Answers to Your Questions About Georgia Divorce

Our team of legal professionals has represented individuals in divorce proceedings for many years, and our shared experiences led us to write authoritative answers to the most frequently asked questions. Here, learn more by finding the answers you need.

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  • How will getting a divorce affect my Social Security disability benefits?

    Many things can affect your Social Security disability benefits, including your household income and even your marital status. Seeing as both of things change when a couple splits, getting a divorce can affect your Social Security disability benefits in a big way.

    How will divorce affect my Social Security Disability benefits?

    How a divorce will affect your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) income hinges on whose earning record the Social Security Administration (SSA) is basing your benefits on.

    In most cases, individuals worked for years before suffering a disability, and their SSDI benefits stem from their own earning record. If this is the case for you, your benefit amount will remain unchanged unless the courts garnish your income for child support or other payments.

    In other cases, however, the SSA bases SSDI benefits on someone else’s earning record or disability. Depending on whose record these benefits stem from, your payments may change.

    Spousal, or auxiliary, benefits allow you to draw SSDI based on a spouse who qualifies. If you are currently receiving this type of benefit, you will continue receiving the same amount each month as long as:

    • Your marriage lasted ten years or longer
    • You do not get remarried
    • You do not become eligible for a significantly larger Social Security benefit based on your own employment record and/or disability

    If your marriage lasted less than ten years, you may lose eligibility for this type of auxiliary payment.

    How can divorce affect Supplemental Security Income benefits?

    In many cases, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits increase after a divorce. The SSA bases these benefits on your income and other factors related to your financial situation, which means your benefits are likely to increase if:

    • Your divorce causes your household income to decrease
    • You split assets with your spouse in the divorce
    • Your spouse was contributing to your living expenses

    In some cases, though, your benefits might decrease. Since the SSA calculates your payment based on your income, any monies you receive in the divorce or after may count against you. This includes any assets, alimony, and child support.

    How can The Ward Law Firm help me?

    If you receive SSDI or SSI benefits, it pays to look into how your Gwinnett County divorce could affect your income before going forward with filing. Too many people receive an unwanted surprise when they call the SSA to tell it about their new single status.

    Because a divorce can impact your benefits in a number of ways, it is a good idea to discuss it with a Gwinnett County divorce lawyer before making any decisions on how to proceed.

    If you have questions about your SSDI or SSI benefits and how a divorce may affect your eligibility for payments, The Ward Law Firm can help. Call us today at 770-383-1973 and set up your REAL Case Analysis with attorney David Ward.

  • Is an emotional affair adultery in court?

    Infidelity has ended a lot of marriages. When we think of adultery, though, we think of physical relationships. Gaining more recognition, though, is the emotional affair. While an emotional affair could wreck a marriage, the courts do not consider it a form of adultery, a potentially important point if pursuing a divorce.

    Physical vs. Emotional Affairs

    What separates physical affairs from emotional affairs is physical contact. Physical affairs require an in-person meeting and sexual contact.

    Emotional affairs involve romantic, emotional attachments formed outside of the marriage, no physical intimacy required. Texting, talking on the phone and meeting for lunch could all be part of an emotional affair. Emotional affairs can lead to physical affairs over time, but not all do.

    How Georgia Courts View Adultery

    Georgia courts define adultery as sexual congress with someone other than your spouse while married. While emotional affairs can be just as damaging to the marriage as physical affairs, they do not constitute adultery in divorce court.

    It is not enough for your spouse to have formed an emotional connection with another person. They must have been involved with that person in a physical, sexual way in order to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

    So if you cannot prove the physical affair took place, then you will be unable to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Testimony from one spouse is not enough to prove adultery. You will need to present evidence in the form of:

    • Photos
    • Video or audio recordings
    • Phone records
    • Bank statements
    • Credit card statements
    • Witness testimony

    You may not be able to prove that sexual contact occurred, but proving that your spouse had the opportunity and inclination to physically cheat on you may be enough to prove adultery.

    The Effects of Adultery on Divorce

    If one spouse was physically unfaithful to the other during the marriage, it might affect the terms of divorce. For example, infidelity may prevent the spouse who was unfaithful to the other from receiving alimony. See our previous blog on how adultery may affect the divorce for more information.

    While emotional affairs are not adultery as far as the courts are concerned, any form of cheating can lead to divorce. Even if you are not filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery, there are still a lot of legal processes to follow, evidence to compile, and divorce negotiations to manage. Call The Ward Law Firm at 770-383-1973 to set up a REAL Case Analysis where you can discuss your divorce case.

  • What is the Georgia divorce waiting period?

    In order to file for divorce in Georgia, there are rules couples must follow. For example, the Georgia divorce waiting period requires couples filing under certain grounds to wait a certain amount of time.

    Depending on the divorce grounds, couples may have to wait only a month, while some end up waiting at least a year or two.

    Residency Requirement

    Regardless of what grounds you file for divorce under, anyone filing for divorce in Georgia must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months. Essentially, this means that if you move to Georgia to get away from your spouse, you still must wait six months to file.

    If your spouse moved out of state and you stayed, you are able to file in Georgia.

    How do divorce grounds affect how long I have to wait?

    Georgia has both fault and no-fault divorces. Fault divorces occur when one of the spouses requests a divorce based on certain grounds including:

    • Adultery
    • Incarceration
    • Desertion
    • Cruelty

    For most couples filing for divorce based on fault grounds, there is generally no waiting period. However, the following grounds have their own specific time period criteria:

    Abandonment

    According to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(7), there must have been willful and continued desertion by a spouse for one year or more. Once the year is up, the abandoned spouse can then file a claim for divorce based on abandonment.

    Incurable Mental Illness

    Per O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(11), one spouse must have spent the last two years in a mental health institution or under the constant care of a mental health professional in order to successfully assert this as a grounds for divorce.

    No-fault Divorces

    No-fault divorces are just as they sound; to petition for divorce, neither spouse needs to prove fault. All the law requires is a state-approved reason for the divorce, such as “irreconcilable differences” or “irreparable breakdown of the marriage.”

    According to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(13), no-fault divorces based on an irretrievably broken marriage require a 30-day waiting period from the date of filing.

    30-Day “De Facto” Waiting Period for Both Fault and No-fault Divorces

    While there is technically no waiting period for a fault-based divorce (aside from those we discussed above), petitioners must still wait 30 days after serving his or her spouse before the court is able to schedule a hearing date.

    This is because after the plaintiff serves a defendant with papers, the defendant has a set time in which to file a responsive pleading or answer, usually 30 days. Georgia courts cannot schedule a trial until after the defendant’s time to respond has expired per O.C.G.A. § 9-11-40.

    Therefore, there is a de facto waiting period of 30 days for both no-fault and fault-based divorce.

    This may differ when the plaintiff serves the defendant by publication; this method gives the defendant 60 days to respond from the date of the first publication, per O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(13).

    Note: A judge may grant a divorce before the settlement period ends if one of the parties files a Motion for a Judgment on the Pleadings to skip the hearing. The parties must also sign and submit a complete settlement to the court.

    Filing for divorce is just the first step in the divorce process. The waiting period is the minimum amount of time required for a divorce, but most divorces — especially if contested — take much longer. The additional time allows for couples to address property division and child custody issues.

    The requirements for filing a divorce in Georgia can be complicated. Get help from the Ward Law Firm today.

    Contact us to schedule your REAL Case Analysis:  770-383-1973

  • What Type of Experts Might You Need To Prepare and Present Your Case?

    Divorce Lawyer Atlanta

    This is Dave Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I protect business owners who are facing divorce and this is the last in our series on the three most frequently asked questions that I get from people who are facing divorce in Georgia and the four questions that people should be asking.

    The last question that people should be asking is, what type or types of experts might I need in order to prepare and present my case? And this is important to ask at the outset because anytime you’re going to be involved with an expert, there’s preparation that has to be done and considerations that have to be made. First and foremost, experts are usually very, very expensive. So knowing at the outset that you may need to have somebody in a particular discipline whether that be a forensic accountant or a certified divorce financial analyst or a child’s psychologist or any other numbers of experts that might be needed in your case, it’s important to know that these people may be needed so you can plan appropriately for the expenses that are going to be involved. It also helps tailor the type of information that you need to be gathering and putting together to be able to present to that expert so they could perform their analysis of whatever it is that is covered by their particular field.

    One of the most common experts that I see, particularly in cases that involve business owners, are either forensic accountants or certified divorce financial analysts and both of these are experts are highly skilled in using all manner of financial documentation including tax returns in order to pinpoint irregularities in parties’ incomes, or in their expenses including things that are related to businesses and business income and expenses. They can be instrumental in discovering hidden assets as well as establishing evaluations for closely held corporations and businesses. The more complex the cases – whether that’s due to a high network or the involvement of one or more business – the more likely it is that an expert of this type is probably going to be needed in your case. So knowing what type or types of experts you’re going to need is an essential part in preparing for a divorce.

    Well we’ve just wrapped up our series on the three most frequently asked questions that I get from people who are facing a divorce as well as the four questions that people should be asking. If you’ve reached this point in the series then clearly there is something going on and I always tell people if you’re faced with the possibility of divorce, the first thing you should look to do is go and speak with an attorney. So if you’re facing the prospect of a divorce and you’d like to know how to start getting prepared, come in and we’ll conduct our real case analysis for you. We will review all of the facts of your case. We’re going to evaluate the legal issues that are present in your case, analyze the strategies that are available to you and give you a list of next steps that you can be working on as you start moving forward in the process. So contact us today at the number below.

    I’m David Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I protect the business owner who’s facing divorce. Call us today!

  • How Quickly Can I Expect To Get A Hearing When Facing Divorce?

    This is Dave Ward of the Ward Law Firm and I protect business owners who are facing divorce.

    The third question that people should be asking when facing a divorce is, “how quickly can I expect to get a hearing?”

    Frequently when a divorce is being filed, there are a number of immediate concerns that need to be addressed. This is particularly true in situations where children are involved. When those things arise, there are always questions of is one party going to need to pay spousal support or child support, who has custody of the kids under what circumstances, who’s going to have visitation and all those of sorts of things, who’s going to get to stay where, and who needs to move someplace else.

    For all these questions, the courts have set up something called the temporary hearing. At a temporary hearing, the sole purpose is to simply maintain the status quo until such time as the court has an opportunity to hear the case on all of its merits and in other words, to have a full blown trial.

    Usually, you can request a temporary hearing at the time that it’s being filed but the court is almost never going to agree to set that before at least 30 plus days have elapsed and the reason is very simple, the case has to be served on the other party. It’s a lawsuit and like all lawsuits when somebody is being sued, they are entitled to be notified of the case and the court is going to make sure before it sets any hearings that adequate time is given to make sure that your spouse has been made aware of the fact that the case is pending and knows about hearing and has time to prepare for it. So that’s usually the fastest you’re going to get and there is one exception to that and that is in situations where there’s a bona fide emergency that the court must handle immediately.

    Frequently, situations like that involve situations that really truly cannot wait at all and often times involve harm to one of the parties or to the party’s children. Now it’s important to remember that if you’re asking the court for an emergency hearing, what a court considers to be an emergency is very, very different from what you and I think are emergencies. Frequently, a court is only going to grant a request for an emergency hearing under the most dire of circumstances.

    So for this reason, you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to be able to get one of these emergency hearings. More often than not, it’s usually going to be 30-40 days before you’re going to be able to have your first hearing which is why it’s important to make sure that you plan appropriately for handling that period of time that’s going to elapse from filing until that first hearing. And that’s the questions number three on our series of the questions that people should be asking when they’re facing divorce.

    I’m David Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I protect business owners who are facing divorce. Call us today.

  • Should I Leave The Marital Home When Facing Divorce?

    [TRANSCRIPT] This is David Ward of the Ward Law Firm and I protect the business owner who’s facing divorce.

    In this series, we’ve been talking about the three most frequently asked questions that I get from people and now we’re on to the questions that people should be asking. Question number two that people should be asking is “should I leave the marital home?” And the answer for this actually can vary from situation to situation.

    If it’s your intent to keep the marital residence, frequently it’s recommended that you not leave it and while there is nothing to preclude the court from doing so, courts are usually reluctant to end the case with the final order ordering one spouse to leave so the other spouse can move back into a residence. So ultimately your best chances of keeping the marital residence if that’s what you’re interested in doing is not to leave it at all. But there are some important considerations that go into this decision to begin with and it’s important to remember that the decision to keep or not keep the marital residence really is a very important financial decision.

    There are a number of factors that need to be considered before making the decision including is the residence under water or in other words, is it worth less than what is owed on the mortgage. Another consideration is whether or not you have sufficient income in order to support the residence, pay the associated cost including mortgage payments, insurance if there are homeowner’s dues, and those types of things and finally if you can afford to make any of the upcoming major repair such as replacing a roof, etc.

    So the final note that I would have and this goes against what I had initially recommended about staying in the marital home and that has to do with situations involving domestic violence and if you’re in a situation where you are concerned for your safety or the safety of your children, nothing trumps that. If you are concerned for your safety, there are things that can be done to get your spouse out of the home but if you’re concerned for your safety or the safety of your children, leave the house now and we can deal with that once you’re in a position where we know that you’re going to be safe. Nothing, nothing is more important than the safety of yourself and your children. So that is the second question that people should be asking when they’re facing a divorce.

    I’m Dave Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I protect business owners who are facing divorce. Give us a call!

  • What Kind of Information Should You Be Gathering in a Divorce?

    [TRANSCRIPT] I’m David Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I help protect the business owners who are facing divorce.

    In this series we’ve been talking about three most frequently asked questions that I get from people who are facing a divorce.

    We are going to shift gears a little bit now and talk about the four questions that you should be asking. Question number one that you should be asking is what sort of information should I be gathering?

    A divorce is a law suit. It’s just a particular kind of lawsuit. Like any other lawsuit if the case goes to trial or if you have a hearing you’re going to be required to prove your case and in order to do this you’re going to need evidence. In most cases often the best evidence comes in the form of either pictures or the subject of this question and that is documentation. There is no way to list every conceivable document that you may need, there are some that are common to virtually all divorce cases.

    Number one would be a copy of any domestic contracts. What I mean by that is if you have either a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement, you’re going to want to have those documents. Copies of your last couple of years of income tax returns, bank statements for the last couple of years are also going to be extremely helpful to determine spending patterns etc. and that’s particularly important if you are concerned about money being suddenly moved or disappearing from accounts without any reasonable explanation for why those changes are occurring. Same with investment account statements and retirement account statements. Other statements that are also important would be mortgage statements. If you have car loans, or credit cards, having those statements. Virtually any type of loan agreement and off course for business owners keeping business records such as invoices, account statements, balance sheets, incoming cash flow statements, all the sort of documentation they would normally save as a business owner. Again finally what we mentioned earlier photographs that are related to the divorce. For most of these statements I suggest that people start by trying to gather at least three, last three years worth of statements. With many companies moving to electronic statements it’s become a whole lot easier to obtain these documents. However it is important to remember that passwords can be changed by your spouse which is why I usually suggest printing hard copies and putting them in a safe place where your spouse is not going to find them.

    I’m David Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I protect business owners who are facing a divorce. Give us a call!

  • What is the Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment?

    [TRANSCRIPT] This is Dave Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I help protect business owner whose facing divorce.

    And in this series, we’re talking about the three questions I am asked most frequently as well as the four questions that people should be asking when they sit down with an attorney.

    Right now, we are on question number two, and the question number two is: What is the difference between a divorce and an annulment? Frequently when people contact my office, I first ask questions about whether or not they can get an annulment because there is a perception that an annulment is better than a divorce. And in some respects it can be usually for religious reasons but the difference between a divorce and an annulment has to do with what it is the court is actually decide.

    In the case of the divorce, the court is ruling that a valid marriage is going to be dissolved and the parties are going to be treated as though they’re no longer bound by the bonds of marriage, so that’s a divorce.

    An annulment by contrast is a determination by the court that a divorce isn’t necessary because the marriage itself never actually existed. In other words, it was void right from the beginning. And some of the grounds for that. We talked about a little bit in our first video because they can be both ground for divorce or an annulment and the best example would be a marriage that is procured through fraud upon one of the parties. In that case, fraud, as a general rule, is a defense is a case that involved a contract and marriage is treated by the law as a contract between the two parties. So that can actually be one of the grounds to assert for an annulment if that’s what it is we’re choosing to seek.

    As a practical matter, it is interesting to note that Georgia, like virtually all other states does not favor annulments. And the court is going to view a request for annulments with a very skeptical eye. And there are reasons for that and there are actually even circumstances where you keep getting even if you otherwise qualify. And the example of that is if children were born during the course of the period of time that the party’s thought they were married even if it turns that that marriage was void for some technical reason or procure to fraud, etc., thus State of Georgia is not going to allow that to be treated as an annulment. They’re going to require that you go through the divorce process. So that is some of the difference, there are many more differences between a divorce and an annulment but the big overarching one has to do with what it was that the court is deciding that is, are we dissolving, in otherwise valid marriage or we making a declaration that no marriage ever actually existed.

    I’m David Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I help protect the small business owner in divorce. Give us a call!

  • Is Georgia a fault or no-fault Divorce State?

    [TRANSCRIPT] Hi, I’m Dave Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I help protect the business owner who’s facing divorce.

    In this series, we’re going to be talking about the three most frequently asked questions I get when people are facing a divorce in Georgia as well as the four questions that people should be asking. The first one that I hear most often is, “is Georgia an at fault or not fault divorce state?” and the answer is both.

    In Georgia, there are 13 independent grounds that are recognized for divorce. Twelve of those grounds are considered to be fault grounds. So we’re going to discuss the 13 different grounds that Georgia recognizes for divorce and go very quickly over each one of those.

    The first round recognized by Georgia is called the intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of affinity. What does that mean? Well in English, that means the parties were too closely related by blood. We’ve all heard the term kissing cousins. Well, believe it or not, there are such things that the law addresses under what circumstances people are too closely related in order to be married.

    The second has to do with the mental incapacity of one of the parties at the time that the marriage occurred and this really impart goes to the validity of the marriage because in order to form the marital “contract,” both parties have to be capable of making sound decisions about that. So when somebody is incapable or mentally incapacitated, they don’t have the right at that particular time to enter into the marriage relationship so that is one of the grounds recognized.

    The third ground recognized and it’s pretty self-explanatory is impotency at the time of marriage.

    The fourth has to do with force, menace, duress or fraud in obtaining the marriage and again, these are things that can verify the actual validity of the marriage but what this has to do with is taking somebody and compelling them to do something that they otherwise would not have done.

    The fifth ground is pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband at the time of the marriage unknown by the husband. This is a ground for divorce for situations that have arisen in the past where somebody is told that they are going to be the father of a child they end up deciding that they want to get married only to find out that the child really was not theirs at all to begin with.

    The sixth ground is one that is most commonly thought of by people and that’s adultery by either of the parties after the marriage has occurred.

    Number seven is desertion by either of the parties for a term of one year or more. What’s important to know about both number six and number seven is there are some specific consequences that relate to alimony if either one of these is determined to be the cause of the dissolution of the marriage. For example if one party commits adultery and that is determined to be the cause for the dissolution of the marriage, that party cannot as a matter of law get alimony. The same would also apply in a desertion case. So those are two particularly interesting things about those two.

    The eighth ground for divorce is the conviction of either party for an offense involving moral turpitude and under which he/she is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two years or more. This often leads to the question what is an offense involving moral turpitude and generally without getting too specific, that has to do with crimes that involve demonstrations of poor character. There are a number of crimes that you can actually commit not intending to and not meaning to that just sort of happened. One example of that’s commonly used is sometimes a speeding ticket or some other type of driving offense because those are strict liability offenses. That doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, it just means you had violated some provision of law whereas those that involve actual character of flaws.

    The ninth and this is actually also related to the 12th is habitual intoxication by one of the parties.

    Number 10 is cruel treatment by one of the parties and cruel treatment as defined by the law is treatment that either involves the willful infliction of pain or bodily or mental injury upon the other party whose filing asserting that as a ground provide as such reasonably justifies and apprehension of danger to life, limb or health. These are read extremely broadly by the court and in fact it’s very common for a situation where somebody searched the ground of adultery to also assert cruel treatment because that is considered mental cruelty particularly if the other party’s advertising to the other spouse that they are in the process of committing adultery or have committed it, etcetera.

    Number 11 is incurable mental illness and one very interesting thing about this is unlike virtually every other type of ground to assert for divorce when asserting a ground for incurable mental illness, it is often decided by the courts that you never lest have to continue to support that person throughout their life.

    Number 12 as I said is related to number 9 and number 12 – the habitual drug addiction by one of the parties. Those are what are considered to be the fault grounds for divorce in Georgia.

    Number 13 – is no fault as a practical matter, the one that is usually the basis for almost all of the divorces that are granted in Georgia today – and that is that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no hope of reconciliation.

    So in answer to our question about whether or not Georgia is a fault or no fault state, as you can tell from the foregoing list, Georgia is actually both.

    I’m David Ward from the Ward Law Firm and I help protect the small business owner in divorce. Contact us today!