Difference Between Divorce or Legal Separation | Georgia

Difference Between Divorce or Legal Separation | Georgia

For those spouses seeking a change in their marital status in Georgia, divorce is not the only option. They also may want to consider legal separation.

While a divorce is a legal termination of a marriage, legal separation is an option for those spouses willing to stay legally married while living apart. The latter option can be a great way for spouses to work out their marriage-related or personal issues. 

The critical thing to remember is that the court handles both options, whether it’s marriage termination or the rights and duties of a couple living apart. 

In Georgia, the correct term for legal separation is separate maintenance. And yet, its concept is preserved as separate maintenance allows spouses to remain legally married while living separately.

On the contrary, by filing for divorce, the spouses will have their marriage terminated. They have to go through the whole divorce process and prepare their divorce papers in such a case. The spouses need to decide whether to proceed with a contested or an uncontested divorce and handle their divorce-related issues.

It’s essential to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both options available before diving into the litigations. For example, getting a divorce may become an exhausting procedure as the spouses will have to deal with divorce forms which can become tricky. 

However, today, online divorce can take care of divorce paperwork quickly and at an affordable price. Using internet divorce platforms, spouses can generate all the necessary divorce forms without leaving home and be sure of compliance with local laws and regulations. It’s an excellent way to save time and reduce the cost of divorce.

When it comes to legal separation, the significant point is that the property can’t be divided or awarded by a judge. Thus, it’s implied that the marital assets can only be split when filing for a divorce.

These two options have their pros and cons. The spouses need to consider the differences and similarities of divorce and legal separation in Georgia to choose the best one.

First and foremost, when it comes to legal separation, the spouses remain married. Their marriage can only be terminated through a divorce. However, these two legal concepts have other differences:

  • Marital status: Once the spouses are granted a divorce decree, they can remarry. 
  • Remarriage/reconciliation: If divorced spouses decide to change their minds and reconcile, they will have to remarry to be legally reunified. While being legally separated, reconciliation is a much easier process.
  • Financial or health-related decision-making: Legally separated spouses are still allowed to make decisions for the other spouse as they are still considered immediate family. At the same time, divorced spouses won’t be able to participate in any decision-making process.
  • Other benefits (including health care): Legal separation does not affect a spouse’s rights to any social security benefits. It means that legally separated spouses are still considered married for social security purposes. However, spouses should check on current information as several legal peculiarities exist.
  • Debts/liabilities: In a divorce, spouses divide debts in or out of court, depending on the type of proceeding. So unlike in legal separation, they won’t be responsible for the other spouse’s debts once the marriage is terminated. 
  • Property rights: While legally separated, the spouses preserve their rights to property benefits (typically, upon the other spouse’s death). In case of divorce, the property issue must be resolved. 

Whether getting a divorce or legal separation, the spouses must resolve several issues. Such issues typically include:

  • Child custody;
  • Child visitation;
  • Property division (that only concerns the property jointly acquired before separation); and
  • Separation maintenance. *

* There is an equivalent to alimony and child support in a legal separation. However, the effects will differ compared to a divorce.

However, the spouses must remember that if they fail to settle these issues amicably, they will have to take it to court, whether it’s a divorce or legal separation. 

Separate Maintenance Eligibility

According to Georgia family law, to be eligible for separate maintenance, the spouses must demonstrate the following:

  • The spouses are legally married;
  • They are living separately (no cohabitation), and
  • Neither spouse filed for divorce.

Separation Agreement & Marital Settlement Agreement

When it comes to legal separation in Georgia, there is one document that can be incredibly useful while outlining the terms of your separation. This document is called a separation agreement, and it requires both parties to settle such issues as child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), etc. 

Note: As for property and debt division, the date of separation and the terms for dividing the property acquired after separation need to be included in the separation agreement.

If the spouses are getting a divorce, they should consider developing another document known as the Marital Settlement Agreement. This document outlines all their post-divorce arrangements regarding child custody and support, marital property division, allocation of debts, alimony, etc. Such a document is a much more convenient way to resolve all the divorce-related issues amicably before going to court. 


Each couple has their reasons to choose divorce or legal separation, and it’s undoubtedly important to weigh the pros and cons of each option before going through the whole legal proceeding. For some spouses, separation is a great option to take a break from their marriage, considering later reconciliation. For others, separation is necessary as they may depend on the other spouse for social security benefits. 

No matter which option you choose, you need to remember that if you have any problems going through your separation or divorce stages, you can ask for legal help by hiring a lawyer. A family law attorney may be of great service whether you’re considering divorce or legal separation.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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