Divorce has the potential to be a long, complex process that can leave parties uncertain about how to proceed. For this reason, many couples at the end of their marriage have begun to pursue other options including arbitration and mediation. Sometimes, couples even decide to avoid the court process altogether by pursuing a separate maintenance action. No matter what method you seek to end a marriage, it is a wise idea to obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney.
Georgia and Legal Separation
The state of Georgia does not acknowledge legal separations, which involve a husband and wife living apart according to the terms of a court order or separation agreement.
Some couples decide to informally separate, during which time the couple decides what option will be pursued in the long-term. Many times, after trying a period of separation, couples decides to pursue a divorce or commence a separate maintenance action. Sometimes, however, couples decide to remain married.
The primary reason why legal separation is sought is because it offers certain types of protections. Some of the other reasons why couples pursue separation rather than divorce is that it allows them to meet the 10-year requirement for social security benefits, so that both spouses can continue receiving health insurance benefits, to take advantages of filing taxes jointly, and to retain certain military benefits.
The Role of Separate Maintenance Actions
Georgia Law (O.C.G.A. § 19-6-10) allows spouses who want to remain legally married but live separate lives to pursue separate maintenance actions. Either spouse in Georgia is able to file a separate maintenance action. To successfully obtain a separate maintenance action, it does not matter whether one party committed an action that ended the marriage or if the decision to separate was agreed on by both parties.
To successfully obtain a separate maintenance, a lawfully recognized or valid marriage must exist. The parties in question also must be living separately. A pending action of divorce also must not exist between the parties. A pending divorce action will supersede any action for separate maintenance pursued by either party. Also, to file a “separate maintenance” action, at least one of the spouses must have resided in Georgia for a period of at least six months before filing for the action in accordance with Georgia Code Section 19-5-5.
Unlike in a divorce, in a separate maintenance action, the parties are separated but the marriage is not entirely dissolved.
Separate maintenance is often the best option for couples who do not want to totally sever a marriage bond but who have found it difficult to live together in the same household. This option is also ideal for couples who have moral or religious views against divorce.
Speak with a Seasoned Family Law Attorney
No matter if you decide to pursue a separate maintenance action or a divorce, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced attorney. Contact Vayman & Teitelbaum P.C. today to schedule an initial free consultation during which time we will discuss what option is best for your situation. We have helped many people navigate the end of marriages and remain committed to making certain that your case resolves in the best possible manner.