FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS OFFERING GUIDANCE TO ATLANTA RESIDENTS
It is an unfortunate fact that many marriages break down. While not every marital problem leads to divorce, you may decide that you should separate from your spouse either temporarily or permanently. In Georgia, it is possible to obtain a legal separation from your spouse without divorce through a procedure called Separate Maintenance. If you are considering this option, Rowsey & Stelter can assist you. We have helped individuals in the Atlanta area and beyond for over two decades in a variety of family law matters, including legal separation.
THE PURPOSE OF LEGAL SEPARATION
For many reasons, a married couple that does not wish to live together as man and wife will opt to legally separate. It may be that, for religious reasons, divorce is not an acceptable option. Or they may want to leave open the possibility of reconciliation, they may want to retain or protect certain marital assets or benefits, or they may be unsure whether they want the finality of a divorce at the current time. Whatever the situation, they still need to find a way to reach agreement as to how they will provide for themselves and any children while maintaining separate households. The way to do this in Georgia is through Separate Maintenance.
An important distinction between divorce and Separate Maintenance is that, no matter how long a couple may have been separated under such an agreement, and no matter how estranged they may be, they remain legally married. This means that neither spouse may legally remarry, and that laws applying to spouses regarding inheritance, taxation, Social Security, and other matters will continue to apply. At the same time, with a Separate Maintenance order in place, neither spouse bears responsibility for the actions of the other spouse, although it is important to make appropriate arrangements in this regard as to financial matters. For example, if a legally separated spouse fails to remove his or her name from accounts, credit cards, promissory notes, or other debt instruments, that spouse may find himself or herself liable for any unpaid or delinquent debts incurred by the other spouse, even after they are legally separated.
ESTABLISHING SEPARATE MAINTENANCE
Separate Maintenance proceedings have many of the same hallmarks as divorce proceedings in terms of paperwork, filing fees, negotiations, and, if applicable, contested proceedings. However, legal separation generally can be arranged in a more expeditious manner. And, unlike in divorce, the spouses need only to have lived in Georgia for 30 days in order to file for Separate Maintenance. Either spouse may file for Separate Maintenance when the spouses have voluntarily decided to separate, or if one of the spouses has left or driven the other out of a joint residence.
Like divorce, Separate Maintenance agreements cover such matters as spousal support, child custody, child visitation, child support, and allocation of joint property. When spouses separate, they can, as in divorce, develop their own agreement regarding these matters. If they agree, and if the agreement seems reasonable and fair, it is likely that the court will grant the Separate Maintenance order according to their wishes. If the spouses cannot agree, any contested issues can be brought before the court for a hearing, in which both sides can present their arguments and the final decision is left in the hands of the presiding judge.
Once all matters are resolved, the court will issue a Separate Maintenance order that contains the terms of the legal separation.
CONSULT AN ATLANTA LAWYER WHEN DISSOLVING A MARRIAGE
If you need assistance with Separate Maintenance, contact Rowsey & Stelter. We can help you understand what is involved in a legal separation, help you work out or negotiate an acceptable and equitable agreement, take care of filing requirements, and even represent you in any contested proceedings. Our firm serves clients not only in Atlanta, but also in other communities such as Alpharetta, Roswell, and Johns Creek. You can contact us at (770) 993-5317, or by completing our online form.