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Sometimes a married couple in the Savannah area decide they need a break from one another, but do not immediately want to divorce. They may want to try a trial separation, with one partner moving into their own apartment.

Why might separation ultimately lead to divorce?

While sometimes this time apart gives a couple the space needed to work out their issues, other times it is the beginning of the decision to divorce. After all, the decision to separate is usually a weighted one, with one or both spouses having already made a heavy emotional investment in the separation. In addition, after spending some time apart one or both spouses may find that their life has improved for the better, especially if there is a sense of relief or if contact between the spouses only serves to open up old wounds.

Does Georgia recognize legal separation?

In some states, a separation can be a legal act that confers on both spouses certain rights and obligations. While Georgia statutes do not address legal separation per se, spouses who have been living apart but have not sought a divorce can seek a separate maintenance decree. This action address divorce legal issues, but it does not formally dissolve the marriage. The grounds for seeking a separate maintenance decree may be based on a mutual agreement between the parties (i.e. “no-fault”) or they can be due to certain acts of misconduct the defendant spouse.

What can be included in a separate maintenance decree?

Separate maintenance decrees can address a variety of legal issues. For example, provisions addressing property division and the division of shared debts can be included in a separate maintenance decree, as can provisions regarding alimony. Child custody and visitation provisions, along with child support provisions, can also be included in a separate maintenance decree. If safety is an issue, a separate maintenance decree can also include a temporary restraining order.

Seek help when pursuing a separate maintenance decree

It is not unusual for couples to want to spend time apart before deciding whether to divorce. During this time, pursuing a separate maintenance decree can be a formal way to protect both parties’ rights while they are living apart. And, should they ultimately decide to end their marriage, having many divorce legal issues already settled could make the process run more smoothly, although a deviation from the separate maintenance decree could be sought in a divorce.