So, you’re thinking about divorce.
Chances are, you’ve seen a movie or read an article in the past with the phrase “grounds for divorce.” And now you’re wondering if you have the grounds — aka, the legal reason — you need to divorce your spouse.
The good news is that the divorce process can be much less contentious than movies and television would lead you to believe. In fact, one of the most commonly used grounds for divorce is that the marriage is simply broken beyond repair. No one has to take the blame — at least not in the eyes of the law.
Lawyers refer to this type of divorce as a “no-fault” divorce. In Georgia, the marriage is “irretrievably broken” through no fault of either party.
Georgia’s divorce laws also include 12 other grounds for divorce. Let’s talk about what they are and how they can impact the divorce proceedings.
The 13 Grounds for Divorce in Georgia
Georgia includes one no-fault ground for divorce and 12 fault grounds for divorce.
- The marriage is irretrievably broken (no fault)
- Intermarriage by people within the prohibited degrees of kinship
- Mental incapacity at the time of marriage
- Impotence at the time of marriage
- Force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage
- Pregnancy of the wife by a man other than the husband at the time of the marriage (unknown to the husband)
- Adultery during the marriage
- The conviction of a crime of moral turpitude that results in a prison sentence of two years or longer
- Habitual intoxication
- Cruel treatment
- Incurable mental illness
- Habitual drug addiction
What is the Difference Between a Fault and a No-Fault Divorce?
Every state creates its own rules about divorce. One of those rules sets whether a person requesting a divorce can (or must) state a compelling reason for the divorce.
In a fault divorce, the person seeking the divorce does so on the basis of some wrongful act by their spouse. The most frequently named reasons are abandonment, adultery, or cruel treatment. Theoretically, the court takes the spouse’s behavior into account and may hasten the court date or base its decisions on that behavior. In reality, there is often little impact on the case. The accused party also has an opportunity to rebut the accusation.
In a no-fault divorce, the person seeking the divorce asserts only that they no longer want to be in the relationship. There is generally a mandatory waiting period before the divorce is final, and the other spouse cannot refuse the divorce.
A Short History of No-Fault Divorce
Let’s put these differences into a little context.
The concept of fault and no-fault divorce is rooted in the United States’ public policy on marriage. For more than a century, states required a person to allege a specific cause before the court would grant them a divorce.
Because in the 19th and early-20th centuries, most people considered divorce a sin. The government prioritized the sacredness of the marital union above an individual’s happiness. People also believed that married people made better citizens and that the discord of divorce was damaging to children.
In the dramatic social change of the 1970s, states began passing no-fault laws. These new laws allowed couples to end their marriages without casting blame on either spouse. Some states, like California, abolished their fault grounds entirely.
Others, like Georgia, developed a hybrid model. Georgia kept its original grounds for divorce and adopted a 13th — that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” From a legal perspective, no one is in the wrong. One party must simply show that they no longer want to live with their spouse and that there is no possibility of reconciliation.
These legal changes showed a balancing of priorities. Individuals now had equal power to dissolve a marriage as they had to enter into one.
So what does this mean for you today?
The Benefits of a No-Fault Divorce
If you live in Georgia, it means that no one has the right to stand in your way of a divorce. While you have the option to allege that your spouse mistreated you, it’s not required. In fact, you may not have to go in front of a judge at all.
Many couples choose no-fault divorce even in cases where fault exists. For instance, a spouse may have committed adultery, and the couple may decide to pursue a no-fault divorce. They do so for many reasons:
- Fault divorces are typically more contentious and more costly. Accusing your spouse of one of these grounds — even if it’s true — is a bad tone to start off your divorce.
- Divorce proceedings are part of the public record. Anyone, (including your kids) can look up your divorce and see the grounds.
- Fault divorces are more likely to go to trial. In Georgia, courtrooms are open to the public, so the more you’re in the courtroom, the less privacy you have.
- Fault divorces usually take longer than no-fault divorces. Parties must spend time determining fault, not just moving forward with settlement issues.
No-Fault, Uncontested Divorce
One other big benefit of a no-fault divorce is that it can proceed uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, the parties decide the settlement terms without involving a judge.
Uncontested, no-fault divorces in Georgia can happen entirely through paper filings. Neither party has to go to court, and neither must admit fault.
Obviously, you’ll have lots of feelings during a divorce, and you may want your spouse to take the blame. Totally understandable. It’s good to note that couples that choose a no-fault, uncontested divorce don’t do it because they have no conflict. They do it because they want to keep that conflict out of their legal proceedings. They may want to shelter their children from it. And they likely want to save time and money so they can move forward.
A no-fault divorce doesn’t dictate what you and your spouse talk about, apologize for, or argue about in your home or therapist’s office. It only covers what fault is established by law.
You can read more about uncontested divorces here.
If you are hoping for a less contentious divorce that keeps you out of the courtroom, contact Porchlight at 678-435-9069. We specialize in helping couples dissolve their marriages with as little drama as possible.