Each state maintains its own laws governing marital relationships, and Georgia family law establishes how marriages are handled by the state. These laws establish how and when couples can get married, and what happens when a couple wants to separate. Georgia's family laws are codified in the Official Code of Georgia, Title 19, Domestic Relations.
Georgia requires all couples who get married in the state to first obtain a marriage license, and does not allow common law marriages. If either party is a resident of Georgia, the marriage license can be obtained in any county. If neither is a resident, the license must be obtained in the county where the couple weds.
Anyone applying for a marriage license must meet the state requirements. Both spouses must be of sound mind, meaning they must be able to understand their choices and make willing decisions. The parties cannot be related to one another by blood or half blood directly, though first cousins can marry. Couples must show two forms of identification and, if either has been divorced within the past six months, a copy of the divorce decree. Both parties must be at least 16 years old. If a party is under the age of 18, he must receive the consent of both of his parents.
Georgia law allows couples to petition the court for a form of legal separation. When a couple no longer engages in marital relations and the parties consider themselves separated, the couple can file a petition with the court asking for an order of "Separate Maintenance." Such petitions ask the court to enter orders exactly as it would in a divorce, but the couple remains legally married. Because of this, any couple granted a separate maintenance order can continue to live as they choose but cannot remarry. The couple can seek marital separation as long as at least one party is a resident of the state.
To qualify to file for a Georgia separation or divorce, either of the spouses must have resided in the state for at least six months before filing the petition. If only one spouse resides in the state, the petition for separation must be filed in the county in which she lives. If both spouses live in Georgia, the petition can be filed the county where either spouse resides.
Whenever a married couple separates or begins the divorce process, the court can enter orders for marital support, property distributions, child custody and child support. Commonly referred to as alimony, marital support typically is provided by one spouse to another for a specific length of time. When determining the appropriate level of marital support, Georgia courts take into consideration numerous financial factors, including the income of each party, the length of marriage, the ability of each party to earn an income and the financial needs of each spouse.