Many spouses end up living in a state of marital separation in situations when some type of marital discord arises. In these instances, spouses may wish to separate but not request a divorce for reasons which often include the possibility of reconciliation, religious beliefs, or the retention of some legal benefit like health insurance.
In cases of voluntary separation, Georgia law permits residents to protect their legal rights of support, custody, visitation, and use of marital assets without filing for divorce. A voluntary separation may occur by agreement or when one spouse abandons or drives off the other spouse. Any money or property awarded to a spouse in this scenario is categorized or termed “separate maintenance.” An experienced Georgia family law attorney can help a party establish the necessary and required evidence to establish an award of separate maintenance when appropriate.
When an order for separate maintenance instead of divorce is requested by a spouse, Georgia law, specifically O.C.G.A. § 19-6-8, states that courts may make an adequate provision for the support and maintenance of the spouse, consistent with the means of the party and the spouse’s former circumstances. Such provision and agreement bars the spouse’s right to permanent alimony. Such orders are appealable on the same terms as those in divorce cases
Spouses may request separate maintenance if they are legally separated, which means they no longer engage in marital relations and consider themselves to be in a state of actual separation. Thus, spouses may still actually continue to cohabitate despite being subject to an order for separate maintenance. A situation when separate maintenance is typically pursued is the circumstance where spouses wish to engage in a trial separation and live apart for a test period to decide whether or not to permanently separate and divorce.
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, other reasons or advantages to filing a separate maintenance action include the lack of a requirement that an applicant be a resident of the state of Georgia for more than 6 months. Also, any separate maintenance agreement may be converted to a settlement agreement if divorce is the ultimate outcome of the marriage.
Separate maintenance actions may be contested and therefore complicated. Spouses wishing to pursue this course of legal action should utilize the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable Georgia family law attorney. Call 770-246-1331 or e-mail the Parker Law Firm to schedule a consultation to discuss this or any family law issue.