Unlike other states, Georgia does not have an official process called legal separation.
Instead, Georgia has a legal procedure called a separate maintenance action which is similar to what other states call legal separation.
In a separate maintenance action, a court will divide a couple’s property and debts. If needed, the court may also decide matter related to the couple’s children, including custody, parenting time and child support.
A separate maintenance order can also include an award of alimony.
In other words, on a practical level, a separate maintenance case works a lot like a divorce. There are a few important differences, however:
How separate maintenance is different from divorce
The biggest difference between separate maintenance and divorce is that, after a separate maintenance case ends, the couple remains legally married and, thus, not free to marry again.
Another significant difference is that separate maintenance actions, unlike divorces, do not have residency requirements. All a couple must show is that they have indeed separated and intend to live apart.
On the other hand, separate maintenance is not an option if either party already has a pending divorce case.
People consider separate maintenance for many reasons
Some couples in the Atlanta area may want to explore separation maintenance because they are in a difficult home situation but have strong moral or religious objections to divorce.
In other cases, a couple may just not be ready to take a step as definitive as an outright divorce, or they may not feel that doing so would be best for their children.
In still other cases, it may be in a couple’s best interest financially to remain in a marriage.
In any event, those interested in exploring separate maintenance can speak to an attorney about the option.