Grounds for Divorce in Georgia
There are three principal players involved in your marriage that will also be involved in your divorce: you, your spouse, and the state. You cannot simply break up, saddle your charger, and ride off into the sunset. Among other legal considerations, you have to give the state an acceptable reason why you should be allowed to break up. The reason is known as the ground for your divorce. Over the years each state has enacted legislation that governs acceptable grounds.
Any one of the listed grounds below, if proved, will result in the complete dissolution of the marriage (look to each ground in order to find out how to prove that ground). You can file for divorce under more than one ground: for instance, adultery and desertion.
Most couples will file for a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable breakdown. This is the easy way to get a divorce. Use this ground if you are seeking an "uncontested" and "no-fault" divorce.
Grounds for divorce in Georgia can be found in Chapter 5 of the Georgia Statutes at: O.C.G.A. §19-5-3 (2006):
§19-5-3. Grounds for total divorce
The following grounds shall be sufficient to authorize the granting of a total divorce:
- Intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity;
- Mental incapacity at the time of the marriage;
- Impotency at the time of the marriage;
- Force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage;
- Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband, at the time of the marriage, unknown to the husband;
- Adultery in either of the parties after marriage;
- Willful and continued desertion by either of the parties for the term of one year;
- The conviction of either party for an offense involving moral turpitude, under which he is sentenced to imprisonment in a penal institution for a term of two years or longer;
- Habitual intoxication;
- Cruel treatment, which shall consist of the willful infliction of pain, bodily or mental, upon the complaining party, such as reasonably justifies apprehension of danger to life, limb, or health;
- Incurable mental illness. No divorce shall be granted upon this ground unless the mentally ill party has been adjudged mentally ill by a court of competent jurisdiction or has been certified to be mentally ill by two physicians who have personally examined the party; and he has been confined in an institution for the mentally ill or has been under continuous treatment for mental illness for a period of at least two years immediately preceding the commencement of the action; and the superintendent or other chief executive officer of the institution and one competent physician appointed by the court, after a thorough examination, make a certified statement under oath that it is their opinion that the party evidences such a want of reason, memory, and intelligence as to prevent the party from comprehending the nature, duties, and consequences of the marriage relationship and that, in the light of present day medical knowledge, recovery of the party's mental health cannot be expected at any time during his life. Notice of the action must be served upon the guardian of the person of the mentally ill person and upon the superintendent or other chief executive officer of the institution in which the person is confined. In the event that there is no guardian of the person, then notice of the action shall be served upon a guardian ad litem, who shall be appointed by the court in which the divorce action is filed, and upon the superintendent or chief executive officer of the institution in which the person is confined. The guardian and superintendent shall be entitled to appear and be heard upon the issues. The status of the parties as to the support and maintenance of the mentally ill person shall not be altered in any way by the granting of the divorce;
- Habitual drug addiction, which shall consist of addiction to any controlled substance as defined in Article 2 of Chapter 13 of Title 16;
- The marriage is irretrievably broken. Under no circumstances shall the court grant a divorce on this ground until not less than 30 days from the date of service on the respondent.
(Code of Georgia Annotated; 19-5-3)
Any one of these grounds, if proved, will result in the complete dissolution of the marriage (look to each ground in order to find out how to prove that ground). You can file for divorce under more than one ground: for instance, adultery and desertion. Most couples will file for a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable breakdown. This is the easy way to get a divorce.
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.
There are two characteristics of a "totally void" marriage:
- 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).
One such defect is if your spouse was formally married to someone else and still has not divorced that person. Your marriage to this spouse is considered totally void.
Another defective marriage is one done between "blood" relatives. There is also a provision that a minor of 16 and 17 years of age or younger than 16 could not marry unless the statutory provision of the Family Law code §2-301 is met.
The second type of annulment is called voidable. A voidable marriage can only be annulled by going to court and having it declared void. . Annulment is available in Georgia, and in some cases it can be obtained under the name of a divorce. Along with obtaining an annulment for bigamy and for lack of consensual age, a marriage may be declared void if the parties did not really intend to marry or if they are incapacitated, as in insanity, intoxication, fraud, and duress. Although annulments may be granted, the preference of the court is not to annul, but for the parties to divorce. Also, any marriage that is expressly prohibited by statute is void by annulment.