Georgia Divorce Laws
Divorce is an unfortunate reality for many people as sometimes marriages just don’t work out in the long run. A falling apart marriage doesn’t have to mean financial ruin for those involved. If you read up on the divorce process and make sure you follow all relevant laws when planning your divorce, you can get through it to start a new life. Laws vary from state to state, and this guide will focus on how divorce works in Georgia. To ensure that you stay on track with your financial goals, you should work with a financial advisor.
How to Apply for a Divorce in Georgia Eligibility to participate
To get divorced in Georgia, one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months.
Georgia Divorce Reasons
Peach State’s divorce laws provide for both flawed and flawless divorces. There are some key differences between these opposing types of divorce.
Flawless divorces are the most common and cost-effective type of divorce proceeding. The only legal reason for a no-fault divorce in Georgia is that the marriage is in irreversible collapse and there is no chance of reconciliation. This divorce works when neither side did something specific to bring about the divorce, but both parties simply want to end the union.
A faulty divorce is less common and has to be proven in court. Acceptable grounds for a flawed divorce in Georgia include adultery, desertion for at least a year, conviction of certain crimes (including murder and manslaughter) and imprisonment of at least two years, drug addiction, and cruel treatment.
Georgia also offers full divorce, which is a form of annulment where the marriage is null and void. However, this is only possible if the marriage was initially invalid. Reasons include a spouse being mentally incompetent at the time of marriage, if one spouse was under the legal age, the spouses were too closely related, one spouse was already married, and each spouse had committed fraud to get married.
The story goes on
The first step in a divorce is filing with the court in the county where you live. The complaint should also include a list of issues for the court to rule on, including property, custody, and alimony. The spouse seeking divorce is the plaintiff. The other spouse (legally known as the defendant) is then served papers either through their attorney or through a trial server.
If both parties can agree to a divorce settlement, an uncontested divorce is possible. You can take an agreement to court. This should address issues related to property division, custody, alimony and other relevant matters. Once approved, there is only a 31-day waiting period after submission.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a contested divorce ensues. First, there will be a discovery process where both parties gather financial information, make statements, and gather other evidence. Both parties then come together to try to work on an agreement, sometimes with the help of an outside mediator.
However, if no agreement can be reached, a test will be scheduled. The judge hears testimony and examines evidence. They will then make a final assessment of all the relevant facts.
Splitting Assets During a Divorce in Georgia
Georgia Divorce Laws
In Georgia, conjugal property includes anything that a spouse received during the marriage. This can include homes, cash, cars, retirement accounts, and other assets or debts.
Separate property that is not part of the divorce settlement or judgment is anything a spouse received prior to marriage. Property acquired by gift or inheritance is considered separate property, as is anything specified by a marriage agreement.
How To Share Property In Georgia After A Divorce
Georgia is not a jointly owned state, so the pool of marital property, which can include pension assets, does not need to be evenly divided. Rather, the judge will split it up based on what he thinks is fair based on certain factors. This includes each spouse’s separate property, alimony, income and earning potential, conduct during the marriage, their future needs and debts.
How to Manage Child Support and Alimony Under Georgia Divorce Laws
Child support in Georgia is subject to a specific formula called the “income-sharing model”. It does this by dividing the total amount needed to raise the couple’s children between the parents based on their personal income. For the purposes for which the parent supports the other, it is also important who the custody parent is. This is defined as the parent the children spend most of their time with.
There are two types of alimony in Georgia: temporary alimony and permanent alimony. Temporary alimony must be paid during the process in order for the supported spouse to live until the end of the process. At that point this support ends. On the other hand, permanent alimony payments are paid after the divorce is over. Despite its name, permanent alimony is not always forever and is often only paid until the supported spouse can support themselves.
There is no set formula for alimony payments. The judge may consider standard of living, length of marriage, health, financial resources, contribution to marriage, and anything else that is deemed relevant, including behavior.
401 (k) and IRA and Divorce in Georgia
Retirement accounts can be affected by a divorce or a judgment. In fact, some of the money may need to be taken out and given to the other spouse. First, the court determines what money is marital property in the account. In essence, any money deposited into the account during the marriage, along with any investment gains from that money, are considered marital property and could be split up in a divorce decision. Money deposited before marriage is a separate property, not part of it.
Usually, taking money out of a 401 (k) before 59.5 will result in fines and taxes. However, the judge can issue a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) to avoid this. An IRA does not require a QDRO, but the divorce agreement or decision must contain a specific language for taking money out for fees and taxes to be waived. The IRA administrator receives a copy of the divorce decree and follows its instructions.
Once the funds are removed from the account, there are a few options. The money could be sent straight to a spouse’s bank account. While you will avoid penalties for early withdrawal, it will be considered regular income and taxed as such. That is, unless it is a Roth account. A rollover account can also be set up to reinvest the money for retirement. The order of the QDRO or the judge may contain specific information about where the money should go.
Divorce and Estate Planning in Georgia
Georgia Divorce Laws
If you and your spouse had an estate plan during your marriage, it makes sense to reconsider it after a divorce. For example, your assets are likely to go to your now ex-spouse during your marriage. Now, if you want assets to be passed on to your children, you need to establish a trust relationship. Also, check the beneficiary for all financial accounts, including retirement and bank accounts.
If you and your spouse have a plan for what to do with your children when you both die, check to see that the plan continues to work for everyone. This should be an important consideration.
There are both flawless and flawed divorces in Georgia. A divorce can be undisputed. In this case, the two parties come to an agreement. If not, it will be challenged and the two parties will try to come to an agreement or allow a judge to come to a judgment.
Financial planning tips
People of all families have to take care of their own finances. The help of a financial advisor can be of great benefit. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult to find a financial advisor. The free tool from SmartAsset connects you to financial advisors in your area in five minutes. Get started now.
When writing a will, don’t forget to name someone to look after your children. You hope it never comes to that, but you will likely sleep better if you have a plan anyway.
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Georgia Divorce Laws first appeared on the SmartAsset Blog.