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What is Silent Divorce in Georgia?

by Sharon Jackson  on March 15, 2024 under 

Divorce can be an extremely difficult and emotionally draining experience. In some cases, couples decide to separate and essentially "divorce" without ever filing any legal paperwork. This unofficial process is sometimes referred to as a "silent divorce."

Overview of Silent Divorce

A silent divorce occurs when a married couple separates and begins living independent lives without formally filing for divorce through the court system. There is typically no legal documentation involved. The couple may divide assets, determine child custody arrangements, and create unofficial support agreements on their own.

While not filing for divorce legally may seem like an easy way to avoid legal battles, there are several risks involved for both parties if they don’t put agreements into writing. Without a formal divorce decree, individuals can lose legal rights and protections.

Recognizing the Signs of a Silent Divorce

Even if you have not officially talked about separating or gotten a formal divorce, there are signs that could indicate you and your spouse are experiencing an unofficial silent divorce:

Living Separate Lives

Keeping separate schedules, social lives, and activities without your spouse often signals drifting apart. You may feel more like roommates than a married couple.

Lack of Communication

When conversations become infrequent, strained, or only about household necessities, this can reflect the disconnectedness of a silent divorce.

Separate Finances

Examples are maintaining totally independent bank accounts, credit cards, and managing finances without transparency or discussion.

No Physical Intimacy

A sexless marriage where physical intimacy and affection have dried up points to the emotional distance of a silent divorce.

Unspoken Tension

A toxic, disconnected environment can arise when there is frequent arguing, frustration, or resentment building up even if you try avoiding confrontation.

Acting Single

If one or both spouses are making plans, going on trips, or spending money without regard for the other, it signifies acting single rather than married.

If several of these signs apply to your marriage, it may be time to openly address problems with each other. You may discuss formalizing your silent divorce legally to protect rights and prevent future issues.

Reasons Why Silent Divorces Occur

There are a few common reasons why some couples choose to separate informally rather than legally:

  • Avoiding Conflict: Filing for divorce often leads to arguments over finances, assets, and child-related issues. Silent divorce may appear like a way to split amicably.
  • Financial Limitations: The cost of a legal divorce can be prohibitive, especially with attorney fees. An unofficial separation seems affordable.
  • Indecision: One or both partners may be uncertain about fully ending the marriage. Delaying a formal divorce feels less final.
  • Religious Beliefs: Some couples choose religious annulments over civil divorce due to faith-based convictions.

While these motivations are understandable, silent divorce still involves risks. Consulting an experienced divorce attorney can help protect you.

Risks of Silent Divorce for Both Parties

Despite good intentions at the start of a silent divorce, a lack of legal documentation leaves both individuals vulnerable. Some major risks include:

No Formal Child Custody Agreement

Without a court-approved custody order, child custody rights are uncertain. If disputes over the children arise later, this can turn into a lengthy court battle.

No Spousal Support (Alimony) or Child Support Order

Georgia courts determine alimony based on the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial resources, and the standard of living established during the marriage. Without a filed divorce, judges have no basis to award alimony.

Even if one spouse initially voluntarily provides financial support, this could change at any time. Formal support orders ensure that the deserving spouse receives payments.

Asset Division Issues

All marital property is divided equitably during divorce based on what a judge deems fair. But if there is no legal filing, it will be easier for one party to claim more than their fair share later on. Further, a deserving spouse will lose their rights to make claims on property owned by the other spouse.

Complication with Debts

A divorce decree establishes responsibility for any joint or individual debts incurred during marriage. Without a formal divorce complaint and settlement agreement, debt liability remains uncertain.

Loss of Benefits Eligibility

Health insurance coverage, retirement accounts, life insurance payouts, and other benefits could be lost without the legal finalization of a divorce.

Tax Implications

Married couples enjoy certain tax benefits. While living separately during a silent divorce, individuals lose these tax perks and could even face tax penalties for incorrectly filing before the marriage legally ends.

No Closure

Dragging out separation without officially divorcing can stall the emotional healing process. Closure is more difficult without legal finality.

No Change in Legal Status

Without the court’s Order of Dissolution, the couple remains legally married. Neither spouse can legally move forward with new partners or start a new family.

To avoid finding yourself in a compromised position, you’ll want to formally address the above issues through the legal divorce process. Start by contacting a lawyer to discuss your options and best next steps.

How to Legally End a Silent Divorce in Georgia

If you are living under an unofficial silent divorce arrangement, speak with an experienced family law attorney to help you understand options to finalize your marital dissolution legally.

1. File a Petition for Divorce

To initiate the divorce process, one spouse will need to file a Petition for Divorce with the superior court in the county where either party resides.

2. Reach a Settlement Agreement

Most divorces in Georgia are settled out of court. Much like with a silent divorce arrangement, you and your spouse can negotiate terms for dividing assets, support, debts, and other matters. These become part of a binding agreement.

3. Present an Uncontested Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce

After agreeing to settlement terms, you will then file the proposed Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce reflecting those terms. If your divorce is uncontested, the judge enters a final order, officially dissolving the marriage.

In many situations of silent divorce, the best way to safeguard your interests is by beginning the legal divorce process. Contact Attorney Sharon Jackson, LLC, at (678) 909-4100 to schedule a consultation.

Additional Considerations in Ending a Silent Divorce

As you move to finalize a silent divorce legally, some other factors to keep in mind include:

Date of Separation

Establishing a clear date of separation is important for determining the length of the marriage, which impacts alimony and property division rights.

Retirement Accounts

The division of retirement plans like 401(k)s or pensions will need to be stipulated in the settlement agreement during formal divorce proceedings to specify ownership percentages.

Life Insurance Policies

Life insurance beneficiaries and policy ownership rights should be addressed as part of the legal divorce agreement. This avoids any disputes with surviving relatives if a former spouse dies.

Wills and Trusts

Legally ending the marriage also necessitates revising any wills or trusts. You’ll need to update your estate planning documents to reflect the divorced status or protect intended heirs.

Conclude Your Silent Divorce Legally With The Help Of Attorney Sharon Jackson

If you’re thinking of formalizing your silent divorce in Georgia, take steps to protect your rights and access benefits you may be entitled to. Contact Attorney Sharon Jackson, the Georgia divorce attorney trusted by many individuals like you. She has nearly 20 years of expertise guiding clients through all aspects of divorce and can advise you on the best legal strategies to safeguard your interests during this transitional time. 

To schedule a consultation, call today at (678) 909-4100. Don't delay – make the call now to get the process started!


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