In Georgia, same-sex marriages were banned in 2004 by Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1. Despite several attempts by activist groups to make such unions legal, it was not until the nationwide decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that success was finally achieved.
In June 2015, the ruling by the Supreme Court secured the freedom to marry for same-sex couples throughout the country. As a result, judges in all states became obligated to recognize same-sex divorce in Georgia and also grant any lesbian and gay divorce.
The regulations and procedures of marriage dissolution are gathered in the Georgia Code, Title 19. There are no separate laws for gay couples and heterosexual ones. All requirements are applicable to both sexes. For instance, common-law marriage can only be legally recognized if it occurred in Georgia. No conditions related to sexual orientation can be found anywhere in the Code.
Same-sex divorce online
Divorce over the Internet has become a convenient way to dissolve a marriage without a lawyer. Online services provide such an option at an affordable price, which is much lower than you would have to pay for a traditional divorce. For instance, divorceonlinegeorgia.com offers quick and easy solutions for only $139. Their services include preparing printable documents which the spouses will need to file for same-sex divorce in Georgia.
Do-it-yourself divorces are usually inexpensive, but there are conditions that the couple has to meet before they can get same-sex divorce paperwork prepared online in Georgia. First, one of the spouses must comply with the residency requirements. And second, only couples with an uncontested divorce can use online services. When both of these conditions are met, the spouses can get same-sex divorce papers online in Georgia.
Same-sex divorce papers in Georgia
If you are married to a same-sex spouse, you can get a divorce in Georgia either by yourself or with the help of a lawyer. Usually, when the couple negotiates the terms of their separation, the procedure becomes more comfortable and less expensive. It is worth trying to reach a mutual agreement before the court hearing.
Should you decide to take matters into your own hands, be sure to study the local rules on how to file same-sex divorce in Georgia. The divorce process for both heterosexual and same-sex marriage dissolution begins with one of the spouses filing the divorce documents with the local court.
Same-sex divorce forms in Georgia can vary depending on the circumstances of each case and can be obtained with the help of numerous online services. These services will also provide you with informational support and guide you through the process of filing.
Valid grounds for same-sex divorce in Georgia
In order to dissolve a same-sex marriage, any couple can file for divorce in Georgia on condition that one of the spouses has permanently lived in this state for at least 6 months. The spouse filing for divorce must provide the court with one of the following grounds (Georgia Code § 19-5-3):
- Adultery, impotence, mental incapacity
- Intermarriage between relatives
- Desertion for one year
- The marriage was obtained by force or fraud
- The conviction for an offense with imprisonment for more than two years
- Cruel treatment, which endangers physical or mental health
- Incurable mental illness
- Substance abuse and repeated intoxication
- Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage
Georgia law states that a marriage dissolution decree on the grounds of mental illness can only be obtained if the other spouse has been confined to the mental institution for two preceding years.
Since Georgia is a no-fault state, an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage would be sufficient reason for the court, and no fault-based grounds would be needed.
Custody of the Child
Family law cases in Georgia regarding the parent-children relationships are considered with great attention to the best interests of a child. When the determination of custody rights is an issue, one or both parents must provide the court with a parenting plan (§ 19-9-1 of Georgia Code). This plan should contain critical points on the parents’ obligations, visitation schedule, or limitations of access.
There are two types of custody – physical custody (where the child will live) and legal custody (the right to make decisions concerning the child’s health, education, welfare).
The judge may award sole or joint custody of both types.
When determining custody, a judge typically reviews factors such as:
- bonding and emotional ties between a child and each of the parents;
- bonding and emotional ties between a child and his/her siblings and their community and school;
- the capacity of each parent to provide for a child’s needs;
- the employment schedule of each parent;
- whether any of the spouses was charged with child abuse or domestic violence;
- and other important factors (§ 19-9-3 of Georgia Code).
When children are involved in the separation process, the couple can get a same-sex divorce in Georgia on an equal basis with heterosexual couples. A judge may request that both parents attend a parenting class, where they will receive tips and training on how to help their children to cope with the separation. These courses must be court-approved, so it is crucial to choose a recommended one.
One or both of the parents can be ordered to provide financial support to their children. The basic guidelines for determining the monthly payment are provided in § 19-6-15 of the Georgia Code. Typically, the amount of this support depends on the parent’s gross income and the number of children. For one child, the payment is at least 17%, and for five and more children, it can reach most 37% of gross income.
Child support is terminated when a child:
- reaches the age of majority;
- is emancipated, married, joins the military forces, or dies;
If a child is still in high school when they reach the age of 18, then support will continue until the child graduates from high school or reaches the age of 20.
Alimony (spousal maintenance) is financial support paid by one spouse to another, temporarily or permanently. Divorce laws in Georgia regarding spousal support are the same for same-sex unions and heterosexual ones.
Before granting alimony, the judge will first decide whether there is a need for it, taking into account the financial information and circumstances of the divorce. For instance, a party will be denied maintenance if he or she is guilty of adultery or desertion.
The factors which influence the amount of alimony are as follows (Georgia Code § 19-6-5):
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The length of marriage
- The financial resources of both spouses
- Time for education or training to find a job
- The contribution of either spouse to the career of the other
- The age and health of spouses
- Other relevant factors
A paying spouse can apply for a modification of the payments when substantial changes occur in the financial situation of one of the parties. For example, permanent payments are terminated after the receiving spouse remarries.
In Georgia, property is distributed “equitably.” If the spouses have not reached an amicable agreement on the division beforehand, the judge will divide assets and debts in the proportion that he or she decides is fair. If, on the other hand, the couple has negotiated with or without an attorney and presented a settlement to the court, the case would proceed with no complications.
Only marital property, such as real estate, assets, liabilities, pension benefits, business interest, and so on, is distributed between the spouses. All separate property that was acquired by just one of the spouses before the marriage will go back to its original owner.
How is property divided if it is real estate, such as a house? Typically, the spouse who keeps the property must compensate for a particular share in dollar-value to the other party.
According to § 15-11-20 of Georgia Code, a judge can refer the couple to mediation at any time during the case proceedings. This is an alternative form of dispute resolution between spouses that can be used for any unresolved issues (child custody and support, alimony, property distribution).
The process of negotiation includes the participation of a third party, known as a mediator, who has received specialized training to help the couple reach a mutual agreement. In the case of an amicable settlement, a divorce trial is not necessary. But a judge can still decline the agreement if it is harmful to one of the parties, especially when children are involved.
Filing fees for same-sex divorce in Georgia
If the residency requirements are met, one of the spouses can file for same-sex divorce in Georgia by submitting a petition for marriage dissolution. Usually, the petitioner must pay a fee, which is approximately $200. More detailed information on each county’s fees can be obtained at the clerk’s office.
Every motion during the divorce proceeding will have additional costs. For example, the service of copies of the documents to the other spouse (respondent) by the Sheriff will cost $50. If the spouses cannot afford the filing fees, the court may waive the fees or delay the payment.
How long will it take
The process of divorce for same-sex couples in Georgia begins after filing the petition for marriage dissolution with the court. If there is no contest between the spouses on different issues, such as property division or child custody, then the minimum waiting period to finalize the case is 31 days. However, for couples with children, it may take longer.
The length of the divorce process also depends on how you serve copies of the documents to the other party. If the serving is fast, the waiting period decreases. And if a person is married to a same-sex partner, it can take longer to get a divorce in Georgia if the spouse is out of state. On average, uncontested cases usually take around two months, whereas contested ones can extend to several years.