Grounds for Divorce in Georgia

Grounds for Divorce in Georgia

13 Grounds For Divorce in Georgia

There are 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia. Stating your reason (grounds for divorce) is a mandatory part of your paperwork to file for divorce.

When filing for divorce in Georgia you must cite at least one of the 13 legal grounds for divorce, however; you can cite multiple reasons.Irreconcilable Differences is probably the most commonly cited grounds for divorce in Georgia.

You usually will not be compelled to explain or prove your stated grounds for divorce. An example of an exception would be a person citing "adultery" as the grounds for divorce, and your spouse challenges you to prove the assertion.

In reasonably amicable divorces, citing "Irretrievably broken" can keep conflict at a minimum and spare possible public embarrassment or shame. In a contentious divorce, filing certain gounds (if provable) can impact the outcome of your divorce settlement. An example is, claiming/proving adultery nullifis a spouse’s ability to pursue support payments. Another example is claiming/provoing alcohol and/or substance abuse which could sway court decisions on child custody and visitation.

What Are the 13 Grounds For Divorce In Georgia?

  1. Adultery is sexual relations outside of the marriage by either husband or wife. This is not applicable in open marriages, or marriages where a spouse otherwise codoned the sexual relations outside of the marriage..
  2. Irretrievably broken (irreconcilable differences = no-fault divorce) is an option if it is agreed to by both parties. On these grounds, a final divorce decree could possibly be obtained in as little as 31 days.
  3. Habitual intoxication applies when a spouse is an alcohol abuser and has made no efforts to resolve their addiction problems.
  4. Habitual addiction applies when a spouse is a drug or substance abuser and has made no efforts to resolve their addiction problems.
  5. Cruel treatment applies when there is verifiable instances of mental and/or physical abuse.
  6. Desertion applies if either party leaves the marriage, with no intent of returning to the marriage, for a period of one year or longer.
  7. Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage. This generally claims that you or your spouse were incoherent or mentally incapable of clear thinking at the time of the ceremony. This can include people with known mental disorders, being severely intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, or similar conditions at the time of the marriage.
  8. Intermarriage by persons with close blood lines wherein the relationships between the husband and wife which would generally qualify as incest.
  9. Impotency, the chronic inability to perform sexually, at the time of the marriage and you were unaware of this condition.
  10. Pregnancy of the wife by another man prior to the wedding and unknown to the husband.
  11. Force or fraud used to cause the marriage. This includes using any means to get your spouse to marry you when they may not otherwise be inclined to do so.
  12. Conviction of any crime involving moral turpitude which results in incarceration of two or more years.
  13. Incurable mental illness, although very difficult to validate, requires testimony from at least two physicians or psychiatric professionals, and a history of being institutionalized.

The exact language of Georgia’s Grounds for Total Divorce, you may visit the Justia website. The full 2020 Georgia Code O.C.G.A. 19-5-3 may be viewed in its entirety.

Unique Twists in Divorce Grounds

Adultery – a complicated mess

What Constitutes Adultery in Georgia?

Per Georgia Code O.C.G.A. 16-6-19, "A married person commits the offense of adultery when he voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a person other than his spouse and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as for a misdemeanor." 1

Oddly enough, even though a normal person would find it outrageously unacceptable, oral sex and other forms of sexual conduct are not cosidered adultery. It’s worth noting that in Georgia, sodomy (oral sex) is a sex crime. This means that your spouse can have certain levels of sexual conduct outside of your marriage, and still not meet the criteria for adultery.

Abandonment and Desertion

Desertion. Georgia laws on divorce mandate an absence of a year or longer to formally apply a condition of desertion. If proven, this circumstance constitutes willful desertion is one of the grounds for filing divorce. It is important to know that circumstances such as being deployed for military service does not meet the criteria for marital desertion..

Abandonment. Georgia does not officially recognize the assertion of simple abandonment as a justifiable cause to file for divorce. The court may however, view any acts of abandonment as constructive abandonment. This could cause the court to take a more negative view of the accused when considering child custody, property division, and support payments.

If acts of constructive abandonment exist, you need to be aware of apotentially costly mistake. A spouse that has abandoned you may return and claim they want to save the marriage. What is the potential mistake? The popular website LegalZoom has words you need to read, "Georgia law contains a catch. If he returns to you in “good faith,” and you turn him away, you become the spouse guilty of constructive desertion, because you’ve mentally ended the marriage. "2

Annulment in Georgia

The website GaDivorceOnline.com offers these comments on annulments, "In Georgia there are two types of annulment. In the first type the marriage is declared void ab initio, or from its inception, as though it had never existed. You do not legally have to go to court to have the marriage declared void ab initio, although it’s a good idea to do so. In the case of an annulment, a marriage must be "totally void" in order for it to be considered annulled."3

The website goes on to define two charachteristics that constitute a "totally void marriage", which are,

  • the marriage posses some defect rendering it susceptible to collateral attack (some evidence that shows the marriage never happened or should have never happened) even after the death of one or both spouses; and
  • no direct step or proceeding to annul is necessary (although the latter may be desirable).

In closing, you should know that planning your exit strategy and divorce is crucial to achieving an acceptable outcome. To this point, we would like to share the words of divorce lawyer Melissa Heining in an article published on DivorceNet.com, "In addition to the no-fault divorce process, Georgia courts also allow couples to file for divorce based on their spouse’s marital misconduct. In most cases, couples are happy to move through the divorce process without shaming their spouse or telling the world exactly why their marriage failed. For others, marital misconduct may be so severe that they must reveal it to the court. Judges can also use marital fault in other aspects of the divorce, such as child custody or alimony awards, which can be beneficial to the non-offending spouse."4


Identifying the specific grounds you can or want to claim when filing divorce is an important part of your exit strategy. To learn more about what best serves you, contact an experienced divorce lawyer at the Burns Law Group in Canton, Georgia.

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

  • 1 Staff Writer, "Sexual Offenses § 16-6-19 – Adultery", June 3, 2019, Available from Justia.com
  • 2 Beverly Bird, "Divorce & Abandonment Laws in Georgia", June 19, 2018, Available from LegalZoom
  • 3 Staff Writer, "Grounds for Divorce in Georgia", February 7, 2021, Available from GA Divorce Online
  • 4 Melissa Heining, "Grounds for Divorce in Georgia", February 9, 2018, Available from DivorceNet.com
  • Photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels.com

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