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