In the last six months, I have had two potential clients tell me that they have been advised by either an attorney or marriage counselor that there is no such thing as a legal separation in the State of Georgia.
Please do not believe this rumor. Truth be told, either spouse may file a separate maintenance action against the other. The petition can ask for things, such as, alimony; possession of the marital residence; custody; visitation; and child support. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on such matters, the Court will hear the evidence; decide these issues for them; and issue an Order. That Order will remain in effect for either a specified period of time stated in the petition; the action is dismissed; or until a temporary or final order on a divorce action has been issued.
In order for the petition to survive scrutiny from the Court, the parties must be living separately or in a bona fide state of separation. This standard is easier to meet than that needed for a divorce, which requires a bona fide state of separation and no hope for reconciliation.
Spouses sometime use this mechanism when they reevaluating their marriage and are unsure if they really want to get a divorce. With the Order of legal separation in place, the spouses can continue to work towards reconciliation without the stress of not knowing when they will be allowed to see the children and how the marital bills will be paid.
Another benefit for filing the separate maintenance action is the shorted residency requirement. Unlike a divorce action, which requires the spouse to reside in the State of Georgia for a continuous period of the six months immediately prior to filing, as spouse can file for separate maintenance at any time. The result is that the filing spouse can get immediate relief instead of having to wait six months before the child and financial related issues are addressed.
Contrary to popular belief, legal separation is alive and well in the State of Georgia.