Lately, I’ve had Georgia on the cerebral cortex. So it inspired me to look into how the divorce laws in Georgia work as compared to New York. What I’ve discovered is that in the state of Georgia, divorce filings are on the rise, as are the rates of foreclosures. This is in direct contradiction to the rest of the country where the rates of divorce and foreclosure filings are inversely related. But then again, these statistics depend on who you talk to. I personally find it incredulous that there is a rise in the divorce rate anywhere in the country at the moment, given the recession and all. So we will chock that statement up to conjecture.
What I wanted to discuss is the in and outs of actually filing for divorce in Georgia as compared to New York. What are the ground rules? What are the differences?
Well, first of all, Georgia is a no fault jurisdiction. That means, in addition to 12 other grounds, you can get a divorce because you simply want one whether your spouse agrees or not. Many of the grounds for divorce in Georgia, are actually grounds of an annulment in New York. (New York has only about 6-7 grounds for divorce as compared to Georgia’s 13 grounds). In New York you can get a divorce for abandonment, constructive abandonment, adultery, imprisonment, judgment of separation, separation agreement and cruel and inhuman treatment. Here are the grounds for divorce in Georgia pursuant to the Georgia State Bar. This is in addition to “irreconcilable difference”:
Adultery in Georgia includes heterosexual and homosexual relations between one spouse and another individual. Another fault ground for divorce in Georgia is desertion. A divorce may be granted on the grounds that a person has deserted his or her spouse willfully for at least one year. Other fault grounds include mental or physical abuse, marriage between persons who are too closely related, mental incapacity at the time of marriage, impotency at the time of marriage, force or fraud in obtaining the marriage, pregnancy of the wife unknown to the husband at the time of the marriage, conviction and imprisonment for certain crimes, habitual intoxication or drug addiction and mental illness
You can get an uncontested divorce in Georgia so long as there is no disagreement from your spouse with respect to any aspect of the break up. Unlike New York, where even uncontested divorces can take up to a year or longer in some counties, in Georgia, an uncontested divorce takes about one month. As far as residency requirements, Georgia requires a 6 month period of residency as compared to New York which requires one year. Moreover, in Georgia, you do not have to worry about finding someone over 18 to serve your spouse the way you do in New York. The sheriff in Georgia serves your spouse unless your spouse does not contest. In which case, you can serve your spouse yourself.
Another interesting difference between Georgia and New York is this idea that you must file for divorce in the county where the defendant lives. Quite the opposite in New York where you file where the plaintiff lives. And it makes more sense I think. Why should the plaintiff be inconvenienced and forced to file where it is convenient for the defendant?
As far as the children of the marriage, both Georgia and New York use the best interest of the child analysis in awarding custody. But unlike New York, Georgia mandates that parents agree to a parenting plan prior to obtaining a judgment of divorce. This is good. All states should do that, frankly. New York doesn’t yet require a parenting plan.
With regard to child support, both states follow a similar model. They combine the income of both parents and decide the amount of child support based on a fractional share of the aggregated income and each parent’s gross. New York has an actual formulae for deciding this, though. It does not appear that Georgia has a “formula” strictly speaking. What is also interesting is that Georgia’s child support extends to the child’s 18th birthday unless the child is not finished with high school in which case they give a grace period not to exceed the child’s 20th birthday. That means that college tuition is not mandated in Georgia whatsoever. In New York, support goes to age 21. And more and more, college tuition is mandated using the SUNY annual tuition as the basis to determine tuition payments by the non-custodial parent.