them. In Georgia, a marriage can be ended by divorce, annulment, or death of one spouse. If you want to live separately from your spouse, but you don’t want a divorce or an annulment because you are not ready to completely end your marriage, Georgia offers an alternative option for separation known as separate maintenance.
Understanding Separate Maintenance in Georgia
Technically, a separation means that the spouses intend to separate from each other and stop acting like a married couple. The spouses don’t even need to live in separate houses to become legally separated. It’s enough for one of the spouses to sleep in a separate room. However, they must also end their sexual relationship with each other.
Unlike divorce, an action for separate maintenance will not end a marriage. Rather, it’s a legal option to settle specific issues that commonly arise when married couples decide to separate. Likewise, it is a viable option if one spouse doesn’t want to deny the other spouse financial support, pension benefits, or insurance that they might lose if they get divorced.
Once a married couple decides to legally separate, they must file an action for separate maintenance in the Superior Court to officially establish their obligations and rights during their separation. The court can help in resolving issues (if needed) and must grant the separation for it to be official.
Acceptable reasons or grounds for separate maintenance are the same for divorce. It’s also important to note that if one spouse files for separate maintenance, the other spouse might respond with a request to change it to a divorce action.
Contested vs. Uncontested Separate Maintenance
With an uncontested separate maintenance action, both spouses create an agreement regarding child custody and support, property and debt division, and alimony, among others. The judge won’t be settling any arguments but must approve the agreement created by the separating couple.
A contested separate maintenance action, on the other hand, is when the couple can’t agree on their issues, so they ask the court to work out the issues between them. This action will require a trial in which each spouse must present evidence and argue their case in front of a judge.
As you probably know, a trial is a complicated court proceeding. You will require documents for supporting your case and conducting discovery, which is an extensive process that requires collecting evidence that you will use for the trial. The discovery process could likewise include interrogatories, depositions, and requests for more documents from various sources, among others.
Learn How a Family Lawyer in Cumming, GA, Can Help
If you have any questions about separation, it’s best to discuss the specific circumstances of your case with a skilled family lawyer before filing anything or signing any documents. This is especially true if your case for separate maintenance becomes contested. Contact Banks, Stubbs & McFarland, LLP at 770-887-1209 or online to schedule your consultation with our family lawyer in Cumming, GA, today.