Assisting Clients With Legal Separation In Georgia
A separation is when a married couple chooses to live separate lives but not formally end the marriage. Married couples in Georgia can separate by requesting a “separate maintenance agreement” order from the court. However, if one spouse wants to divorce, a divorce will occur. A separation can only occur if both spouses agree that a separation is best and that, for whatever reason, divorce is not an option at that time.
There are a variety of reasons for choosing separation over divorce. A couple may choose not to legally end their marriage due to:
- Religious beliefs
- Financial reasons, such as pension plan benefits
- Health care reasons, including access to health insurance through a spouse
- The couple is mutually not ready to end the marriage through divorce
- Neither spouse desires to remarry
Although the separation is agreed upon by the parties, they do not necessarily have to agree on the terms of the separation. The court can still consider requests for child and spousal support just as it would during a divorce. Similar to divorce, the process is most efficient when both parties agree on issues such as alimony, child support, visitation and property division. In that case, the judge is likely to sign the agreement presented if it seems fair to both parties. When spouses do not agree on issues, the separation may go to trial, similar to divorce proceedings.
Ultimately, couples who are happy with the separation agreement and later opt for divorce can use the separation agreement as a template for the divorce.
Essentially, a legal separation is a court-approved contract between spouses that outlines how marital responsibilities will be divided. The agreement can address issues including:
- Asset and property division: Dividing the marital property can be an emotional and complicated process. A knowledgeable attorney can make this process easier.
- Payment of marital debts: Many couples owe money on their home, cars or credit cards. I help apportion these debts as well as medical debts and other loans.
- Spousal support: Depending on the financial circumstances of each spouse, support may be negotiated or ordered by a judge.
- Child custody: Determining where children should live, who should make decisions about their lives and when relatives can visit them is often an emotionally fraught process. I work to reduce the conflict surrounding these issues and come to an agreement that is best for the children.
- Child support: Both parents are expected to contribute to the costs of raising their children. This often means that one parent must make payments to the other. I help to negotiate payments that are fair and beneficial to children.