Separation In Georgia

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					         LEGAL SEPARATION IN GEORGIA

         In Georgia, legal separation is known as Separate Maintenance. It provides a
legal way to settle some of the issues that arise when spouses decide to separate, but
not divorce. Separate maintenance differs from divorce in that the marriage does not
end; the parties do not have the right to remarry after the court grants a Separate
Maintenance order. While an action for Separate Maintenance is not the same as a
divorce action, the court can resolve issues in the same way as in a divorce action.
         While couples typically intend for their separate maintenance agreement to be
eventually included in a divorce order, there are several reasons that spouses would
want to file for separate maintenance rather than divorce. For example, spouses may
not want to file for divorce because of religious reasons, or because one spouse does
not want to deprive the other of insurance or pension benefits. You and your spouse
must be living in a “bona fide state of separation,”1 including suspension of marital
relations, for the court to find a legal separation.          The petitioner must file the Complaint
for Separate Maintenance in the Superior Court in the county where the respondent
lives.


If you and your spouse agree on the terms of separation, including things like
alimony, child support and visitation, division of property, etc., the petitioner may file a
Complaint for Separate Maintenance, a notarized Verification form2 and a completed
Separation Agreement in the Fulton County Superior Court. The respondent may sign
an Acknowledgement of Service form to indicate that he/she received a copy of the
Complaint. The court filing fee is approximately $80.3 Give the Complaint, the
Verification, and the Acknowledgement of Service to the clerk. Then the clerk should

1
  A “bona fide state of separation” is when you and your spouse are no longer having marital relations,
which may include sexual relations and companionship
2
  A Verification Form is a declaration that everything stated in the petition is true to the best of your
knowledge.
3
  If you cannot afford the filing fee, ask the Family Law Information Center for a Poverty Affidavit, which
asks the Court to allow you file for free. You must make a statement about your monthly income and
expenses and show why it would cause a hardship on you to pay the filing fees.

                                                                                     Fulton County Law Library
                                                                                                      11/2005
give you a court date, also called a 30-day status conference, usually around 31 days
after the date of filing. If both parties agree to the terms set out in the Separation
Agreement, the judge may issue an official order that would make the terms of the
Separation Agreement legally binding. For example, either spouse can be held in
contempt for violating a provision of the agreement.


If you and your spouse do not agree on the terms of separation, the petitioner may
file a Complaint for Separate Maintenance which sets out the terms of separation that
he/she is asking the judge to grant.4 A notarized Verification must be attached to the
Complaint.5       The fee to file the paperwork is approximately $80, After giving both
forms to the clerk, she will give you the date of your hearing, which should be around 31
days after the date of filing, also called a 30-day status conference. If your spouse will
not sign an Acknowledgment of Service, the clerk will also give you a Sheriff's Entry of
Service Form, which you will to take to the Sheriff's office on the 9th floor, so that
Respondent can be served with a copy of the Complaint by the sheriff. There is a small
fee for the Sheriff to serve the papers.    Then, you and your spouse will have a hearing
on the issues of separation, just as if you were getting a divorce.


If you wish additional information, you may read O.C.G.A. § 19-6-10 online at or visit the
Fulton County Law Library to use access the Official Code of Georgia Annotated,
helpful research materials and sample form books.


It is essential to remember that Separate Maintenance is a legally binding court
procedure. We recommend that you consult an attorney to ensure that your legal rights
are protected.


If you choose to file for Separate Maintenance without being represented by an
attorney, you might consider making an appointment with the attorney at the Family Law
Information Center. This attorney will not represent you but can explain issues you may

4
    See note 2.
5
    See note 3.

                                                                        Fulton County Law Library
                                                                                         11/2005
not understand and provide information to help you decide if Separate Maintenance is
best option for you.


The Office of the Clerk of Superior Court is located at 136 Pryor Street, Room C103,
Atlanta, GA 30303.


Both the Family Law Information Center and the Fulton County Law Library are located
on the 7th floor of the Justice Center Tower, 185 Central Ave., S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303.
Some, but not all, of the required forms are available in the Family Law Information
Center.




                                                                     Fulton County Law Library
                                                                                      11/2005

				
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