What Is Legal Separation?

What is legal separation in the state of Georgia? The truth is, legally speaking, legal separation is not recognized in this state. Instead, our courts recognize “separate maintenance.” Separate maintenance is the separation of spouses without the marriage being dissolved or legally terminated. This can happen when you are no longer engaging in marital relations with your spouse and consider yourself to be in an active state of separation, even if you are still living in the same household.

The process for reaching this state of separation or “separation maintenance,” is as follows:

  • Marital relations have ended. While you may still live in the same house, you cannot share the same bed.
  • You are preparing for divorce.
  • While you may not have a court-recognized “legal separation,” you will need to swear that you are in a true state of separation; after doing this, the court can grant the order for separate maintenance.
  • Separate maintenance is a lawsuit you will need to file to address all issues related to a divorce case—except for the actual divorce decree.
  • Issues covered in separate maintenance cases include child custody, child support and alimony.
  • In a separate maintenance, you will still be legally married to your spouse, but you will not be responsible for each other; therefore, it is important to note that you cannot remarry when in a state of separate maintenance.
  • Following a separate maintenance, you will need to move forward with a divorce if you still wish to dissolve the marriage.

Why Choose Separate Maintenance instead of Divorce?

There are certain scenarios in which the separation is preferred over divorce. For example, if you or your spouse do not meet the state of Georgia’s residency requirement, which states you need to live there for six months prior to the divorce, separate maintenance will allow you to be apart legally until you can divorce.

Another example would be if one of the parties still needs health insurance or financial support through the other spouse—separate maintenance will provide for these supports, while a legal divorce will not.

How to Get a Separate Maintenance

In the state of Georgia, to get a separate maintenance, you must have a valid marriage and reside in a state of separation—meaning no marital relations. Additionally, the non-filing spouse must be personally-served the separate maintenance documents. If the other spouse cannot be personally-served, the filing spouse will need to get a divorce instead.

You will file for separate maintenance in the county of the defendant’s residence; unless the case in uncontested, in which case it can be filed in the county of either party’s residence.

You may not have to go to court for a separate maintenance if you and your spouse agree to the terms and it is considered an uncontested separation. If the separation is contested, the judge will be required to make the decisions, which will likely mean a day in court.

You don’t have to find answers about what is legal separation on your own. Call (770) 504-4747 to contact the Reeder Law Firm now and get help.