How to File for Legal Separation in Georgia: 4 Steps to Take

It’s nice when your marriage is no less than happily ever after. More often, however, it’s full of challenges, misunderstandings, and dilemmas. Some manage to deal with them somehow. Others seek ways to get out of this relationship as soon as possible. 

But what should you do if divorce isn’t an option for you? Luckily, in Georgia, couples can officially escape from burdensome marriage without actually breaking it – through a legal separation. 

Before you learn how to file for legal separation in GA, let’s find out if this option really fits your case.

What is Legal Separation?

An official term for legal separation is separate maintenance action. But to make it easier for law-unsavvy readers, the term “legal separation” is widely used.

So what is it for? Legal separation is an official way to discontinue marital relationships between spouses without actually ending them. As much as with a divorce, spouses get to define new rules for child custody, support, property rights, accommodation, etc. But officially they stay married and may continue using some of the marriage-related benefits, such as family insurance plan or mortgage plan. Legal separations in Georgia have no end term and don’t oblige spouses to live in separate houses. 

Pros and Cons of Legal Separation Compared to Divorce

Why wouldn’t you simply finalize a divorce? While a legal separation procedure is quite similar to a marriage dissolution process, it has a few advantages of its own. 

For example, if a couple gets divorced, they will have to marry again once they have second thoughts as to their choice. In a legal separation, they can undo their agreement and live as if nothing happened.

Separate maintenance action can also serve as a trial divorce for couples who are unsure about their feelings. Some psychologists even say that a short-term separation may add some spice to the relationship and have a therapeutic effect on a marriage. For others, however, it may be the only way to part ways without violating religious or family values. Also, a legal separation is normally a less financially and emotionally burdensome process, which makes it more attractive than divorce.

Finally, unlike divorces, a legal separation doesn’t have a waiting period. So, you won’t need to wait the whole month to have your case considered.

Unfortunately, Georgia divorce laws don’t allow couples to simply finalize divorce after being legally separated. You’ll have to go through the entire divorce procedure all over again, including preparing the full set of papers, paying the filing fees, and covering any additional costs that may be required during your divorce litigations. In such a case, getting a divorce right away would be a wiser decision if you’re sure you don’t want to come back into this relationship anymore.

Furthermore, some legal separation processes are no better than divorces. They’re as much fraught by contested issues, scandals, and high lawyer fees as the most vicious divorces. However, if you think that you may give your marriage another try someday, you’d like to know how to file for legal separation in GA.  

Steps to Filing For Legal Separation

Technically, the requirements for filing for legal separation are the same as for filing for divorce in Georgia. You must meet residency requirements, provide a relevant pack of completed papers, and deliver them to the court that has jurisdiction over your case. As much as get divorce in Columbus, GA doesn’t allow online filing for legal separations. Therefore, you’ll have to deliver the papers in person. 

This said we can divide the filing process into 4 steps:

Checking If Your Qualify in Terms of Residency

According to GA laws, a person can file for divorce in Georgia only if they meet residency requirements. They include living in the state for at least half a year before starting a divorce process. Not necessarily should it be a petitioner themselves? The other spouse can also serve as a guarantee of residency requirements are met. 

Preparing the Papers

Similar to a divorce, you will need a petition to start a legal separation case. You can hire an attorney to help you solve every legal trouble you may have. Or you can download a free DIY pack from any online divorce assistance website available on the internet. Along with that, you’ll need a separate maintenance agreement, which is almost the same as a marital dissolution agreement. It also includes all important issues of your relationship that must be discussed and agreed upon before starting the case.

Signing and Notarizing

Once you’re done with the papers, they must be served to the other spouse for information and signing. A spouse who agrees with all terms normally signs the papers and sends them back for further process. In some cases, however, a dispute or several may occur, which will likely turn into lengthy and quite expensive work for the lawyers. 

Signed papers must be properly notarized. Otherwise, a judge won’t accept the documents and you’ll have to start all over again.

Submitting the Documents to the Relevant Court

The last step of this process is finally delivering your set of documents to the proper court. In Georgia, you can file for legal separation either in the county of your residency, or where your spouse currently lives. 

As we’ve mentioned before, Georgia doesn’t allow online filing. All papers must be delivered in person to the clerk’s office. However, you can start your legal separation process online by ordering assistance from a relevant online professional. As such, they may help you choose the right papers for your case and complete them at a minimal charge. 

Bottom Line

Legal separation is an excellent divorce alternative for couples who are unsure yet of officially ending their marital relationships. On the other hand, the filing procedure is similar to a divorce. So if you’re thinking of trying a legal separation first, make sure you do it for therapeutic purposes. Otherwise, getting a divorce may be wiser. 

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