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Going through the breakup of a marriage is always painful. Even in otherwise amicable situations, it can have a significant impact on your personal and professional life, as well as your current and future financial security.

While the court does not specifically provide for legal separation in Georgia, you may be able to file a separate maintenance action as an alternative to divorce. This can allow you to address issues such as property division, child custody and alimony while living separate and apart from your spouse, while leaving the marriage legally intact.

Opting For Legal Separation vs. Divorce

Under Georgia court rules, you may be entitled to file for separate maintenance provided you live apart from your spouse and no formal divorce paperwork has been filed. There are several reasons spouses may opt for a legal separation in the alternative to divorce:

  • Residency issues: You must be a resident for at least six months to be eligible to file for divorce in Georgia.
  • Personal reasons: Couples may not be ready to officially end the marriage, but they want a court order granting support or establishing how they will go about living separate and apart.
  • Religious beliefs: If a couple's religious beliefs do not allow for divorce, filing for separate maintenance while living apart can resolve issues related to asset division, debt and bill payment, and child custody and support.

Just as in divorce cases, proceedings for separate maintenance may be contested or uncontested. In uncontested cases, the parties agree on terms concerning property and financial support and only require the judge to approve the settlement. Contested cases in which agreements are unable to be reached require each side to present information relevant to their position before asking the judge to decide the matter. Similar to contested divorce proceedings, this process can be quite lengthy, and may require ongoing negotiations and the exchange of information between the spouses and their attorneys.

Financial Advantages of Legal Separation In Georgia

In addition to residency issues, personal issues, and religious beliefs, there are certain financial advantages which make legal separation a better option for some couples. These include:

  • Healthcare benefits: By remaining married, one spouse can likely continue to be covered under the other's insurance.
  • Social Security benefits: To be able to receive benefits on behalf of your spouse through the Social Security Administration, you must have been married 10 years before filing for divorce.
  • Military and Veterans benefits: Spouses who are legally separated but not divorced may still be entitled to military benefits, including health and life insurance.
  • Estate planning benefits: Remaining married may allow you to preserve your estate planning documents while ensuring your spouse retains their right to inherit.

Our Georgia Attorneys Can Assist You

Before deciding whether a legal separation in Georgia is right for you, contact Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor . Our divorce and family law attorneys can advise you on the best course of action based on your situation, while acting as a strong legal advocate to ensure your rights and interests are protected. We have offices located strategically in Alpharetta, Buckhead, Dunwoody, and Marietta; call or contact our office online to see how we can assist you.

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