Roberts' mother filed for divorce in 1971, with the divorce being finalized early in1972. The family moved to Smyrna, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) in 1972, where Roberts attended Fitzhugh Lee Elementary School, Griffin Middle School and Campbell High School. Her motherre-married to Michael Motes and had another daughter, Nancy Motes, who was born in 1976. Roberts' father died of cancer when she was ten.
In school, Roberts played clarinet in the band. She wantedto be a veterinarian as a child, but soon after graduating from Smyrna's Campbell High School, she headed to New York to join her brother and sister Lisa Roberts Gillan and pursue a careerin acting. Once there, she signed with the Click modeling agency and enrolled in acting classes. She reverted to her original name "Julia Roberts" when she discovered that a "Julie Roberts" wasalready registered with the Screen Actors Guild. Her niece Emma Roberts, whom Julia used to take to movie sets when she was a young girl, has joined her father and aunts in the acting business.