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Understanding divorce and separate maintenance

When a couple has decided that staying together is no longer feasible, they may believe divorce is their only option. Though there are some similarities, separate maintenance, which is similar to a legal separation granted in other states, is a different process from divorce.

Having an understanding of the difference between divorce and separate maintenance may be beneficial. Here are a few key factors to keep in mind.

Separate maintenance

In the state of Georgia, if a spouse decides to not share the same room or space any longer and does not engage in sexual activity, then the couple is engaging in a separation. However, that does not involve a court decision. If a married party decides to seek legal intervention concerning matters surrounding the marriage but chooses to stay within the marriage union, the courts may provide an award of separate maintenance. 

Similar aspects

Divorce and separate maintenance have similar components. The most important characteristic they share is dealing with important familial matters, such as division of marital assets, child custody and alimony. A separation may also address such things, but it would be between the two parties to create and agree to the terms, and the outcome would not be legally binding.


The main difference between a divorce and separate maintenance is that the courts officially dissolve the marital union. This is an important factor for a few different reasons. For those with strong religious ties, a divorce may not be acceptable, and in such cases, separate maintenance may be preferable. In other instances, the parties may not be sure that they want to divorce but do feel they need time and space apart, which may make separate maintenance more appealing. For those who have no hope or desire to reconcile the union, divorce may be the only logical choice.

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