Georgia Family Law: An Overview
Life can be full of big life decisions like marriage, prenuptial agreements, divorce and child visitation negotiations. Georgia's family laws enforce and protect your rights and provide a legal foundation for life events that are typically highly emotional.
Whether you are considering a prenuptial agreement, looking to adopt, or need help deciding who should get what property in a divorce, a Georgia family law attorney can help keep things civil.
If you have a family law case in Albany, Decatur, Atlanta or elsewhere in Georgia, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo's Georgia Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. Georgia family law attorneys can assist you with any of the following topics (and many more).
Georgia Marriage License
When planning your wedding day, one of the most important things to remember is to apply for a marriage license before getting married. (See Georgia Code §19-3-30.) A marriage license guarantees you and your spouse's legal rights to certain benefits like tax breaks and family insurance.
Unlike in most states, Georgia doesn't impose waiting periods or expiration dates for marriage licenses, meaning that you could apply and receive your license anytime before your wedding ceremony. There are also no residency requirements for applying for a license. However, out-of-state couples wishing to marry in Georgia must apply for their license in the county where they will have their ceremony.
To qualify for a marriage license, couples must meet these requirements:
- Both applicants must be 16 years of age and older. Applicants ages 16 or 17 must attain parental or guardian consent.
- Both applicants must be of sound mind.
- Both applicants must not be currently married. Any applicant who was in a previous marriage must tender proof of divorce or dissolution.
- Neither applicant may be related by blood or marriage except for cousins of the first and higher degrees.
Georgia Divorce Requirements
Marriages can end in divorce for many reasons but only a select few are legally permissible in Georgia. (See Georgia Code Title 19, Chapter 5.) Additionally, divorcing couples must meet a state residency requirement. One or both spouses must have been a Georgia resident at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
To qualify for a divorce, one spouse must prove one or more of the following grounds:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken (also known as the "no-fault" divorce ground).
- Intermarriage with a family relative.
- One spouse was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage ceremony.
- One spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage ceremony.
- One spouse employed force, menace, or duress upon the other to obtain the marriage.
- Adultery and resulting pregnancy of the wife at the time of the marriage ceremony without the husband's knowledge.
- Adultery during the marriage.
- One spouse willfully and continuously deserted the other for one year or longer.
- One spouse was convicted and imprisoned for an "offense involving moral turpitude" for two years or longer.
- One spouse was habitually intoxicated or addicted to drugs during the marriage.
- Cruel treatment endangering the life or health of one spouse by the other.
- One spouse has been institutionalized for a mental illness for at least two years and that his/her illness has been deemed incurable by the court and physicians.
In Georgia, a "no-fault" divorce may be granted if both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken at no fault to either spouse. No-fault divorces can result in a faster and less expensive divorce.
Distribution of Marital Property in Georgia
Who will get what when a couple divorces? A 50/50 marital property split (known as "community property" law) occurs in a few states, but not in Georgia.
Georgia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, in a divorce. Assets (property and income) and liabilities (debts) acquired during the marriage are available for division and distribution. Separate property acquired before the marriage or from inheritances or gifts from other parties during the marriage typically remain with the original owners.
The fair and equitable distribution of property is considered by the court on a case-by-case basis. Divorce fault grounds are taken into consideration along with each spouse's financial and health needs, among other factors.
When Do I Need a Georgia Family Law Attorney?
Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.
Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.
Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Georgia family law attorney if you have additional questions.
Speak to an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today
Even the most common family law issue can be intensely stressful. A knowledgeable family lawyer can guide you through the process. An attorney will coach you on how to proceed and give expert guidance on hearings, trials and enforcing court orders. Take the first step now and talk to an experienced local family attorney.
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