The term “residency” is an oft-used word in the law and figures prominently in the areas of jurisdiction and venue, including in domestic cases. For example, to file for divorce in Georgia, the plaintiff must have been a “bona fide resident” of Georgia for six months before the filing of the petition for divorce(1). A divorce case ordinarily must be tried in the county where the defendant “resides,” if a “resident” of this state.(2) A complaint seeking to change the legal custody of a child must be brought in the county of “residence” of the child’s legal custodian.(3) Similarly, a Georgia court can modify a child support order issued in another state if the obligor “resided” with the child in Georgia.(4)
But what exactly constitutes a person’s place of “residence?” What if a person owns or rents more than one home in different counties or in different states? What if a person splits their time at more than one location or lives at multiple locations during different parts of the year? Which location represents the individual’s legal place of “residence?”
As it happens, a person can have more than one residence under Georgia law.(5) Residency simply requires an intent to live at a place for a time, not necessarily forever.(6) A person’s intent and actions will determine whether a place constitutes his/her legal residence.(7) Moreover, where a person habitually resides a portion of the year in one county and another portion of the year in another, the law will deem that individual a resident of both counties.(8) In situations involving a person with multiple addresses, the question of residency may require a factual determination by a court or jury; however, instances where evidence clearly establishes plain and palpable residency will be resolved as a matter of law for determination by the court alone.(9)
(1) O.C.G.A. § 19-5-2.
(2) Ga. Const., art. VI, § II, para. I. See also O.C.G.A. § 19-5-2.
(3) O.C.G.A. § 19-9-23(a).
(4) O.C.G.A. § 19-11-110(3).
(5) See Baldwin v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 264 Ga. App. 229, 230(1), 590 S.E.2d 206 (2003); Baghdady v. Central Life Insurance Co., 224 Ga. App. 170(1(a)), 480 S.E.2d 221 (1996); and ADC Construction Co. v. Hall, 191 Ga. App. 33, 33-34(1), 381 S.E.2d 76 (1989).
(6) Hall, supra; and Davis v. Holt, 105 Ga. App. 125, 129-130, 123 S.E.2d 686 (1961) (citing Avery v. Bower, 170 Ga. 202, 204,206, 152 S.E.239, 241 (1930)).
(7) Webb v. Oliver, 133 Ga.App. 555, 558(4), 211 S.E.2d 605 (1974).
(8) O.C.G.A. § 19-2-2.
(9) Webb, supra, 133 Ga.App. at 557(3).