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Georgia No-Fault Divorce Explained

by Sharon Jackson  on May 15, 2023 under 

In a no-fault divorce, one spouse only needs to express that they believe the marriage is irreparably broken, rather than providing evidence of wrongdoing such as adultery or desertion. This type of divorce is based on the irreconcilable differences between the divorcing parties. In Georgia, most divorces are of this nature.

The introduction of these laws gave rise to the concept of unilateral divorce, where either spouse can decide to end the marriage without the other's consent. However, it is important to note that this does not necessarily mean that there was no spousal misconduct or that matters related to the divorce are not disputed, which is a common misconception.

Difference Between Fault and No-Fault Divorce in Georgia

When a spouse believes that the marriage has irretrievably broken down for unspecified reasons, a no-fault divorce may be filed, often citing "irreconcilable differences" as the cause. In a no-fault divorce, neither party is blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. This option allows for a quick end to the marriage, reduces conflict, and cuts down on legal fees when compared to a fault-based divorce. It also affords spouses the privacy they need to avoid airing their private matters in public.

In contrast, a fault-based divorce is initiated by one spouse who alleges that the other caused the marriage to break down. Fault grounds can include adultery, one-year willful desertion, alcohol or drug addiction, and mental illness, among other factors. In Georgia, there are 12 grounds for divorce. While fault-based divorces provide the courts with evidence that may be relevant to the well-being of either spouse and any children, they can also be more contentious and costly.

The Benefits of a No-Fault Divorce

Opting for a no-fault divorce means you don't have to allege wrongdoing by your spouse and may not even need to appear before a judge. Couples often choose a no-fault divorce even when a fault exists, such as in cases of adultery. This is because fault-based divorces are typically more contentious, costly, and time-consuming.

Accusing your spouse of wrongdoing can set a negative tone for the divorce proceedings, and such allegations become part of the public record, meaning that anyone, including your children, can access this information. Fault-based divorces are also more likely to go to trial, leading to a loss of privacy, and take longer as parties must spend time determining fault before moving forward with settlement issues.

Uncontested No-Fault Divorces

One significant advantage of a no-fault divorce is that it can be uncontested, meaning that the parties can settle the terms of their divorce without involving a judge. In Georgia, uncontested no-fault divorces can be carried out entirely through paper filings, and neither party is required to admit fault or attend court.

While it may be tempting to assign blame during a divorce, couples who opt for a no-fault, uncontested divorce do so because they want to keep conflict out of their legal proceedings, protect their children from it, and save time and money so they can move on. This does not mean that they have no conflicts or emotions about the divorce, only that they choose not to litigate them in court.

A no-fault divorce only addresses the legal grounds for divorce and does not dictate what discussions or arguments may occur between the parties in their home or with their therapist.

Georgia no-fault divorce waiting period

As stated in Georgia Code Title 19, Chapter 5 § 19-5-3 (2022), a no-fault divorce based on an irretrievably broken marriage in Georgia necessitates a 30-day waiting period starting from the filing date.

How long does a no-fault divorce take in Georgia?

In Georgia, the typical duration for most no-fault divorces is around 45 to    60 - 90 days, which includes a mandatory waiting period of 30 days after the petitioner files a Complaint.

The waiting period is in place to allow the defendant, the spouse who is served with the divorce papers, an opportunity to respond.

How much is a no-fault divorce in Georgia?

For uncontested no-fault divorces filed in Georgia, the court fees and expenses are separate from the attorney fees.   The courts charge each person a fee of around $250 that gets paid to the Clerk of Court in each county in order for the State of Georgia to process your divorce.  When you see advertisements for a $300 divorce you should question what you are getting because the court fees alone are close to $300.  

Additionally, there is an expense that the sheriff charges to serve the other party with the divorce paperwork.  If your case is truly contested, there should be no need to have the other party served because he or she should voluntarily sign all of the paperwork in an uncontested case.  

While case prices vary, most uncontested cases range from $1,500-$5,000 for no-fault divorces if the attorney charges a flat fee. If the law firm does not charge a flat fee, the fees may be higher.   While Attorney Sharon Jackson, LLC does not charge flat fees for any contested matters where the parties disagree on one or more matter, we do charge flat fees for uncontested matters.  In order to have an uncontested no fault divorce, the parties must agree on all issues including debts, assets, ownership of the home, vehicles, child custody and visitation.  If you do not agree on all of the issues, the case is not an uncontested case because there is a “contest” about at least one aspect of the divorce.


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