Legal separations are recognized in most U.S. states, but not in the state of Georgia. According to this state, declaring that you are legally separated does not qualify as an end to the marriage. Instead, Georgia offers only divorce proceedings, annulments or a "separate maintenance" order. A "separate maintenance" order allows the court to rule on the marital issues surrounding the partnership, but does not grant divorce.
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The Definition of Legal Separation
"Legal separation" in Georgia is defined as simply no longer engaging in marital relations. There are no terms around the time frame of how long this must have occurred and the two people can be legally separated even if they reside in the same house, however not sharing the same room or having sexual relations. The courts in the state of Georgia do not recognize legal separation, meaning it is not something a court can grant. Georgia does, however, grant "separate maintenance," which is a court order to decide on all other marital issues (i.e., property division, finances, custody of children) rather than granting an actual divorce.
The state of Georgia grants "separate maintenance" to couples wishing not to proceed with divorce for religious opposition, moral reasons or if there is a legal benefit to being married (i.e., insurance). This order allows the court to preside over all marital issues, except that the couple will still remain legally married.
In order to file for a divorce, you must state that you are in a state of separation. However, this only means that you are swearing that you are no longer engaging in marital activities and you consider yourself separated.
Even though the court does not provide an order of legal separation in the state of Georgia, both parties can create a separation agreement themselves. This document can be drafted by both parties (with or without legal help) and can include confirmation that both parties recognize their separation from marriage, as well as outline how all marriage property, children and alimony will be taken care of. The state of Georgia will not recognize this document as evidence to bypass any court proceedings; however, the document is a binding agreement and can serve as a clear outline of how each party wishes to proceed.
To file for a divorce or "separate maintenance," at least one spouse must have resided in Georgia for at least six months prior to filing, based on Georgia Code Section 19-5-5.