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How Long Do I Have To Live In Georgia Before I Can File For Divorce? Residency Requirements for Divorce in Georgia

by Sharon Jackson  on January 16, 2024 under 

When seeking a divorce in Georgia, you must meet a few requirements. You must file with the proper venue, subject matter jurisdiction and parties. Simply put, you have to file in the right type of court in the correct county where the court has the power to order both parties to take certain actions or to refrain from doing certain things. jurisdiction is, tricky, and your divorce petition could be dismissed if you or your partner do not meet specific requirements. Many people ask, How long do I have to live in Georgia before I can file for divorce? When you meet with our Georgia divorce attorney, we will discuss Georgia divorce residency requirements and whether you can proceed with the divorce.

Basic Georgia Residency Requirements For Divorce

The first requirement is establishing a proper venue, which involves filing the paperwork in the appropriate Court in the county the person resides in. In Georgia, this is usually Superior Court. If you are considered a nonresident, you may have your claim dismissed. This requirement is for either the defendant or the plaintiff. You must also consider Subject Matter Jurisdiction, which defines which court controls the specific type of case or litigation. For subject matter jurisdiction, you must establish that you reside in Georgia and have been there for six months. that the subject is a matter controlled by the particular court in which you file. Superior Courts in Georgia have general jurisdiction, including divorce, legitimation, adoption and contempt cases.  In Georgia, a Magistrate Court could hear a matter involving civil litigation (not divorce) with a value of less than $15,000. Magistrate court could not hear divorce cases or civil cases over $15,000.

Another element is personal jurisdiction, whether the court has jurisdiction over each spouse. When you file for divorce, you are giving the court personal jurisdiction. The tricky part is establishing jurisdiction over the other party. Your spouse can do this by signing an acknowledgment of service. You can also have a representative serve your spouse if you know their residence. Sometimes, you can use the Long Arm Statute for personal jurisdiction if your spouse no longer lives in Georgia. If minor children are involved, this will also impact where the divorce can be filed as the court also needs to have jurisdiction over the children.

When One Spouse Has Residency

Establishing Georgia residency requires one spouse currently or previously lived in Georgia for at least six months before filing the divorce paperwork. This can apply to either spouse, the petitioner, or the respondent. If you live elsewhere, but your partner moves to Georgia, they must reside there for six months so you can file. The opposite can also apply. This is part of the residency requirements for divorce in Georgia.

Same State With Different Addresses

It can be challenging to stay in the same residence when you are going through a separation. The residency requirements allow you to live separately and still file for divorce. You can move anywhere in Georgia and meet the requirements. However, your documents will ask for recent addresses. You must provide proof of residency to the court during your separation. A case can be dismissed or overturned if insufficient proof of residency exists. Some courts will base your proof of residency on testimony. If the parties, however, are not in agreement on the issues, the court will likely require documentation.

How You Can Establish Residency

Address and residency are not the same thing. Sometimes, living somewhere is insufficient evidence for establishing residency. Suppose your spouse moves in with family or friends and does not change jobs, addresses, or official documentation. They have not established residency, and that can hinder your divorce. There are several ways to establish residency in Georgia, including:

  • Update your driver’s license
  • Register a car
  • Obtain a library card
  • Register to vote
  • Establish utility bills in your name

These are a few examples, but you can establish residency in endless ways. Divorce can be hindered if either party maintains a residence in another state. The residency restrictions for divorce in Georgia are strict. Ensure you meet the requirements and have the appropriate information for your spouse.

Military Divorce Requirements

Military members will have different requirements when they are considering divorce. Military divorces have unique challenges, and you must speak to a Georgia divorce attorney before proceeding. One wrong choice could jeopardize your divorce.

Military courts do not handle divorces. They are governed by the state where the couple resides. The residency requirement differs when a spouse lives on a military base. Additionally military personnel may retain residency a state where they lived previously rather than having to re-establish residency for every new work assignment and relocation.

Delays are another consideration for military divorces. The Service Members Civil Relief Act allows the military to delay court proceedings. This can apply if the military spouse is on active duty. They will get 90 days under federal law to respond to the petition for divorce. Judges may grant longer stays depending on the military spouse’s circumstances.

Military divorces have other complications since there are situations where one spouse resides in one state, the other spouse is in a different state, they have property in this state, and they were married in a fourth state. With so many states involved, it can be challenging to determine which state to file. This means you could have three options for where you can file your divorce, including:

  • Where the spouse lives
  • Where the military member is stationed
  • The place where the military member has residency

One party must reside in Georgia to file for a military divorce. It can either be the spouse or the military member. In either situation, please speak to our Georgia divorce attorney.

Waiting Periods for Divorce

Unlike in other states, Georgia does not have a mandatory separation period before you can file for a divorce.  Some states require as much as a one year physical separation living in different homes before a divorce can be filed. In Georgia, you have a fight on Monday and file for a divorce on Tuesday.

Georgia however does have a 31 day waiting period for at-fault and no-fault divorces. The court will not grant the official divorce before this period, regardless of the grounds and evidence you present. The waiting period begins the day the papers are formally served. During this time, the other spouse will have the opportunity to contest the divorce. Even if both parties agree to the divorce, you must still wait 31 days. It also allows both spouses to resolve any pending legal issues before finalizing the divorce.

When You Do Not Meet the Divorce Residency Requirements

If you are getting a divorce but do not meet the residency requirements, you will have few options. The first is to wait until the other party establishes residency. This means potentially waiting six consecutive months. The other option is to ask your spouse to file the divorce papers. This is an option if you are living in different places and you meet the requirements where you live.

Get Help With Your Georgia Divorce

Regardless of individual circumstances, divorce is hard. When a relationship comes to an end, you want to move on. However, your divorce could take much longer if you do not meet Georgia residency requirements. Sharon Jackson is an Atlanta and Gwinnett County, Georgia, divorce attorney ready to help you. Do not hesitate to call us at (678) 436-3636 to set up a case review today.


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