Georgia Divorce Laws: Child Custody & Support, Alimony, Property Division

The following is a summary of Georgia’s divorce laws. In some cases, the exact text of the statute has been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Georgia Code or ask an attorney how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Georgia Residency Laws

No court shall grant a divorce to any person who has not been a bona fide resident of this state for six months before the filing of the petition for divorce, provided that any person who has been a resident of any United States army post or military reservation within this state for one year next preceding the filing of the petition may bring an action for divorce in any county adjacent to the United States army post or military reservation; and provided, further, that a nonresident of this state may file a petition for divorce, in the county of residence of the respondent, against any person who has been a resident of this state and of the county in which the action is brought for a period of six months prior to the filing of the petition.

-From § 19-5-2 of the Georgia Code

Grounds for Divorce in Georgia

The state of Georgia shall grant a “no-fault” divorce if it finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Georgia also recognizes several fault-based grounds under their statutes. The following is a brief summary of those grounds, and if you are interested in using any of these grounds, it would be in your best interests to consult with an attorney about whether your particular situation warrants filing your divorce based on such grounds, and what type of proof might be needed.

  1. Intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity;
  2. Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage;
  3. Impotency at the time of the marriage;
  4. Force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage;
  5. Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the husband;
  6. Adultery in either of the parties after marriage;
  7. Willful and continued desertion by either of the parties for the term of one year;
  8. The conviction of either party for an offense involving moral turpitude, under which he is sentenced to imprisonment in a penal institution for a term of two years or longer;
  9. Habitual intoxication;
  10. Cruel treatment, which shall consist of the willful infliction of pain, bodily or mental, upon the complaining party, such as reasonably justifies apprehension of danger to life, limb, or health;
  11. Incurable mental illness;
  12. Habitual drug addiction;-From § 19-5-3 of the Georgia Code

How to file for divorce in Georgia

This is a partial list of the Georgia divorce documents that may be filed with the court for an uncontested divorce. We have several options below for you to obtain these and other necessary documents in order to start and finalize your divorce.

  • Georgia Filing Instructions
  • Disclosure Statement
  • Petition for Divorce
  • Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit
  • Marital Settlement Agreement
  • Schedule for Visitation of Minor Children
  • Schedule A – Child Support Percentages and Explanation
  • Child Support – Official Code of Georgia, 19-6-15
  • Child Support Worksheet
  • Affidavit Regarding Custody
  • Report of Divorce, Annulment or Dissolution of Marriage
  • Acknowledgement of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction
  • Domestic Relations Case Filing Information Form
  • Final Judgment and Decree
  • Domestic Relations Case Final Disposition Information Form

Final Hearing

You must actually appear in court for the final divorce records hearing, and testify if the court deems necessary.

Learn more about the divorce procedure.

Waiting Period Before Divorce is Finalized in Georgia

Under no circumstances shall the court grant a divorce on the ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken until at least 30 days from the date of service on the respondent.

-From § 19-5-3 of the Georgia Code

Additional Information

In all divorce actions, a party may pray in his pleadings for the restoration of a maiden or prior name. If a divorce is granted, the judgment or decree shall specify and restore to the party the name so prayed for in the pleadings.

-From § 19-5-16 of the Georgia Code

Alimony Laws in Georgia

The following is a summary of Georgia’s alimony laws. In some cases, the exact text of the statute has been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Georgia Code or ask an attorney how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Alimony Guidelines

Alimony is authorized, but is not required, to be awarded to either party in accordance with the needs of the party and the ability of the other party to pay. In determining whether or not to grant alimony, the court shall consider evidence of the conduct of each party toward the other. The following shall be considered in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded:

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  2. The duration of the marriage;
  3. The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties;
  4. The financial resources of each party;
  5. Where applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment;
  6. The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
  7. The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties; and
  8. Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.

All obligations for permanent alimony shall terminate upon remarriage of the party receiving the alimony, unless otherwise provided.

-From 19-6-1 and 19-6-5 of the Georgia Code.

Learn more about general alimony laws.

Georgia Child Custody Laws

The following is a summary of the Georgia child custody laws. In some cases, the exact text of the statute has been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Georgia Code or ask an attorney how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Jurisdiction

In order for a court to decide custody of your children, whether by agreement of the spouses or by decision of the court, that court must have jurisdiction. Except as otherwise provided in Code Section 19-9-64, a court of the state of Georgia has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:

(1) Georgia is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from the state of Georgia but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in the state of Georgia; [‘Home state’ means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period.]

(2) A court of another state does not have jurisdiction under paragraph (1) of this subsection, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that Georgia is the more appropriate forum under Code Section 19-9-67 or 19-9-68 and:

(A) The child and the child´s parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with Georgia other than mere physical presence; and

(B) Substantial evidence is available in Georgia concerning the child´s care, protection, training, and personal relationships;

(3) All courts having jurisdiction under paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of Georgia is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child under Code Section 19-9-67 or 19-9-68; or

(4) No court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection.

-From Sections 19-9-61 and 19-9-41 of the Georgia Code.

Please note: If you aren’t sure whether the state of Georgia would have jurisdiction over you or your child(ren), you should consult an attorney.

Definitions

Georgia law recognizes the following definitions of custody:

  1. ‘Joint custody’ means joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both joint legal custody and joint physical custody. In making an order for joint custody, the court may order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical custody.
  2. ‘Joint legal custody’ means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child´s education, health care, and religious training; provided, however, that the court may designate one parent to have sole power to make certain decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.
  3. ‘Joint physical custody’ means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of substantially equal time and contact with both parents.
  4. ‘Sole custody’ means a person, including, but not limited to, a parent, has been awarded permanent custody of a child by a court order. Unless otherwise provided by court order, the person awarded sole custody of a child shall have the rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child´s education, health care, and religious training, and the noncustodial parent shall have the right to visitation. A person who has not been awarded custody of a child by court order shall not be considered as the sole legal custodian while exercising visitation rights.

-From Section 19-9-6 of the Georgia Code

Factors in Determining Custody

In all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, there shall be no prima-facie right to the custody of the child in the father or mother. There shall be no presumption in favor of any particular form of custody, legal or physical, nor in favor of either parent. Joint custody may be considered as an alternative form of custody by the judge and the judge at any temporary or permanent hearing may grant sole custody, joint custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody as appropriate.

The judge hearing the issue of custody shall make a determination of custody of a child and such matter shall not be decided by a jury. The judge may take into consideration all the circumstances of the case, including the improvement of the health of the party seeking a change in custody provisions, in determining to whom custody of the child should be awarded. The duty of the judge in all such cases shall be to exercise discretion to look to and determine solely what is for the best interest of the child and what will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness and to make his or her award accordingly.

In determining the best interests of the child, the judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to:

(A) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;

(B) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children;

(C) The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;

(D) Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;

(E) The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;

(F) The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;

(G) The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;

(H) The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child;

(I) The mental and physical health of each parent;

(J) Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;

(K) Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;

(L) The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;

(M) Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;

(N) The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;

(O) Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;

(P) Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and

(Q) Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.

In all cases in which the child has reached the age of 14 years, the child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child´s selection shall be controlling, unless the parent so selected is determined not to be a fit and proper person to have the custody of the child.

In all cases in which the child has reached the age of at least 11 but not 14 years, the court shall consider the desires, if any, and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody. The court shall have complete discretion in making this determination, and the child´s desires are not controlling. The court shall further have broad discretion as to how the child´s desires are to be considered, including through the report of a guardian ad litem. The best interest of the child standard shall be controlling.

The desire of a child who has reached the age of 11 years but not 14 years shall not, in and of itself, constitute a material change of conditions or circumstances in any action seeking a modification or change in the custody of that child.

The court may issue an order granting temporary custody to the selected parent for a trial period not to exceed six months regarding the custody of a child who has reached the age of at least 11 years where the judge hearing the case determines such a temporary order is appropriate.

-From Section 19-9-3 of the Georgia Code.

Learn more about general child custody laws.

Georgia Child Support Laws and Divorce

The following is a summary of Georgia’s child support laws. In some cases, the exact text of the statute has been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Georgia Code or ask an attorney how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Calculating Child Support in Georgia

Like all states, Georgia has child support guidelines to determine how much child support should be ordered when two parents divorce. Generally, the following steps are taken to calculate the child support obligation:

(1) Determine the monthly gross income of both the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent.

(2) Adjust each parent’s monthly gross income by deducting the following from the parents’ monthly gross income

(A) One-half of the amount of self-employment taxes;

(B) Preexisting child support orders; and

(C) Credits for other qualified child(ren) living in the parent’s home for whom the parent owes a legal duty of support, if allowed by the court.

(3) Add each parent’s adjusted income together to compute the combined adjusted income;

(4) Locate the basic child support obligation by referring to the child support obligation table. Using the figure closest to the amount of the combined adjusted income, locate the amount of the basic child support obligation in the column underneath the number of children for whom support is being determined. If the combined adjusted income falls between the amounts shown in the table, then the basic child support obligation shall be based on the income bracket most closely matched to the combined adjusted income;

(5) Calculate the pro rata share of the basic child support obligation for the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent by dividing the combined adjusted income into each parent’s adjusted income to arrive at each parent’s pro rata percentage of the basic child support obligation;

(6) Find the adjusted child support obligation amount by adding the additional expenses of the costs of health insurance and work related child care costs, prorating such expenses in accordance with each parent’s pro rata share of the obligation and adding such expenses to the pro rata share of the obligation. The monthly cost of health insurance premiums and work related child care costs shall be entered on the Child Support Schedule D — Additional Expenses. The pro rata share of the basic child support obligation and the pro rata share of the combined additional expenses shall be added together to create the adjusted child support obligation;

(7) Determine the presumptive amount of child support for the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent resulting in a sum certain single payment due to the custodial parent by assigning or deducting credit for actual payments for health insurance and work related child care costs;

(8) In accordance with subsection (i) of this Code section, deviations subtracted from or increased to the presumptive amount of child support are applied, if applicable, and if supported by the required findings of fact and application of the best interest of the child standard. The proposed deviations shall be entered on the Child Support Schedule E — Deviations. In the court’s or the jury’s discretion, deviations may include, but are not limited to, the following:

(A) High income;

(B) Low income;

(C) Other health related insurance;

(D) Child and dependent care tax credit;

(E) Travel expenses;

(F) Alimony;

(G) Mortgage;

(H) Permanency plan or foster care plan;

(I) Extraordinary expenses;

(J) Nonspecific deviations; and

(K) Parenting time;

(9) The final child support order shall be the presumptive amount of child support as increased or decreased by deviations. The final child support amount for each parent shall be entered on the child support worksheet, together with the information from each of the utilized schedules.

-From Section §19-6-15 of the Georgia Code.

Gross Income

(A) Gross income of each parent shall be determined in the process of setting the presumptive amount of child support and shall include all income from any source, before deductions for taxes and other deductions such as preexisting orders for child support and credits for other qualified children, whether earned or unearned, and includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(i) Salaries;

(ii) Commissions, fees, and tips;

(iii) Income from self-employment;

(iv) Bonuses;

(v) Overtime payments;

(vi) Severance pay;

(vii) Recurring income from pensions or retirement plans including, but not limited to, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board, Keoghs, and individual retirement accounts;

(viii) Interest income;

(ix) Dividend income;

(x) Trust income;

(xi) Income from annuities;

(xii) Capital gains;

(xiii) Disability or retirement benefits that are received from the Social Security Administration pursuant to Title II of the federal Social Security Act;

(xiv) Workers’ compensation benefits, whether temporary or permanent;

(xv) Unemployment insurance benefits;

(xvi) Judgments recovered for personal injuries and awards from other civil actions;

(xvii) Gifts that consist of cash or other liquid instruments, or which can be converted to cash;

(xviii) Prizes;

(xix) Lottery winnings;

(xx) Alimony or maintenance received from persons other than parties to the proceeding before the court; and

(xxi) Assets which are used for the support of the family.

(B) Self-employment income. Income from self-employment includes income from, but not limited to, business operations, work as an independent contractor or consultant, sales of goods or services, and rental properties, less ordinary and reasonable expenses necessary to produce such income. Income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership, limited liability company, or closely held corporation is defined as gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operations. Ordinary and reasonable expenses of self-employment or business operations necessary to produce income do not include:

(i) Excessive promotional, travel, vehicle, or personal living expenses, depreciation on equipment, or costs of operation of home offices; or

(ii) Amounts allowable by the Internal Revenue Service for the accelerated component of depreciation expenses, investment tax credits, or any other business expenses determined by the court or the jury to be inappropriate for determining gross income.

In general, income and expenses from self-employment or operation of a business should be carefully reviewed by the court or the jury to determine an appropriate level of gross income available to the parent to satisfy a child support obligation. Generally, this amount will differ from a determination of business income for tax purposes.

(C) Fringe benefits. Fringe benefits for inclusion as income or “in kind” remuneration received by a parent in the course of employment, or operation of a trade or business, shall be counted as income if the benefits significantly reduce personal living expenses. Such fringe benefits might include, but are not limited to, use of a company car, housing, or room and board. Basic allowance for housing and subsistence and variable housing allowances for members of the armed services shall be considered income for the purposes of determining child support. Fringe benefits do not include employee benefits that are typically added to the salary, wage, or other compensation that a parent may receive as a standard added benefit, including, but not limited to, employer paid portions of health insurance premiums or employer contributions to a retirement or pension plan.

(D) Variable income. Variable income such as commissions, bonuses, overtime pay, and dividends shall be averaged by the court or the jury over a reasonable period of time consistent with the circumstances of the case and added to a parent’s fixed salary or wages to determine gross income. When income is received on an irregular, nonrecurring, or one-time basis, the court or the jury may, but is not required to, average or prorate the income over a reasonable specified period of time or require the parent to pay as a one-time support amount a percentage of his or her nonrecurring income, taking into consideration the percentage of recurring income of that parent.

Gross income does not include benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs, child support payments received for the benefit of a child of another relationship, or social security benefits.

-From Section §19-6-15 of the Georgia Code.

Deviation from Child Support Guidelines

Application of the child support guidelines shall create a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support awarded is the correct amount of support to be awarded. A written finding or specific finding on the record for the award of child support that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case shall be sufficient to rebut the presumption in that case. The court may vary the final award of child support from the guidelines upon a written finding that the presence of one or more of the following special circumstances makes the presumptive amount of support either excessive or inadequate:

(1) Ages of the children;

(2) A child´s extraordinary medical costs or needs in addition to accident and sickness insurance, provided that all such costs or needs shall be considered if no insurance is available;

(3) Educational costs;

(4) Day-care costs;

(5) Shared physical custody arrangements, including extended visitation;

(6) A party´s other support obligations to another household;

(7) Income that should be imputed to a party because of suppression of income;

(8) In-kind income for the self-employed, such as reimbursed meals or a company car;

(9) Other support a party is providing or will be providing, such as payment of a mortgage;

(10) A party´s own extraordinary needs, such as medical expenses;

(11) Extreme economic circumstances including but not limited to:

(A) Unusually high debt structure; or

(B) Unusually high income of either party or both parties, which shall be construed as individual gross income of over $75,000.00 per annum;

(12) Historical spending in the family for children which varies significantly from the percentage table;

(13) Considerations of the economic cost-of-living factors of the community of each party, as determined by the trier of fact;

(14) In-kind contribution of either parent;

(15) The income of the custodial parent;

(16) The cost of accident and sickness insurance coverage for dependent children included in the order;

(17) Extraordinary travel expenses to exercise visitation or shared physical custody; and

(18) Any other factor which the trier of fact deems to be required by the ends of justice.

-From Section §19-6-15 of the Georgia Code.

Duty to Provide Child Support

The duty to provide support for a minor child shall continue until the child reaches the age of majority, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated, whichever first occurs. However, the court has discretion to direct either or both parents to provide financial assistance to a child who has not previously married or become emancipated, who is enrolled in and attending a secondary school, and who has attained the age of majority before completing his or her secondary school education, provided that such financial assistance shall not be required after a child attains 20 years of age.

-From Section §19-6-15 of the Georgia Code.

Definitions

“Custodial parent” means the parent with whom the child resides more than 50 percent of the time. Where a custodial parent has not been designated or where a child resides with both parents an equal amount of time, the court shall designate the custodial parent as the parent with the lesser support obligation and the other parent as the noncustodial parent. Where the child resides equally with both parents and neither parent can be determined as owing a greater amount than the other, the court shall determine which parent to designate as the custodial parent for the purpose of this Code section.

“Noncustodial parent” means the parent with whom the child resides less than 50 percent of the time or the parent who has the greater payment obligation for child support. Where the child resides equally with both parents and neither parent can be determined as owing a lesser amount than the other, the court shall determine which parent to designate as the noncustodial parent for the purpose of this Code section.

“Parenting time adjustment” means an adjustment to the noncustodial parent’s portion of the basic child support obligation based upon the noncustodial parent’s court ordered visitation with the child. For further reference see subsection (g) of this Code section.

“Split parenting” can occur in a child support case only if there are two or more children of the same parents, where one parent is the custodial parent for at least one child of the parents, and the other parent is the custodial parent for at least one other child of the parents. In a split parenting case, each parent is the custodial parent of any child spending more than 50 percent of the time with that parent and is the noncustodial parent of any child spending more than 50 percent of the time with the other parent. A split parenting situation shall have two custodial parents and two noncustodial parents, but no child shall have more than one custodial parent or noncustodial parent.

“Health insurance” means any general health or medical policy. For further reference see paragraph (2) of subsection (h) of this Code section.

“Uninsured health care expenses” means a child’s uninsured medical expenses including, but not limited to, health insurance copayments, deductibles, and such other costs as are reasonably necessary for orthodontia, dental treatment, asthma treatments, physical therapy, vision care, and any acute or chronic medical or health problem or mental health illness, including counseling and other medical or mental health expenses, that are not covered by insurance. For further reference see paragraph (3) of subsection (h) of this Code section.

“Work related child care costs” means expenses for the care of the child for whom support is being determined which are due to employment of either parent. In an appropriate case, the court may consider the child care costs associated with a parent’s job search or the training or education of a parent necessary to obtain a job or enhance earning potential, not to exceed a reasonable time as determined by the court, if the parent proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the job search, job training, or education will benefit the child being supported. The term shall be projected for the next consecutive 12 months and averaged to obtain a monthly amount. For further reference see paragraph (1) of subsection (h) of this Code section.

-From Section §19-6-15 of the Georgia Code.

Georgia Divorce Law on Property Division

The following is a summary of Georgia’s property division laws. In some cases, the exact text of the statute has been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Georgia Code or ask an attorney how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Separate Property

The separate property of each spouse shall remain the separate property of that spouse, except as provided in Chapters 5 and 6 of this title and except as otherwise provided by law.

-From Section 19-3-9 of the Georgia Code.

Learn more about general property division in divorce or common ways to divide your property.

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