Divorce Lawyers in Roswell, Cumming and Atlanta
Georgia Divorce Attorneys -- Divorce Advice
Attorney William H. Sherman & attorney Valerie W. Sherman know that families can be very complicated. And for many facing a family law matter, the future can feel uncertain, overwhelmingly complex and downright scary. Having served many, many clients over the years, the Sherman Law Group divorce lawyers have successfully represented clients in all types of family law cases, from basic divorces (which might be uncontested), to complex property and financial cases, to high income divorces, to cases on the leading edge of family law practice with novel legal issues.
We are results-driven & focused
Because of our results-driven focus on our clients, we keep up-to-date on the latest laws, cases and developments in Georgia divorce and family law. Every Sherman Law Group client benefits from our firm's extensive experience, professional leadership and our unique commitment to exceptional client service. Centrally-located in Roswell, Georgia, with a satellite office in Cumming, GA, the Sherman Law Group stands ready to address all your divorce law and family law issues. We are ready to work with you to ensure that your rights and future are secure.
Divorce Is Never Easy
Divorce is never easy. In fact, divorce is one of the biggest crises you may ever face in your entire life. During this very difficult time, it is important to have an experienced family law attorney to support and guide you through the entire divorce process. Attorneys looking out for your best interests. The attorneys at the Sherman Law Group are your advocates. They are experienced and ready to discuss your goals, formulate effective, winning strategies, and arrive at the strongest settlement possible.
Residency Requirements (When Can I File?)
Many people ask about residency requirements to file for divorce in Georgia. You must live in Georgia six months before you can file for a divorce. If you live on a military base, you can file in a year. If you are a non-resident of Georgia, you can file a divorce against a resident of Georgia who has lived for at least six months in the Georgia county in which you file the divorce action.
How Long Does It Take? (When Can I Be Divorced?)
As for timing, a question often asked is how long does it take to get a divorce in Georgia? Court's usually handle divorce matters on the court's regular schedule. But sometimes a court decision can take a number of months. However, sometimes the court can conclude a divorce in as little as 31 days after the divorce is served on the other party. But this applies only when both parties sign an agreement so there are no outstanding issues for a court to decide.
I have been served with Divorce Papers. What do I do?
If you have been formally served with paperwork seeking a divorce, you must contact an attorney immediately. If you have been served, you need to take action within a specified amount of time or face a possible default judgment which can severely impact your rights. Again, if you receive any legal documents referring to a divorce, contact an attorney immediately.
How Do I Find Out How Much Money My Spouse Really Has?
A divorce starts with service of process. Then the parties have time, pursuant to Georgia law, to conduct discovery to seek information and documentation necessary to adequately present his or her case. This part of the divorce process is commonly referred to as discovery. Both spouses are required to disclose certain documents to the other spouse during this stage of the divorce process. Some items that must be disclosed can include:
- copies of federal and state income tax returns
- recent paycheck stubs
- business records, including financial statements and payroll documents
- bank account statements
- credit card statements
- copies of deeds and titles to real property
Divorcing spouses have the right to seek additional information through subpoenas, discovery requests for documentation, and depositions, which allow the attorneys an opportunity to question the other spouse. The parties can retain expert witnesses, such as accountants and real estate appraisers.
You Do Not Have to Do Full-Blown Discovery
Many times spouses can resolve the issues in their case to avoid or significantly lessen the need to participate in discovery. Couples may find discovery to be burdensome, time-consuming and costly. The parties can proceed to negotiate the terms of the divorce between themselves with their attorneys and address all of the issues in the case.
Here's Our Commitment to You:
If you are planning to divorce, your attorney at the Sherman Law Group, conveniently located in North Fulton County and Forsyth County, will begin the process by simply listening and understanding to what you want to accomplish. Our practice believes in building the strongest possible relationships with clients because while every divorce is difficult and presents its own unique issues, no divorce case is ever the same as another. Before forming a legal strategy, we need to know your specific situation, your values, and your top priorities. We handle our clients "one case at a time" with a commitment to detailed, exacting knowledge of your legal and financial situation and goals. You will always be treated with respect and never left in the dark about the details and status of your case. Communication is vital and your phone calls and email will be returned or responded to promptly.
Here are some of our goals:
- Educate and inform our clients about the law, court procedures and what path should be taken forward.
- Set the groundwork for and encourage an amicable path forward for a fair settlement.
- Use common-sense solutions to control legal costs and charge reasonable fees to keep your divorce affordable.
- Fight, when necessary, to protect the safety of children or to obtain a fair property settlement or other important result.
Safeguard Your Children From Divorce Conflicts (Agree To Reduce Stress For The Kids)
Always remember is important to keep children away from the issues that arise in divorce. Kids do not need to know the reasons for a divorce. Spouses may be mad at each other for many reasons: someone may have cheated, there may be money issues, there may be conflicts about drug addiction or alcohol abuser, but young children don't need to know about these things. Professionals who deal regularly with divorcing couples such as lawyers, judges, therapists, counselors, psychologists, pastors and psychiatrists believe that young children can only be harmed by hearing allegations against a parent. Both spouses should agree upfront that the children should be protected as much as possible from the stress of divorce. This will help to limit the effects of divorce on children.
Helping Your Child Through Divorce: What Kids Need
From a child's perspective, here are some things parents should keep in mind:
- stay involved as much as possible in your child's life: be actively involved
- don't fight in front of the child: keep kids from hearing arguments
- communicate directly with the other parent so that the kid is not a go-between for messages: that's a lot of pressure for a youngster
- try to say nice things about the other parent: criticizing the other parent only causes stress, frustration and resentment from the child
6 Most Common Reasons For Divorce
As divorce attorneys we're often asked what are the most common reasons for divorce. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Communication breakdown
- Money issues
- Personality problems
- Sexual problems
- Alcohol/drug problems
How to Prove Adultery
We get many questions about adultery. It is not easy to prove adultery. The burden of proof is on the complainant to prove adultery. Here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with adultery issues:
- mere accusations mean nothing
- public displays of affection such as kissing, hugging, groping and hand holding can demonstrate to a court an adulterous disposition
- opportunity to commit adultery can be demonstrated through various specific circumstances (for example, the complainant may infer that the defendant had an opportunity to commit adultery when he was seen entering his paramour's home at 11:00 p.m. and leaving at 6 a.m).
- typically, adulterous acts are conducted in private, so a court will permit the complainant to introduce proof of adultery by circumstantial inference or presumption
But remember, mere suspicion will not be enough to prove adultery so you need to present evidence that shows the court that adultery likely occurred.
Pornography Addiction Is Increasingly Becoming An Issue
We are seeing an increasing amount of allegations of pornography addiction leading to divorce. With Internet usage increasing on desktop computers, smart phones and all sorts of mobile devices, the porn industry is booming. Studies have shown that for many people viewing it, porn acts like a drug. And similar to a a potent heroin, cocaine or morphine addiction, studies have indicated that higher "dosages" of pornography are required to reach the same "high." As a partner becomes more dependent on porn, he or she will devote increasing amounts of time to viewing it. Often this leads to neglect of a spouse as well as other negative effects.
What about rights to property and support
Most of the time, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are equally divided. But inheritances, gifts and pre-marital property are usually excluded.
Spousal support or alimony may be appropriate depending on the circumstances. A Georgia court will consider earnings disparity, length of the marriage, the need for education and medical problems.
Child support may be court-ordered for children who have not turned age 18 or graduated from high school.
What about unmarried parents?
In determining the rights between unmarried parents, the standard used by the court is the same as that which is used for married parents --- deciding what is in the best interest of the child.
Just like with married parents, a court can grant unmarried parents shared parenting or designate one parent as the residential and legal custodian while granting parenting time to the non-custodial parent. Matters concerning children of unmarried parents are heard in the Superior Court in Georgia.
I got served with divorce papers. What do I do?
After you are served with divorce pleadings, call The Sherman Law Group to schedule a consultation. Once you retain our legal services, we will review the pleadings with you and prepare a response on your behalf for filing with the Court.
If you do not file a written response, the Court could enter a default judgment against you.
How do I support myself or see my children if a divorce is pending?
In some cases, Temporary Orders are needed to determine various issues, including where each party will live, when each party will see the children, and how each party will be financially supported and pay bills.
Temporary Orders are Court Orders and can be determined by the Court's decision or upon an agreement (called a Stipulation) between the parties. Temporary Orders remain in effect during the time it takes to complete your divorce case.
Temporary Orders could cover issues of: child support, temporary custody, temporary use of personal property and/or bank accounts, maintenance, temporary use of the marital residence, and temporary allocation of debts.
Technically, under Georgia law, these orders are temporary and should have no bearing on the final outcome of your divorce. But in reality, many courts continue temporary orders as permanent orders if they are reasonable and appropriate in your case, especially orders regarding child custody and placement of your children.
What if I don't want to go to trial?
Many people don't want to have a trial, they just want to ensure that they are being treated fairly and are getting all they are entitled to. Oftentimes, settlement negotiations and mediation help resolve conflicts.
What if my spouse left me for another man or woman? What if they are living with another person?
One party's cheating or infidelity is usually irrelevant in most Georgia divorce cases. In most cases, the cheating does not impact dividing property, setting child support or other financial matters, although it can under certain circumstances.
Its impact can be on child custody, however, if the boyfriend or girlfriend has a negative or harmful effect on the minor children.
Will the children have to be involved in the process?
Only if you and your spouse do not agree on the terms of custody will your children will be involved.
Sometimes a court will appoint a guardian ad litem to conduct an investigation and report to the court as to what the guardian's recommendation is as to the best interest of the child.
Can I and my spouse hire the same divorce lawyer?
Georgia law and ethics rules strictly prohibit one divorce lawyer from officially representing both spouses at the same time.
I've heard about collaborative divorce. Do you do collaborative divorce?
Yes, we do collaborative divorce.
In collaborative divorce, both parties commit at the outset to a holistice, negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to all issues without court intervention.
Collaborative divorce is done to save time, money and to reach an agreement that is amicable to both parties. The goal to to decide issues together, without the need for a judge.
What if I have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?
Pre-nuptial agreements are usually a great idea. Prenups are enforceable in Georgia and, if written properly, may strictly define the distribution of property and/or the award of alimony when you get divorced. If you have a prenup, bring it to the attention of your lawyer at your first meeting.
What about the children?
If the parties cannot agree, then a a judge will make decisions based on the “best interests of the children.” This can be the subject of much disagreement and is often the most difficult part of a divorce case.
To help the court decide, the court will often seek the assistance of a guardian ad litem, whose job is to investigate the children's circumstances and prepare a recommendation to the court based on what he or she believes is in the children's best interests.
Child support is usually based on Georgia's Child Support Guidelines and can often therefore be estimated accurately by a knowledgeable attorney, so long as each party accurately reports his or her income.
What if my spouse does not respond to the summons and complaint?
If your spouse (the respondent) does not respond to the summons and complaint after 30 days then he or she is in default. In this case, the petitioner wins and for the most part obtains what they asked for. That's why it is so important that if you are served with divorce papers you need to contact an attorney immediately.
Does it matter which spouse files for divorce?
Usually not. Generally there is no legal significance as to which spouse files for divorce first. However, the person who files first (the Plaintiff) is the person who will have to present evidence first in the event of a trial.
How does mediation help?
Mediation can be a cost-effective, efficient process where you are actively involved in deciding your future and that of your family. It is usually much more effective than litigation, not only from a cost standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint. Since decisions are not made by a judge, it is a way to handle everything in a private manner, with the assistance of a skilled mediator that we are involved in selecting.
If I don't sign anything, my spouse can't get a divorce in Georgia. Right?
No, that's wrong. If your spouse has properly filed for a divorce in Georgia, and you have been properly served (which doesn't require you to sign anything), and then you do nothing, your spouse can receive a default judgment of divorce in Georgia.
If you fail to respond to the court in writing by filing an answer to the complaint, the default judgement of divorce in Georgia could award him/her everything he/she requests.
If I move out of our house, will I lose the house in the divorce?
It's a common misconception that if you leave the home you will lose your stake in it if you get divorced. It's certainly not always true. People even stay in abusive or threatening, high-conflict situations just because of their fear that they will lose their stake in the home if they leave. But, again, that's certainly not always the case. If you're an owner of the property, or even if you're not, you don't necessarily have to physically remain there. There can be many good reasons to leave.
What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?
Some couples consider separation instead of divorce when they aren't quite clear on whether or not they wish to end the marriage. A legal separation action, much like a divorce, will decide major issues, including child custody, child and spousal support, visitation, and the division of property and debts. The parties, though, will remain legally married and cannot therefore remarry. The separation may either be temporary or for an unlimited period. It can be dismissed if the parties reconcile or decide to convert into a divorce.
For some people, a legal separation may be desirable for religious reasons, or when there appears to be a possibility of a future reconciliation. But since this action must resolve virtually all of the same issues involved in a divorce, it will generally cost as much as a divorce and is uncommon. While legal separations can sometimes be helpful for a couple and address their needs, they generally should not be looked at as a long-term alternative to divorce.
Where do I file for divorce?
Generally, divorce filings are done in the Georgia county where the other party lives (that may also be the county where you live, of course). Divorces are handled by the Superior Court.
I don't know if I want to have a trial. Are there any alternatives to having a trial?
There are, in fact, many alternatives to having a trial. Actually, most divorces are ultimately settled out of court by mediation or simply attorney-to-attorney settlement following negotiations. Settlements are possible at any point, including right before a trial is scheduled to begin. But if the parties are unable to settle all matters, then a trial is the mechanism by which things are finally decided.
What if my spouse is hiding money, income or assets?
We have deal with this problem all of the time. It is actually far more common than most people realize. If your spouse is concealing assets, we will work with you to find hidden money, income or property using all means legally available.
We can send subpoenas to employers, businesses, banks, brokerages, hedge funds and close friends or relatives of a spouse. And when appropriate and necessary, we will work with forensic accountants, highly-regarded private investigators and other noted professionals to help trace and locate the hidden money, income or assets.
Will my spouse get everything?
No, your spouse will not get everything. In Georgia, courts will attempt to divide the property of both spouses equitably (fairly) looking at a number of factors, including:
- the potential earning power of each spouse (what job experience does each have?)
- the length of the marriage (have you been married 5 years or 25 years?)
- the assets each spouse brought into the marriage (did one spouse already own a home, stocks, bonds, a business?)
Will my medical, phone and email records and social media accounts be scrutinized during my divorce?
You should assume they will be. Social media postings, text messages and emails are often used as evidence in divorce cases. And opposing counsel can even request that a judge order you to release your private medical records. And maybe the judge will grant that request.
Medical records may be relevant when children are involved. Of course disclosures must be done in accordance with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), but if a judge orders medical records be released, even though they are private, the provider can be forced to release those records.
Parental Alienation: So many lies....
Sadly, some spouses spread lies to their children about the other parent. Young children are highly impressionable and may lack the ability to separate truth from fiction. Children are likely to believe the lies a parent tells. Sometimes a parent may succeed in poisoning a child's mind against the other parent, resulting in a condition sometimes called "parental alienation."
The parent who is the victim of these lies and manipulation (along with the child) faces a difficult legal and personal situation. The question becomes: How can a parent prove in court that the other parent manipulated the child?
Parental alienation is difficult to prove, but those facing it can take certain helpful steps to successfully defend themselves and combat alienation. They must remain calm, refrain from retaliation, and carefully document evidence whenever possible. Ultimately, a case can be built and the truth about a parent will eventually become clear in the eyes of both the court and the child.
What information is needed to start the process....?
A common question divorce clients ask is what information is needed to start divorce proceedings. That information includes:
- your cell phone and home phone number
- home address and email address
- your date of marriage
- the names and ages of children
- both spouses' employment information
- and incomes
Your assets include bank accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles, stocks or bonds, jewelry, collections, etc., while your liabilities include mortgages, credit card debt, personal loans, student loans, etc.
My marriage was really short – can I get an annulment?
Annulments are generally only available if there was some legal impediment to the creation of a valid marriage. The simple fact that the marriage was of short duration (even a very short duration) is generally not a basis for annulment.
Why do some people cheat?
As divorce and family law attorneys we are constantly dealing with the issue of why men (and sometimes women, of course) cheat. Here are some reasons:
- Testosterone Levels: It's a medical fact, men who have high levels of testosterone have higher sex drives.
- Visual stimulation: Men are simply more visually stimulated than females. That's the way he's wired. That's why men are more susceptible to pornography addiction than women.
- Age Matters: Again, the brain is involved. The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that helps us with good judgment calls. This part of the male's brain is not fully developed until age 25. That's why men under the age of 25 make many bad judgment calls.
- Dopamine & PEA: When the dopamine (linked to the sex drive) and PEA (phenylethylamine), a natural chemical compound that is associated with psychoactive drugs, like cocaine and ecstasy, gets flowing, it's difficult for some men to control themselves.
Can I list our home for sale during a divorce?
Generally speaking, no. But if there's an agreement signed by both parties, then you can. Or if there is an order of the court stating the home can be sold. Upon filing for divorce in Georgia, you and your spouse should not dispose of any asset, marital or non-marital. You also should not add any additional mortgage or fail to take care of the home during the course of the divorce.
What happens if a former spouse does not comply with the divorce decree?
Once divorced, if a former spouse does not fulfill his or her obligations under the divorce decree, the other spouse can bring a legal action to compel him or her to do so. Common issues for contempt proceedings can include child support, alimony and debt matters. A judge can find the non-compliant party in contempt and make an award. And that award can include attorneys' fees.
Can I get a divorce without consent of my spouse?
Yes, you can. This is common. If one spouse wants to get a divorce but the other does not, this means that the marriage has broken down. Then the partner who wants to divorce may be able to get the divorce without the consent of the other.
What are some tips I can use prior to or during my divorce?
- Obtain proof of your spouse's income (paystubs, tax returns, etc)
- If you want primary physical custody of the children, don't move without taking them with you
- If you want substantial time share with your child(ren), make sure you have a work schedule that allows you “time off” when the child(ren) are not in school
- If it's likely you'll be the “support paying” spouse (child or spousal) many people work only as required (i.e. 40 hours per week) and avoid overtime or 2nd job prior to separation or court date; that's because“year-to-date” income is used to calculate support and additional income will be “averaged in."
- If you are going to be or are receiving spousal support (alimony), realize it likely won't last a lifetime; use it to further your education, get additional training or a better job to put yourself in the best financial position possible when support runs out
- Try to stay on decent terms with your “soon-to-be-ex” (if at all possible); divorce settlement and/or future parenting still requires communication and a modicum of good will.
Co-parenting: The "big 3"
Think about how your actions and decisions are affecting your child. Take some time and look at things from your child's perspective.
You and your ex don't have to be friends. But you do need to work together and make good decisions for your children.
You really don't need your friends and relatives taking “shots” at your ex. Just focus on the kids and not the details of your breakup.
Doctors can help children of divorcing parents
Historically divorce was viewed as a short-term family crisis for children. Views, however, have changed. We now know that divorce affects children individually, according to their coping mechanisms and their own stages of development.
Many problems and concerns previously attributed to divorce actually have roots in the period of familial interaction before the divorce and in ongoing conflicts in many families after the divorce.
Family physicians, as objective observers with whom the family comes into regular contact, are well-positioned to assist families transitioning due to divorce and to intervene on behalf of the children to help them through this stressful life event.
Counseling, group therapy, and divorce mediation can be effective tools for intervention.
In Georgia, does the court favor the mother when deciding custody?
Under the law, both mothers and fathers have an equal right to custody. There is nothing in the law that gives either party an advantage when custody is at stake. The court decides custody according to its professional assessment of the fitness of the parents and the best interests of the child.
What happens to debts in divorce?
Similar to dividing assets in divorce, debt division can be complex and in many cases is not totally predictable. You may be subject to contributing to the payment of debts that a spouse incurred, even if you didn't know about them at all. Marital debts in Georgia are debts either spouse incurred during marriage and it makes no difference whose name the debt is actually in (e.g. credit cards). Debts are "equitably distributed" in Georgia. In practice this can lead to greatly varying outcomes, including one where the higher income earner assumes a greater responsibility, or one where the party who incurred the debt incurs a greater responsibility. Each case is different and should be viewed on its own merits.
Suspect your spouse of cheating? Here are some 5 classic signs:
Social media usage: People are using social media all the time to “hook-up.” Facebook is now a classic way of meeting other people. Either meeting new people or reconnecting with “old flames.”
No more sex: His or her sex drive is seriously lower than it was. That can mean they're getting it elsewhere.
Password protecting everything: It's a bad sign if a spouse suddenly starts password protecting everything, when he or she never even cared before. And really start to worry if your spouse refuses to share the passwords.
Cellphone paranoia: When a spouse starts sleeping with the cellphone by the bedside, or bringing it into the shower or bathroom, that's a major tip-off. If a spouse won't let you look at what's on their cell phone, there's a problem.
Insults are flying: Picking fights is an old-time trick of the cheater. That way, if they're ever busted, they can blame it on you and say you two were always fighting!
Which parent will pay child support?
It's based on a number of factors, including the gross monthly income of each parent, as well as the expenses of each parent. In Georgia, the parent with primary physical custody is usually the parent who receives child support, but this isn't always the case.
If you've decided to divorce in the state of Georgia, it could benefit you to speak to a knowledgeable Georgia divorce attorney to determine your next best steps and ensure your rights are fully protected.
Vaginal rejuvenation and divorce
Like all body parts, vaginas tend to change as people get older. When women given birth, their vaginas never really go back to the way they were before childbirth. Many women who are contemplating divorce now say they'd consider getting a labiaplasty or vaginoplasty procedure. By tightening and rejuvenating a woman's vagina, these surgeries can significantly improve a lady's confidence.
Some women are insecure about their appearance. And when they enter the dating world, they sometimes take the step of getting surgery.
Indeed, one of the hottest and fastest-growing trends in plastic surgery over the last five years is rejuvenation of the female genitalia.
Older People & Divorce
Guess who's getting divorced in record numbers? Older folks. Studies have revealed what many divorce attorneys have known for a while: The divorce rate among adults aged 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010. A quarter of all divorces in 2010 occurred to persons aged 50 and older. Interestingly, the rate of divorce was 2.5 times higher for those in remarriages versus first marriages.
The good news: the longer you are married, the less likely you are to get divorced.
Can my wife get money I saved in the bank under my name during our marriage?
There's certainly no law against setting some money aside in a savings account while you're married. It might be a wise idea if you're a saver and your wife is a spender. It's certainly not a legal issue unless and until you divorce. In this case, your wife might be entitled to a portion of what you saved, depending on where the money came from.
If I am thinking about getting a divorce in the future, what can I do now to prepare myself?
It's always best to consult with a attorney to learn about the process, strategy and tactics. A consultation with an attorney can provide you with invaluable information to assist you in protecting your rights and preparing yourself for a divorce or separation.
What questions will my divorce lawyer ask me?
A divorce attorney wants to understand your situation as completely as possible. To do that best, the lawyer will ask you to complete some specific paperwork and to answer a variety of questions. That is all to help determine the best strategy and tactics for your particular case, because every case is different.
We'll certainly want to know if you signed a prenuptial agreement at the start of the marriage or a postnuptial agreement during the marriage. We'll want to know about other family law actions and how they were decided. We'll also want information about income sources, retirement plans, and tax returns. And we'll want to know about your family dynamics, shared personal and business assets, and your expected post-divorce outcomes.
What is a "Parenting Plan" in Georgia?
Georgia along with some other states has made some significant changes to the laws governing the area of family and children. Now we speak of Parenting Plans, which is a plan setting up and delineating with specificity how the parties will care for their children. It reflects what the parties' responsibilities are towards their children and what is expected moving forward.
If I don't sign anything, my spouse can't get a divorce in Georgia. Right?
Not true! If your spouse properly files a Summons and Complaint for divorce in Georgia (in Superior Court in the right county), and you have been properly served (which doesn't require you to sign anything at all), and you do nothing, your spouse can receive a Default Judgment of divorce in Georgia.
If you fail to respond to the Court in writing by filing an Answer to the Complaint, the Default Judgement of divorce in Georgia could award him/her everything he/she requests. In other words, it's a huge mistake to not file an answer if your are served with divorce papers.
Can my spouse prevent the divorce?
A Georgia judge will grant the divorce if you meet the requirements. There, of course, plenty of issues your spouse can argue that may annoy you and cause delay. Your spouse can't, however, prevent the divorce from happening. A spouse who does not want a divorce will likely argue over how to divide your property and debts, child custody and visitation rights for any children, alimony, and child support.
What happens to inherited property or property that is brought into the marriage?
So long as it is traceable and has not lost its separate identity this property will be designated as non-marital property. This is a common issue in Georgia divorces and can be one of the most difficult parts of the case, as appreciation on that property may be marital (for example, a house can increase in value during the marriage). Also, a Georgia court has the legal authority to make a distributive award to the other spouse out of non-marital property to achieve an equitable result.
What is a parenting plan in the state of Georgia?
In cases of Joint Custody, that is when parents want to share the physical care of their children, they have to present, in writing, their guidelines and expectations for raising the children. The parenting plan is seen as a "road map" that lays-out how custody will be apportioned. It will specify dates, times and other important metrics for custody of the child.
Such issues as who has custody during the week, what happens to the child on weekends and holidays are addressed in the parenting plan.
What's an annulment?
A court dissolves your marriage as if it never took place. A court finds grounds that invalidated the marriage as if you never married. Some grounds for an annulment include:
Is there a waiting or cooling-off period to get a divorce in Georgia?
No. While some other states do have a cooling-off period before a court can grant a divorce, Georgia does not. Georgia law recognizes that adults should be able to get divorced when they wish and that is a right that should not be denied. While some states treat their residents like children by mandating a waiting period prior to a divorce, Georgia, thankfully, doesn't. There is no waiting period to get married in the Peach State, and there is no waiting period to commence a divorce.
My spouse keeps firing her divorce lawyers. Then she hires new ones. That causes delays. What can I do about this?
You have options. Something like this can certainly happen; we've seen it. A sanctions motion can be filed against them for the delays. Also, any continuance requests they make should be opposed when that continuance request is unreasonable. When a spouse engages in this type of conduct, we should talk about what options you may have.
What is family law?
Family law is actually a broad specialty that touches on legal issues related to the family and personal relationships. These issues include marriage, domestic partnerships, paternity issues, child support and custody issues, adoption matters, domestic violence, property and debt settlement and family business matters.
In Georgia, is there a difference between divorce and dissolution of marriage?
In Georgia, there is no real distinction between the two terms, but there might be in other states. Most Georgia attorneys and judges utilize the term "divorce."
Can I modify a custody or child support order?
Yes, custody and child support orders can be modified. This happens frequently. Sometimes an existing order no longer makes sense and the facts upon which it is based have changed, sometimes dramatically. For example, if a husband was earning $150,000 per year and his income drops to $30,000 per year, he obviously shouldn't have to keep paying child support at the $150,000 level. In fact, he probably can't.
The modification process starts with the filing of a motion with the court to re-examine the child support calculation. It is very important to understand that these numbers are not automatically adjusted when there is a loss of income. Unless you properly petition the court to lower the amount owed, you will be obligated at the old rate.
Child support works similarly. Let's say a father only sees his child one day a week. But he wants more custody. Custody can only be changed through a petition the court.
My spouse is spending all my money while I'm waiting for a divorce. Can they do that?
No, that should be stopped. Technically it's called "dissipation." A spouse should be prevented, by court order if necessary, from concealing, transferring, wasting, depleting or destroying marital property with the intention of doing so for that spouse's advantage and to the other spouse's detriment.
Do we need to live separately before getting divorced?
No. While it is certainly not uncommon for one spouse to move out of the marital home before divorce proceedings begin, Georgia law does not require a period of living separate and apart, as some states do.
I live in Fulton County and my wife lives in Gwinnett County. But I work in Cobb County. Can we get divorced in Cobb?
You can file for divorce where your wife lives, in Gwinnett County, or you can file (if your wife agrees) in Fulton County, where you live. Just because you live in Cobb County doesn't mean you can file there.
What is discovery for divorce?
Discovery is a process where information is shared between divorcing parties (this is often overseen by the divorce lawyers representing each side). It allows each spouse to gather information to gain an understanding of the particular situation of the other party (their financial situation, etc.). Discovery deadlines are set by the court. Discovery can incorporate such mechanisms as the use of interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admissions, depositions, and any other methods allowed under Georgia law.
I think my husband's a porn addict? Is this common?
Porn addiction is becoming more and more widespread and Georgia is a leading state for pornography viewing on the internet. Sadly, it causes many divorces. A subset of sex addiction, porn addiction can lead to severe consequences in multiple aspects of one's life. It can impinge very negatively on a relationship with a spouse, friends and the family. Porn addiction is characterized by a range of behaviors that are done in excess and negatively impact one's life.
It's common for a cybersex or pornography addict to be very secretive about their behavior, to spend much of their time viewing sexual images, and his appetite for sexual relations with his partner can greatly diminish or become deviant. Women, too, can get addicted to porn.
What about alimony? Please tell me about alimony.
We understand how the courts approach spousal support. There are various factors that are used to determine if alimony is appropriate, and then how much alimony should be awarded and for what length of time.
A court must find that alimony is appropriate and reasonable in terms of the amount and duration. Some factors the court utilizes include:
- Length of your marriage
- Post-divorce assets of each party
- Each spouse's earning capacity
- Available retirement assets
- Respective ages of each party
- Physical and mental well-being of each party
Can your rights be protected between the time a divorce action is started and the final hearing?
Yes, there are constraints that stop the parties from doing negative things to each other, actions that involve violence or secreting assets. Both parties are prohibited from harassing, intimidating, or physically abusing the other party. In addition, both parties are prohibited from encumbering, concealing, destroying, damaging, transferring or disposing of property owned by either or both of the parties, without the consent of the other party.
What are my chances of getting custody of my children? I live in Gwinnett County.
That depends on the specific facts of your case. In Georgia, a custody award is based on the best interests of the children. If both parents, for instance, were involved with the children during the marriage and the parents are still able to communicate regarding the children, then joint custody is a possibility. There are, however, many misconceptions about joint custody and it is important to understand the true legal implications before making a decision.
Are military divorces more complicated?
Military divorces have there own issues that need to be properly handled. Often additional factors come into play in a divorce where one or more members of the military are divorcing. This may include complex matters of relocation or jurisdiction.
Can you get a Divorce if you are not a United States citizen? I live in Roswell, Georgia.
Yes, you can. You do not have to be a United States citizen to be granted a divorce in Georgia. And it doesn't matter where your marriage took place to be eligible for a divorce here.
Here are some good books about divorce (recommended by our clients!)
We're always speaking to our clients and just as we help them through their time of need, they have a lot of wonderful and helpful insights about divorce. We asked some of our clients what are the best books about divorce they have read. We didn't care it the book was fiction, non-fiction, memoir, biography, autobiography or anything else -- we just wanted to know if they really liked it and if it helped get them through this tough period. Here are some of their favorites:
- The Good Divorce by Constance R. Ahrons
- This is My Daughter by Roxana Barry Robinson
- It's Called a Breakup Because it's Broken by Greg Behrendt
- Making Divorce Easier on Your Child- 50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust by Nicholas Long and Rex L. Forehand
- The Women by Clare Boothe Luce
- The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer
- Falling Apart in One Piece by Stacy Morrison
- How To Talk to Your Children About Divorce by Jill Jones-Soderman and Alison Quattrocchi
- Split: A Memoir of Divorce by Suzanne Finnamore
- How To Sleep Alone in a King Sized Bed by Theo Nestor
- Heartburn by Nora Ephron
- Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, Third Edition, by Abigail Trafford
- Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce by Judith S. Wallerstein
Are the dates and deadlines on the papers I was served with really important to follow?
Yes, very important. You should schedule an appointment with an attorney as soon as possible so that tactics and strategy can be planned. The deadlines are taken very seriously and can greatly impact your rights. Be aware that if you don't file an Answer or responsive pleading within 30 days of being served, the court can enter a default judgment against you and give the other everything they want.
Don't forget private school and college expenses when divorcing
Educational expenses can be high. A good education is expensive. You need to figure them into divorce settlement negotiations. They can be a big factor. Studies reveal that college tuition costs are increasing at a higher rate than virtually anything else in the economy. The cost of private school tuition in the Atlanta area does not lag far behind.
These costs can be difficult after a divorce. Private school tuition and college tuition to can hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. You need to plan ahead and discuss this issue in detail with your Atlanta divorce attorney before you get deeply involved with your divorce.
Does the Georgia divorce process change at all if my spouse decides to be self-represented instead of having a lawyer?
The law and procedures do not change because somebody is not represented by an attorney. In fact, a spouse who is self represented is held to the same standard as a represented spouse. This is a huge reason why representing yourself in such a bad idea.
Does the mother always get sole physical and legal custody? I live in Roswell, GA.
No, the mother doesn't always win! Georgia courts try to assess what is in the best interest of the child to determine child custody. Unless the parent is actually harmful to the child (a high standard), the parent will often get at least some form of visitation with the child and often legal custody.
What are the major issues relating to divorce in Georgia?
Divorce in Georgia can relate to a huge amount of issues. Just about any issue can be addressed. However, here are some issues we commonly find:
- Property division
- Child visitation rights
- Child support
What happens after I get divorced? Let's say my circumstances change?
If you experience a substantial change in circumstances after your divorce is finalized, you may decide that you need to modify the original terms of your divorce.
Here are some circumstances that could give rise to changing or modifying your divorce:
- a job loss
- a drastic involuntary change in income
- relocation to another state
- illness or physical injury
- or another big life change.
After I get divorced what should I do with my estate planning documents?
When you even start to contemplate divorce, and certainly after a divorce, it is critical that you review all of your estate-planning documents (your last will and testament, financial power of attorney, health care directives, living will, life insurance, trusts, the assignment of a guardian or trustee for your child(ren) in the event of your death, etc.).
This is because if you don't modify them and change them to reflect your new reality of divorce, then your ex-spouse continues to have all the same rights and privileges as if you were still married. The way the documents are prepared during your marriage may bring about unintended results after your divorce, much to your dismay!
My friend sells insurance and is a bartender. She's been divorced twice. She got divorced for her second time just last year. Should I take her advice?
While friends can helpful in a difficult time like when your getting divorced, they should not be your source for legal advice. That's because every dissolution action is different and what happened in your friend's case is no indicator of what will happen in yours. There are many variables to take into account under Georgia law. In addition, there have been drastic changes in the family law arena in recent years and unless your friend is actively practicing law in this area, you should not rely on what he or she tells you.
Can I get an annulment in DeKalb County, GA?
Yes. The state of Georgia provides for annulments. Annulments can be granted by a court if there was a legal deficiency in the marriage. Legal deficiencies include things such as one of the spouses were underage, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or mentally incapacitated.There can also be other extenuating circumstances that can lead to an annulment.
Do women always ‘win' in a divorce? I live in Acworth, GA.
First off, no one ‘wins' in divorce. Don't assume that the Georgia law is what you see on T.V. the movies, on cable and streaming shows, or in novels. Thta's simply not how it works. Don't get advice on divorce and family law issues from a T.V. show.
The Georgia court system is vastly different than you may see depicted on a television program. It is not always the case, for instance, that children are usually kept predominantly with their mothers. Georgia favors both parents having equal responsibility and equal time sharing. And a woman is not guaranteed to get alimony or the home in a divorce. These determinations and others are made on a case by case basis.
Can I date someone else while I go through the divorce? I live in Buckhead.
That's not a good idea. That's because until your divorce is granted, you are still legally married. Therefore, dating someone else could effect the outcome of your divorce by leading to claims of infidelity.
If you are, however, seeing someone, definitely make sure your lawyer knows about it so they can advise you how best to proceed.
I live in Johns Creek and I think my wife has become a prostitute. I saw an ad for her on Craigslist. Now I want a divorce!
If your wife is engaging in illegal activities, that certainly could have a profound impact on your divorce conditions. If you have children, a court will not look positively at her illegal activities especially if they could endanger the children.
My spouse just served me with divorce papers today. What should I do now?
You need to respond. And your response has to be properly and professionally done. If you ignore the paperwork, you could lose important legal rights. That's why you need to consult a local divorce attorney as soon as possible to assist you and to protect your legal options. Legal representation can help guarantee that your rights are protected and that issues like child custody and visitation, as well as child support and potentially alimony, are thoroughly addressed, and to help ensure the most equitable and fair division of marital property as part of the marital settlement agreement.
Can I get a Divorce if I wasn't married in Georgia?
Yes, you can get a Georgia divorce even if you weren't married here. As long as you meet the Georgia residency requirements, you can get a divorce. Divorces granted in Georgia are based on your current status as a resident, not where your marriage took place.
Can I remarry immediately after my divorce is final? I live in Dunwoody, Georgia.
Yes. Georgia law has no bar for remarriage once you get divorced. Some states actually have a waiting period before you can get remarried, but Georgia does not.
Why do I need a QDRO? I live in Fulton County, GA.
A QDRO enables the administrator of retirement accounts to distribute funds when a couple divorces. It also comes into play if you or your ex-spouse gets remarried. The QDRO clears-up issues down the road since everything regarding the distribution of the retirement account is already addressed in the QDRO.
Who issues a divorce decree? Can I get a divorce at a city court or a probate court?
Only one court can can grant a dissolution of marriage decree: the Superior Court. It can't be done by a city court, a probate court, or a magistrate court. After a Collaborative Divorce or a Mediation, court approval of the divorce is usually just a formality.
I haven't had sex with my husband in over 3 years. Is that normal? We live in Suwanee, GA.
No, it is not. If you have a good marriage (or even just an "OK" one) you would have far more intimate relations. You would not go years, or even months, without sexual relations. Not having an intimate relationship with a spouse is a sign that the marriage is broken and a divorce is basically inevitable. Of course, if the lack of intimacy is due to health or physical issues, that is something quite different.
Financial infidelity is destroying my marriage. Is financial infidelity common? We live in Cherokee County.
Financial infidelity is very common and it is increasing, various studies have shown. Several academic studies have estimated that as many as 42% of American adults admit to hiding accounts, loans, credit cards, and other debts or spending habits from their spouse or partner. Interestingly, a recent study conducted by CreditCards.com found that millennials are nearly twice as likely to hide money or accounts from partners than other generations. It appears that debts are now easier than ever to conceal because of technology. People can sign up for an account, get the statements, and engage in spending all without anything showing up in the mail.
Does it matter that I've been arrested several times? I live in Atlanta.
It's always better to not have a criminal record, especially for serious crimes. But criminal charges can happen; people do get arrested. Certainly, while going through a divorce, you want to avoid anything that can show a major character deficiency, like an arrest. Even a speeding ticket can be used against you, so be on your best behavior while a divorce is pending.
What are "red flags" of financial infidelity? My husband has been acting very weird lately about money.
Here are 5 "red flags" of financial infidelity:
- Cash is missing.
- You are no longer on a joint credit card.
- Your partner is paranoid about getting the mail.
- Your partner suddenly has a lot of new expensive possessions.
- You find statements for a credit card you know nothing about.
What is "battered woman" syndrome?
Sadly, over the years, we've seen many cases of battered woman (or battered person) syndrome. It's more common than most people think. Battered woman syndrome (BWS) is a psychological condition that can result when a person experiences abuse, usually at the hands of an intimate partner (boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband).
People in abusive relationships are unhappy. But, sometimes, they feel like they can't leave their abuser. They fear the other person and believe they are actually the cause of the abuse.
Abuse affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, social classes, and educational backgrounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls this intimate partner violence (IPV). The CDC lists four main types of IPV. These include:
- sexual violence
- physical violence
- psychological aggression
Numerous studies have documented that BWS, besides causing physical symptoms, can cause depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. In fact, BWS can and does lead people to suicide and homicide.
BWS has been linked to cognitive and memory issues. Victims begin to have memories of the abuse or may actually develop amnesia and not always remember important details or events. Victims can be distracted by intrusive memories and flashbacks to previous battering incidents.
It has been said that a battered woman has four psychological stages:
- Denial (she won't admit that a problem exists)
- Guilt (she admits there is a problem, but she feels responsible for it)
- Enlightenment (the lady realizes she's not responsible for her partner's violence)
- Responsibility (she realizes he won't stop; she takes responsibility for herself and she begins a new life without him)
Of course, and this bears repeating, it's not only women who are battered. Studies have revealed that men, to a significant extent, are also victims of domestic violence. And sometimes people use false allegations of domestic violence as a pretext to commit murder.
My husband insults me. He says I'm stupid and fat and an idiot. Will that come out if we get divorced?
It's certainly possible. His insulting, belittling and humiliating behavior could come out in negotiations or if the matter is not resolved, at a trial. His statements can be used to show abusive behavior. However, if the divorce is negotiated between the two parties, then it may not be disclosed, at least not publicly.
Does misconduct matter in alimony? What about the cheater?
Generally speaking, alimony is awarded based on need and ability to pay. Atlanta courts don't award alimony as a penalty for cheating partners or abusive spouses. There is an exception when a spouse's misconduct aggravated the need for support.
Is there a correlation between divorce and breast implants? We live in Milton, GA.
Breast augmentation is the most common operation performed on women, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. It has been noted that that many women who are divorced, or contemplating divorce, have considered breast augmentation prior to or during their marital difficulties. Marriage issues can often provide an excuse to go ahead with the surgery. Preparing to enter the dating pool, they hope to gain self-confidence.
For most women it's a big step, and often a positive one. Studies have demonstrated that breast implants can help boost self-esteem, body image, and sexual satisfaction.
However, studies have also highlighted the critical need for careful screening by doctors, as well as self-awareness among women, before breast implant surgery. It has been found that women who may have psychiatric or alcohol/drug problems before their surgery may be at higher risk of suicide years later.
And cosmetic surgery can, in fact, have a negative effect of your marriage. If both parties don't fully agree on getting the surgery, that can be a problem. A husband, for instance, can become jealous and suspicious if he believe his wife is getting breast implants to increase her attractiveness to other men. Alternatively, the wife may get breast implants at her husband's encouragement and always wonder why she wasn't "good enough" as she was.
Can I get a divorce from a minister?
Legal divorces in the state of Georgia are only granted in a court of law by a judge. You cannot get a divorce from a minister, priest, rabbi or imam.
Confidentiality: High net-worth and celebrity divorces
Without a doubt, a divorce involving a high-profile individual or someone with multiple and complex assets is a complicated proceeding that should only be handled by a sophisticated and experienced divorce attorney. Assets must be accurately accounted for, effects of any pre- or post-marital agreements must be considered, and assessing child and/or spousal support is often in the mix. We completely understand the need for discretion and use our years of experience to protect both your privacy and your legal rights. Our experienced, knowledgeable, professional attorneys will evaluate your case and guide you through each step of the legal maze.
We might just want to get a legal separation. What are the benefits of a Legal Separation vs. a Divorce?
- Provides time apart from each other to think things through
- For religious considerations, it's a viable alternative to divorce
- Allows spouses a chance to experience life as a single parent
- Can increase the odds of reconciliation
- Provides an opportunity for counseling before finally deciding on divorce
- Can potentially create a stronger family unit
If you get a separation, you remain “married.” Many people separated for religious, insurance, or tax purposes. A court can divide your property and issue orders relating to child custody, visitation, child support and spousal support.
After I file for divorce, can I stop the proceeding if I reconcile with my spouse? I live in Atlanta.
Yes. You can stop the divorce process if you reconcile with your spouse. However, if at a future date you decide you want to continue with your divorce, you must start the divorce process from the very beginning. But if your spouse was the one who filed for divorce, you cannot stop the divorce by yourself. If your spouse filed then you must convince your spouse to file a dismissal.
What are Temporary Orders in Georgia?
You and your spouse can be subject to Temporary Orders while the divorce is pending. These orders are often set by the court but can be negotiated by your attorney and agreed to by your spouse. The reason is to establish your rights and your spouse's rights and responsibilities while the divorce is pending. For example, an Order can determine how and when you can each access joint bank accounts, how personal property is to be used, and how debts will continue to be paid. The temporary order can also include temporary custody and visitation orders if children are involved.
Does my spouse have a claim to my business? We live in Buckhead.
Your spouse may have an interest in your business if you are a small-business owner. A business founded after the marriage is generally considered marital property, and the growth of a pre-owned business during the marriage may also be considered marital property. If your spouse does have a claim to your business, his or her interest will often be paid through other property or, in some cases, cash. The vast majority of the time the business is not sold or liquidated. It's usually in both parties' best interests to keep the business viable and profitable.
Do both parties really have to disclose their assets? We live in Buckhead.
Georgia law provides that each party must disclose their assets. That's done through a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (the "DRFA"). Some consider this the most important single document in a divorce. This financial statement is designed to provide the Court and the other party with information about income, needs, assets and liabilities.
Is it common for a person to file bankruptcy after getting a divorce?
Many people choose to file bankruptcy after divorcing so that they can get a fresh start financially. Bankruptcy is a great way to eliminate debts from credit cards, loans, hospitals and doctors, and old bills that have accumulated over the years.
What happens if a party doesn't follow a court order in Georgia? We live in Dunwoody, GA.
If a party fails to follow a court order, the other party may have to to bring a legal action to enforce the order. This is most often accomplished by filing a Petition for Contempt. This is when a a party requests the court to use its powers to make the other party comply with the order.
Commonly this occurs when the ex-spouse fails to pay support, fails to turn over property, or refuses to allow court-ordered visitation.
Do I need to live in Georgia to get divorced in Georgia?
Not necessarily, but at least one of the spouses must live in Georgia to get a divorce here. For example, if your marital home was in Georgia and your spouse has remained in Georgia, you could file for a Georgia divorce even if you now live in another state or even another country.
My kid doesn't even look like me. I think the child's not mine and my wife had an affair. What should I do?
You need to do a paternity test to prove the child's yours. The best and most accurate test is a DNA test. That way you will know for sure. By the way, it is fairly common for divorce lawyers to see this type of paternity issue arise.
If I leave my home in Dunwoody and live in a separate residence in Duluth, am I “legally separated”?
You may be considered legally separated, but, remember, you are still married. Separeated does not mean divorced. The “date of separation” may be a date when one souse moves out of the home. But it is possible to be “separated” and still living in the same house. The date of separation can be important, in part, because that is the date in which property acquired by each spouse might not be considered marital property and, therefore, is considered separate property.
Does stress cause divorce? I'm pretty stressed just asking this question and I want a divorce. I live in Alpharetta, GA.
A major study was conducted to see how stress hormones impacted marital happiness. The study looked at 90 happy couples who had undergone an intensive 24-hour assessment of their relationship in the early days of marriage. Interestingly, those who had the highest levels of three out of four key stress hormones during initial interviews were the most likely to be divorced 10 years later. The hormones included epinephrine (better known as adrenalin, or the "fight-or-flight" hormone), norepinephrine, ACTH, and cortisol.
What is discovery in a Georgia divorce? I live in DeKalb County.
It's an early phase in the divorce process during which both parties are permitted by Georgia law to ask the other any questions and to seek copies of documents that may have relevance to any of the issues in the case. If alimony, for example, is an issue, one of the factors for the court to consider is the relative financial condition of the each party. Therefore questions about your spouse's income and expenses would be relevant, and documents and information like copies of pay stubs and tax returns could be requested.
What is domestic violence in Forsyth County?
Domestic violence can take various forms; it is not just one thing. It can be abuse or simply threats of abuse when the person being abused and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship. An intimate relationship can be a married couple, domestic partners, people who are dating or used to date, people who live or lived together, or people who have a child together. It can also be when the abused person and the abusive person are closely related by blood.
"Abuse” can take the form of:
- Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone;
- Sexual assault;
- Making someone afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt (like threats to harm someone); OR
- Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone's peace; or destroying someone's personal property.
So physical abuse is not just hitting. It can be kicking, shoving, pushing, pulling hair, throwing things, scaring or following you, or keeping you from freely coming and going. It can even include physical abuse of the family pets.
The statistics show that violence occurs at least once in two-thirds of all marriages, and approximately 96% of the victims of domestic violence are women. Roughly 43% of all physically abused children have also witnessed physical violence between their parents.
I bought the house before I met my wife. Is she entitled to any part of it in the divorce? We live in Cumming, Georgia.
Under Georgia law, property acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage isn't included in the family property to be divided since it is considered non-marital property. But, if the exempt property increases in value during the marriage, that increase in value can be considered marital property to be divided.
Gifts and inheritances received by one party may also be excluded.
What are some issues that are addressed in a divorce?
A divorce can address many issues. These include:
- child custody
- child support
- visitation and parenting time with the children
- what happens to "assets" (such as pensions, 401 (k)'s, bank accounts, or stocks)
- how are taxes handled (who gets to claim the child as a dependent?, for instance)
- alimony (support for the spouse)
- what happens to personal property (such as a car, truck, gun collection or furniture)
- what happens to real estate, such as your house, or a vacation home, or commercial property
- who gets to live in the home; who has to leave the home
- who has to pay the debts (including credit cards, utility bills, personal loans, mortgages)
- possibly obtaining an order of protection from abuse.
- changing your name to the one you had before you were married
What if I'm dating someone while I'm going through a divorce?
Perhaps you've moved on and are dating someone while you are in the divorce process. This is very common. We will try to help guide you in the right direction, making sure that you are making the best decisions that are beneficial to you and your children. We keep you and your family's best interest in mind as we represent you.
It is smart to be respectful and discreet about your new relationship during the divorce process. Keeping things a little more private until things are finalized can help you and your family in the long run.
My wife said she doesn't want to have sex with me ever again. But since I'd like kids, do you think we can adopt?
Adoption is a wonderful way to add to a family. There is a procedure in Georgia for a legal adoption and we can help a couple through that process. Whether adoption is a good move in your case is for you to determine. It sounds like you and your wife should open a full and transparent dialog to improve your relationship.
Does visitation depend on child support? I live in Brookhaven, GA.
It's a common misconception that a parent's entitlement to parenting time or visitation is directly tied to his/her payment of child support. The fact that a party's parenting time may be restricted or even non-existent does not reduce their child support obligation. In a similar vein, the fact that a parent has failed to pay his or her child support obligation does not legally justify the denial of parenting time under Georgia law.
How about a right to future earnings? I put my husband through college and medical school. I live in Cherokee County.
We've seen many cases where a spouse worked and supported the other spouse's academic endeavors. That effort allowed the spouse to potentially earn more in the future. Georgia does not recognize those potential future earnings as property. However, the non-student spouse in a Georgia divorce may be entitled to a cash settlement for the contribution they made while the other studied.
Do people in living in different parts of the country have different divorce rates?
Different regions do, in fact, have different divorce rates. People in the Northeast have the lowest rates of divorce. The South has the highest rate of divorce. Divorce rates are likely higher in the South because marriage rates are higher and marriage occurs at younger-than-average ages in this region.
Should I get a prenup? I've been an executive for over 20 years and my husband spent tine in prison and is unemployed, but I love him! I live in Dunwoody, GA.
A prenuptial agreement is often a good idea. A prenup is generally used to preserve what people bring into a marriage as a separate entity so they belong to the person who brings them in. It's most frequently about preserving assets (real estate, retirement accounts) that you bring into a marriage – not what you create during the marriage.
My wife has bipolar disorder and won't get treatment. I need a divorce, now! Is this common? We live in Cherokee County.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is an increasingly common diagnosis. A person's moods can swing between crushing depression and ecstatic highs. If not handled properly, bipolar can cause the breakdown of relationships and it can lead to divorce. Both extremes of the bipolar condition can cause marital strife. During the "manic" phase, a person can sometimes become very irritable and engage in risky behaviors, like extensive gambling or reckless sex. While people having a depressive episode can have have trouble concentrating, eat too much or too little, and can be suicidal.
My wife won't cook for the family and now I want a divorce. We live in Smyrna, GA, in Cobb County.
We're not so sure that getting a divorce simply because your wife won't or can't cook is such a great idea. Usually people divorce over other, more personal and difficult, issues. Cooking is certainly important. But take some time and assess your entire relationship and, perhaps, you can work through the cooking issues. We have had clients where a spouse refused to cook, but they ultimately divorced because of other issues.
My husband is seeing prostitutes and escorts. I'm thinking of a divorce if he won't stop. I don't know why he cheats, we have sex at least once every month or two. We live in Sandy Springs, GA.
Cheating with prostitutes or escorts does end some marriages. But many marriages in North Fulton County survive the occasional massage, hooker and escort. If it's just one incident, in many cases it won't damage a marriage. However, we've seen that if it frequently occurs, then it is likely to result in a breakdown of trust and therefore the relationship will fall apart.
I have pain during sex and I think my vagina is too tight. Now my husband wants a divorce. We live in Alpharetta, GA.
Please note that a “tight” vagina that is painful may be a sign of an underlying medical issue, especially if you're experiencing discomfort during intimacy.
When you're aroused, your vaginal muscles naturally relax. But if you're not turned on, interested, or physically prepared for intercourse, your vagina won't relax, self-lubricate, and stretch.
Tight vaginal muscles can make a sexual encounter painful or even impossible to complete. Extreme vaginal tightness could also be a sign of vaginismus. But don't worry, this is a treatable physical disorder that affects 1 in every 500 women, according to the published medical research.
Vaginismus is pain that happens before or during penetration.
Make an appointment with your OB-GYN if this sounds familiar. A doctor should be able to provide help and relief. Common treatments for vaginismus include Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises, vaginal dilator therapy, or Botox injections to relax the muscles.
My spouse and I are getting divorcing, but I want to continue co-parenting my stepchild. Is this possible? We live in Atlanta.
It is possible. Divorcing birth parents are usually the parties that request custody or visitation rights, but other parties — including stepparents and grandparents — have also successfully made claims in the state of Georgia to continue their relationship with a child.
There's no sex in my marriage. Is that normal? I'm thinking of getting a divorce in Cobb County!
A sexless marriage is almost unanimously defined as having sex less than once a month. According to the New York Times, 15% of marriages are sexless. We're hesitant to try to define "normal," but a sexless marriage is certainly in the minority. But that doesn't mean the marriage is headed for divorce. Many sexless marriages last, but many don't.
Physical exercise and divorce. Should I start working out if I'm getting a divorce? I live in Gwinnett County, GA.
Increasing physical activity is great advice for almost everyone. And that's probably even more important in the aftermath of their marriage ending. Working out releases endorphins that make you feel happier and calmer. Being active can also be a healthy way to process thoughts that are circulating in one's head and resulting in unneeded anger and anxiety.
My husband and I were married in India. Can we get divorced here in Georgia? We live in Cumming, GA.
Yes, even if you were married in India, you can get divorced here in Georgia. We have helped many couples who were married in India get divorced in Georgia.
I was shopping at Avalon in Alpharetta and I saw my spouse kissing another lady and I took a picture. Can I use that in my divorce?
Yes, you can. The picture can be used to show possible adultery and can have legal and evidentiary significance. Due to the prevalence of smart phones, we are seeing a greater amount of potentially incriminating photographs in divorce matters.
Since my spouse cheated, will the Cobb County court be on my side?
Not necessarily. And you can't count on it. You really don't know what a judge will think and do. It might not be a big deal at all. Oftentimes there's little concern from the courts as to why a relationship broke down.
My wife and I collected art during our marriage. What happens to our art collection if we get divorced?
Several things can happen to your art collection when you get a divorce. You can amicably split the art collection between you. Or it can be sold and the proceeds split by the parties. Or perhaps the collection can be used as a piece of the overall divorce negotiations. We have seen art objects used to pay the other spouse alimony, to buy-out the other side's interest in the marital home, and we have seen an art collection used to pay college expenses, among other things.
Are there different laws for same-sex couples in a Georgia divorce?
Georgia same-sex couples are entitled to the same divorce process as heterosexual couples. The law does not distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual couples, and Georgia courts apply the law equally to all married couples.
A situation in which divorce may be different for same-sex couples is where the couple came to Georgia to marry because same-sex marriage is not allowed in their home country (many countries do not allow same-sex marriage). If they return to their country, but later decide to divorce, the home country cannot grant a divorce because it never recognized their marriage as valid in the first place.
I'm getting a divorce and I need the tattoo of my wife's named removed. Can I do that? We live in Canton, GA.
While this isn't a divorce law question per se, we'll try to answer it anyways. Yes, a tattoo can be removed. It can take a while, it's not cheap, but tattoos can be removed! There are a number of tattoo removal specialists and you might want to call one or two to get a consultation. We've actually had several clients ask this question.
How long does a divorce take in Georgia? Does it take years? We live in Alpharetta.
The divorce process in Georgia isn't always short (although it can be), but it doesn't have to feel endless.
It is unusual for a divorce case to go on for years. Typically, we've seen that happen if one or both spouses have caused significant delays. Delays can be caused for a variety of reasons.
Can I get a divorce in Georgia if I am not a Georgia resident or was not married in Georgia?
A person can be granted a divorce in Georgia no matter where the marriage took place, or what the citizenship of the individual is. However, the person may be asked to prove that their spouses' home address or their own home address is in Georgia and the county within which they have sought the divorce.
I think a little facial hair looks just fine. But not on my wife! Now I want a divorce! We live in DeKalb County.
Your wife may be suffering from condition called "hirsutism," excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman's body and face. All people have facial and body hair, but the hair on a woman's face is usually very fine and light in color. But the excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman's face, arms, back, or chest is usually coarse and dark. This growth pattern is commonly associated with male hormones.
Medical studies have shown that hirsutism affects between 6 and 11 percent of women. It is hereditary, so you may be more likely to have unwanted hair growth if your mother, sister, or other female relative also has it. Women of Mediterranean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern heritage are also more likely to develop the condition.
Causes of hirsuitism have been to known to include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), adrenal gland disorders, and certain medications (like Minoxidil, anabolic steroids, testosterone, and cyclosporine).
My husband lied about getting a vasectomy. Now I'm pregnant and I want a divorce. Will my husband pay child support? We live in Milton, GA.
It's certainly possible. But first child custody has to be determined. If you have primary physical custody, then you will probably get child support.
What's usually included in a divorce petition?
Generally, four primary topics are included in a divorce petition in Georgia:
- Child issues: including child support, child custody, and visitation
- Financial issues between spouses
- Property division between you and your spouse
- How debts will be apportioned
What are medical expenses in a Georgia divorce?
Medical expenses can include not only obvious medical expenses, but also dental, orthodontic (braces), ophthalmic (vision), physical therapy, psychological and counseling expenses.
How can I get my spouse to move out of our house? We live in Cobb County.
Well, you can't just throw your spouse out of the house and change the locks. But you can ask your spouse to leave. Your spouse can be ordered to move by the court if you are able to demonstrate that good cause exists for the move, and/or there is financial ability to relocate without hardship. Of course, if you are a domestic violence victim, contact the police.
What does a divorce cost? We live in Woodstock, Georgia.
There is no easy or quick answer to this question. It really all depends. Most Georgia divorce and family law attorneys charge by the hour for their legal services, and therefore the cost of a divorce is directly related to how much work needs to be done on the case.
What about older couples and divorce?
Getting divorced in your retirement years can impact your retirement plan. Here some issues to consider if you are part of an older couple divorcing:
- Focus on what retirement benefits you are entitled to
- Think about custody of the pets
- Be ready for the possibility of alimony
- Think about who will keep the house
- Household goods may get divided
- Determine if your Social Security payments will change
- Speak with your adult children
- Make a list of things for your future happiness
- Speak with your adult children
Who has a greater emotional adjustment after divorce, men or women?
Studies tend to show that men are usually confronted with greater emotional adjustment issues than women following divorce. The reasons for this are usually related to the loss of intimacy, the interruption of the parental role, reduced finances, and the loss of social connection.
My husband lives in California. But I live in North Fulton County, in Sandy Springs. Can we get divorced here?
You can get divorced here, even if your husband lives in another state. But your husband will have to agree to the divorce here. If he doesn't, you have to get divorced where he resides, which in your case is California.
I live in Johns Creek, Georgia, and I want to know if it matters which spouse files for divorce?
Under Georgia law, there is no legal significance as to which spouse files first. However, there may be strategic, tactical or psychological advantages to filing first.
My husband refuses to get a job. He won't work because he's lazy. Sadly, he used to be an investment banker. Now he lays around the house and is fat. Help, please!
This is an all-too-common situation affecting some marriages. Many people, male or female, sometimes just don't want to work. It may simply be because of laziness, or a mental issue may be manifesting. Either way, it can lead to divorce.
What is bigamy? I live in Cobb County and I'm a little worried.
Bigamy in the state of Georgia means that you or your spouse is married without legally ending their previous marriage. It is also considered a crime.
Bigamy, however, differs from polygamy. Bigamy involves two (or more) separate marriages, while polygamy usually comprises "one marriage" with multiple people. Often, bigamy involves one party deceiving the other about the state of their current marriage. On the other hand, polygamy often involves parties that are all aware of the circumstances.
How can a grandparent help a grandchild through a divorce? The grandchildren live in Sandy Springs.
- No negative comments about your ex-son or daughter-in law in front of your grandchildren.
- Be a patient listener. Your grandchild may be surrounded angry and confused adults, you may provide the only place where they can really feel heard and understood.
- Be the unbiased, non-judgmental confidant children need. A special relationship with a grandparent can make all the difference to a child facing change.
- Tell your grandchildren stories about your own life challenges and how you overcame them. Make your stories relatable to kids so that they can do the same sort of things. Make them feel understood and safe. Stay positive!
- Reading together can be a very positive and helpful experience for the child. Children's books about feelings or how other children have coped with the upheaval and change of divorce will help them find words to ask you the questions they want to have answered.
I'm getting divorced. What should I do with my finances? How do I protect myself? I live in Duluth, GA.
If you're getting divorced, you do need to take certain precautionary steps to protect your financial well-being. Here are 7 steps to take immediately:
- Separate your bank accounts.
- Protect your credit.
- Determine a budget and set financial goals.
- Check on your insurance coverage
- Establish your own financial identity.
- Make sure your taxes are properly done and filed.
- List all financial assets and debts in your name.
My spouse is a drug addict. What can I do? I want a divorce and I live in Lawrenceville, GA!
Drug and alcohol addiction causes many divorces. If your partner won't get help, you need to move on. You must stop enabling them. Don't just make excuses and deny that a problem with drugs exists. This merely validates the addiction. Rather, you need to take a stand and refuse to allow these self-destructive behaviors.
Communication is vital. Partners should attempt to talk to their spouse, but only when both parties are calm and sober, about their drug use. If they are unwilling to discuss the situation, keep making excuses for their erratic behaviors, and refuse to admit to a drug or alcohol problem, it may be time for a divorce.
My marriage sucks. My husband is an alcoholic, abusive, and I know he's cheating. But since we have kids, maybe I should stay. What do you think? We live in Atlanta, GA.
Many people stay in an unhappy marriage for the kids. Indeed, once a couple have children, it's more likely they'll probably stay together for a longer period, studies have shown. But after the children leave, then oftentimes a divorce will occur.
I caught my wife "sexting" a former boyfriend. She described in graphic detail that she wanted to have sex with him and his wife. When I confronted her she said I'm a "loser" and she "needs new experiences." I need help with a divorce and I'm depressed.
Finding out that your wife is having an affair with a man and possibly his wife is understandably upsetting. Infidelity causes many marriages to break-up. We hope you saved the text messages which can be used as evidence.
I'm not a U.S. citizen. Can I still get divorced in Cobb County, Georgia? I live in Kennesaw.\
Yes, you can. You don't have to be a United States citizen to be able to get divorced in Georgia. In fact, people from all over the world appear in Georgia courts seeking to dissolve their marriages.
Should I post on social media if I'm going through a divorce?
You certainly can, but watch out! Anything you post online can be used against you in court. Remember, the other party (who you are still married to) may be looking for things to use against you. We've seen people post about dating (remember you're still married!), alcohol and drug usage, as well as making inappropriate posts about guns and many other things that you don't want to mention while going through a divorce.
Social media evidence can be gathered and used to undermine your credibility with the judge and perhaps the guardian ad litem, if one is appointed. Social media posts can be used to undermine your credibility and show a lack of truthfulness, and even to demonstrate that you are an irresponsible parent.
Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid? I live in Johns Creek, GA.
No. Visitation and child support are, under Georgia law, separate and distinct issues. A Court will not allow you to withhold visitation if support has not been paid. However, you can face a contempt of court charge if you withhold support because you have not seen your child.
What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody? I live in Cumming, GA.
Unless one parent is seriously impaired, legal custody almost always is joint. Legal custody involves critical decisions about the children, for instance, medical decisions, educational and religious choices.
The actual residential placement of the child(ren) involves physical custody. Physical custody arrangements vary based upon the decisions of the parents, ages , desires and needs of the children.
My grandmother got caught having an affair. Can I pay for my grandfather's divorce lawyer? We live in Cobb County.
Interestingly, and perhaps sadly, more and more older people are getting divorced. What used to be a rather rare event has now become quite common her in Georgia and throughout the United States. But, yes, you can pay the divorce attorney fees for your grandfather. It's your money and you can do what you want with it.
We live in Alpharetta and my wife refuses to work and she's usually drunk. But she has an MBA from Harvard University and was a Baker Scholar. Will that affect potential alimony payments?
That could affect alimony in a big way. That's because she can use her Harvard MBA to get a good job and that means, generally, that you might not have to pay alimony or that your alimony obligation will be reduced accordingly. Alimony is supposed to help someone "get back on their feet." But with a prestigious degree from a highly competitive business school, the time needed to get back on her feet should be comparatively short.
What are the most common issues in a Cobb County divorce?
In a Cobb County divorce, like most divorces, the parties must determine, or the court must decide for them, how to divide the marital estate between spouses and whether to award one of the parties support (sometimes called alimony or maintenance). When minor children are involved, issues such as child custody, child visitation, and child support must also be addressed.
My wife got drunk and told me I'm not the father of my son. She said his real father works at Publix in Alpharetta. What can I do? We live in North Fulton County.
Paternity testing is done to determine whether or not a person is the biological father of a particular child. DNA testing is used to determine paternity. It is a relatively non-invasive procedure and simply involves collecting and examining the DNA of a small sample of bodily fluid or tissue from the child and the potential father.
A unique genetic "fingerprint," DNA makes up a person's genes and chromosomes. A baby possesses half of each parent's DNA, thus the child's genetic code (DNA) is a shared mix of only its mother's and father's DNA. By examining just a small sample of DNA from the baby and the potential father, paternity can be proven or disproven.
Testing usually involves the blood or cells from inside the cheek of the mouth (called buccal cells). A DNA test is extremely accurate.
I'm in the military and stationed in Italy. My wife lives in Gwinnett County. Can I divorce her in Georgia?
Yes, you can get divorced in Georgia. Since she lives in Gwinnett County, you can get divorced there and we can represent you as we have a great deal of experience with military divorces.
How do I know if my wife is truly mentally ill? We live in Alpharetta.
Everyone has emotions and bad days, that's for sure. However, here are some things to look out for that could mean a person is suffering from a mental illness:
- repetitious arguments
- unfounded accusations
- lengthy withdrawals from the relationship
- unwillingness or inability to discuss important issues
- standoffs between the two of you persist despite your efforts to engage your spouse
Does mediation work? We live in Dunwoody.
Many times, it works very well. A great benefit of mediation is that it allows people involved in family law proceedings to take more control of planning their own lives and allows them a peaceful and non-adversarial environment in which to make good decisions about important issues. It is often helpful for parents, who though separating, will need to continue co-parenting well into the future. Notably, studies have shown that mediated settlements have a consistently higher compliance rate because the parties have crafted their own agreement.
Can I get medical insurance benefits through my ex-spouse's employer in Marietta, GA?
Under your former spouse's group plan, you may be entitled to keep medical insurance benefits. The pertinent law is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 which created what are commonly known as COBRA benefits, which can be available to the former spouses of people who work for employers who have 20 or more employees. Under the law, you have just 60 days after the termination of your marriage to file your application with your spouse's employer. Don't miss that deadline, or you may not be eligible for these benefits.
I'm in a same-sex (gay) marriage and my spouse wants to divorce me and marry a woman. Can he do that? He said he was gay. We live in Dunwoody.
Yes, he can divorce you and marry someone else, regardless of gender.
I live in Sandy Springs, GA, and want to know I do if I think my spouse is hiding assets?
We have a great deal of experience seeking-out hidden assets. We begin the discovery process, which will help to trace out any unknown funds, real estate, stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, etc.
Is divorce really bad for children? We live in Cherokee County.
There is good news here for children: Research has found time and again that only a relatively small percentage of children experience serious problems in the wake of divorce or, even later, as adults.
While divorce affects most children in the short run, research clearly shows that kids recover rapidly. In a famous 2002 study, psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia found that many children experience short-term negative effects from divorce, especially anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief. But these reactions typically diminish or disappear completely by the end of the second year. Only a small minority of kids suffer longer.
And most children of divorce do well in the long term. In a review of divorce studies in 2001, sociologist Paul R. Amato, then at Pennsylvania State University, examined the possible effects on children several years after a divorce. His research, interestingly, compared children of married parents with those who experienced divorce at different ages. The investigators tracked these kids into later childhood, adolescence or the teenage years, assessing their academic achievement, emotional and behavior problems, delinquency, self-concept and social relationships. On average, the studies found only very small differences on all these measures between children of divorced parents and those from intact families, suggesting strongly that the vast majority of children endure divorce well.
What are some factors that might cause a complete loss of custody? We live in Duluth, GA.
Here are some circumstances when you can lose all custody of a child:
- When a parent who has committed first-degree murder of the child's other parent.
- If a child was conceived due to the father's rape of the mother.
- When a parent has been convicted of certain kinds of physical or sexual abuse of a child.
- When a parent engages in habitual abuse of drugs or alcohol.
- When a parent has engaged in abuse of a child, spouse, or partner.
My ex is not doing what they should do. They are not following the rules of our divorce. What can I do?
A contempt motion is used when a party to a court order willfully disregards that order. That person can be held in contempt. If your ex-spouse is not abiding by the terms of a lawful court order, we will review your court order, evaluate whether there is an issue with compliance, and pursue a claim of contempt.
We also defend people who are charged with contempt.
My husband keeps saying that being fat is grounds in Georgia for divorce. Okay, I'm somewhat chubby, but can he legally divorce me for that? We live in Roswell, GA.
No, being overweight is not grounds for divorce in Georgia or any other state. Weight can become an issue in a relationship, but it is not a legal ground for divorce.
I think my husband has property he's hiding from me overseas in Iran, Monaco, and Australia. Can you help me locate it?
Yes, we help people find hidden assets all over the world, and real estate is a big part of that. We have located proprieties that a spouse was trying to hide in Iran, Monte Carlo and in Australia and many other places.
Will I be awarded enough alimony to maintain my current standard of living? I live in Johns Creek, GA.
A divorcing spouse can be concerned about the possibility of having to adjust to a new standard of living. While the courts in Georgia will consider your marital standard of living, it will not be the only factor in determining an alimony award.
If I get divorced, what are my chances for getting remarried?
Actually, studies have shown that getting remarried after a divorce is high. Studies show that 70% of divorced people will at some time remarry again.
My husband has a gambling addiction. Can this cause us to get divorced?
Yes, and it happens frequently. Gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder. A compulsive gambler can't control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences. You'll gamble whether you're up or down - you can't stop.
But you can also have a gambling problem without being totally out of control. If gambling disrupts your life, you have a gambling problem. You have a gambling problem if it causes preoccupation, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life.
I think my wife is a prostitute. How can I prove it? We live in Alpharetta.
That's a serious accusation. Prostitution, of course, is against the law. We have had husbands accuse their wives of being prostitutes, call girls, escorts, etc. Sometimes they are correct and she is, and sometimes the accusations are unfounded. You certainly need proof. Perhaps you can prove it with incriminating social media posts, text messages, emails, photos, videos, etc. We had a client who found his wife's sexual advertisement online and it included a picture. Another client set-up a hidden camera at his home and caught his wife having sexual relations for money.
What is separate property? We live in Duluth, GA.
Separate property is considered owned by an individual and not considered part of the marital property to be divided in divorce. It could include (1) property that was owned before the marriage and/or (2) property that either spouse received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. Georgia law states that a court cannot take separate property away from you to award to the other spouse. Of course, it is not always clear what is and what is not separate property.
Who can ask for spousal support/alimony? I live in Woodstock, GA.
Spousal support can be requested by either party to a divorce. In Georgia, the court can order either spouse to pay, even while the divorce action is pending in court. (Pending means that the divorce has been filed but not yet granted.)
Support can be temporary or long-term, it's up to the court. It's determined by both parties' financial circumstances, the standard of living the couple enjoyed, and other factors.
In a Georgia divorce, who gets custody of the kids?
Under Georgia law there is no stated preference for either the mother or the father. Rather, child custody is determined in two distinctive ways. The first is by agreement between the two parents. This is a settlement and it allows parents to craft a child custody order for approval of a judge. If both parties can't agree, then the court must decide who gets custody. A Georgia court uses a standard known as the “best interests” standard. This means the judge will look at a range of factors to determine a custody arrangement that the judge believes will be in your child's best interests.
Georgia law, it should be noted, recognizes that children need both parents. Accordingly, it is almost never in a child's best interests to be completely deprived of a relationship with one parent. Unless a parent poses a serious and provable threat to your child, he or she will receive some visitation—even if you are clearly the superior parent.
Who gets the dog in a divorce? I really love and need my pet more than my husband does.
Ultimately, if the parties can't decide, a judge will make the decision. Pets are treated in Georgia as personal possessions – like a table or a watch – and pets are usually considered the separate property of the person who owned them before marriage. Generally speaking, if one spouse owned the pet before the marriage, the pet will go to them in a divorce.
But what about pets acquired during marriage? That is a trickier question. Here are some issues that could come into play if a court must determine pet custody:
- What are the living arrangements of the parties? Is someone in a big house and someone in a studio apartment?
- Does the pet have animal buddies in the neighborhood?
- Is one spouse moving abroad after the divorce? Local regulations and cultural practices (like eating dogs, for example) may make it challenging to bring family pets.
- Who is the primary caretaker?
- What sort of traveling or commutes are involved which each divorcing spouse? How much time can each devote to the pet?
My husband is verbally abusive and insults me in front of the kids. I think I need a divorce here in Forsyth County.
Verbal abuse causes people on the receiving end to question themselves, to wonder if they are overreacting, or even blame themselves. It usually happens in private where no one can hear it and intervene. It can even become a regular form of communication within a relationship. It chips away at a person's self-esteem making it more difficult to reach out to friends or family members for help and guidance.
The victims of such abuse can rationalize it and may not even realize it's unhealthy. Verbal abuse is a common means of maintaining power and control over another in a relationship. And there are many subtle forms verbal abuse can take, making it even harder to recognize.
I'm getting divorced and I need to know how retirement accounts are divided? We live in Lawrenceville.
Retirement accounts are divided using a qualified domestic relations order, also known as a QDRO. This is a legal document that allows an individual to give another person the right to receive all or part of his or her retirement benefits. So there is often a large amount of money at stake.
After a divorce, a QDRO is used to divide marital property. In many cases the majority of retirement benefits have been earned during the marital period and the court may decide (or the parties negotiate) that a spouse is entitled to part of those benefits. The parties can negotiate how much of the retirement account is to be shared. It doesn't necessarily have to be a 50/50 division of the value of the plan, although in many cases it is.
A QDRO is used to divide retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b) accounts, as well as defined benefit pension or related retirement accounts.
Can Baptists get divorced? We live in Forsyth County and we're headed for a breakup.
Baptists actually get divorced at a higher rate than the population in general.
You might not expect this because recently Southern Baptists added a section dealing with "the family" to their official confessional statement, The Baptist Faith and Message. This statement provided that God had "ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society" and that marriage "was the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."
However, statistically speaking, the results of an in-depth study show that while 25 percent of American adults have been divorced at least once, the divorce rate is even higher (27 percent) among self-identified "born again" Christians and higher still (29 percent) among Baptists. The study did not identify the cause of this.
I went to marriage counselling with my husband and I caught him and the counsellor the other day at my house having oral sex. I'm so made and now I know I need a divorce like tomorrow.
The marriage counsellor engaging in sexual activity with your husband is shocking, to say the least. It also is highly unethical and disturbing on many levels. We can understand your anger and the sense of betrayal you must feel. We are here to help you with the divorce.
Can you use expert witnesses in a Georgia divorce case? I live in Gwinnett County.
Yes, working with expert witnesses to discover hidden assets and value financial holdings (like businesses, collectibles, real property, stocks and bonds) for litigation and to craft specific issues in divorce and separation agreements is often done by people who can afford it. Expert witnesses are also used in child custody, visitation, and other issues.
I think my husband is gay because I caught him wearing my panties. He said he's totally straight and he just put on the wrong underwear. We live in DeKalb County.
We don't know if your husband is gay or not. Maybe he has a fetish. Maybe he really did make a mistake.
Is my business marital property? My business is located in Buckhead.
Many times one or both parties own a business. If it was (1) created during the marriage or (2) increased in value during the marriage due to marital effort, then, under Georgia law, all or a portion of the business may be considered marital property that is subject to valuation and division. If you and/or your spouse own a business and you are divorcing, you need to understand the law and its implications.
My husband is an abusive jerk and calls me fat and stupid. I'm a little chubby but I think I'm smart. This makes me want a divorce right now!
Sadly, abuse is the cause of many divorces. The abuse can be psychological and/or physical. Obviously it's terrible if a spouse is abusive and a divorce is certainly called for.
My spouse and I love our dog and we live in Atlanta. Who gets the dog if we get divorced?
Pets certainly can be subjects of divorce negotiation. Usually both sides agree to an amicable arrangement for their pets. We've seen one spouse buy out the other and we've seen split custody and visitation arrangements, just like with children.
I live in a big house in Sandy Springs. But my wife lives in a studio apartment in Atlanta with her drug-dealing boyfriend. Shouldn't our kids live with me?
Maybe. The standard for custody in the state of Georgia is "best interest of the child." The fact that you live in a nice home in Sandy Springs is a factor in custody determination; but it is just one factor.
I have property in a foreign country. Will the court consider that as part of my assets?
A Georgia court can consider that an asset. And a court can award that asset in a divorce.
I just noticed that my wife is a "cam girl." She does live porn shows over the internet. I'm so disappointed and embarrassed because she told me she was a therapist. I need a quick divorce. We live in Acworth, Georgia.
Cam girls perform sexual acts over the internet for money. We've actually had a client who was a cam girl. She had a high income and she was well-educated. In fact, she was a doctor (a neurologist) who performed as a cam girl for extra money because she had enormous student loan debt from college and medical school (she attended Vanderbilt University for both degrees). However, we can understand your feelings of betrayal if you thought your wife was a therapist but you caught her doing pornographic shows on the internet. We're curious as to how you found her online. Were you tipped-off by someone? Or were you browsing for cam girls and found her?
In any event, a divorce can happen rather quickly assuming you're not fighting over things like child custody, child support, visitation, the apportionment of debt, etc.
I'm married and I didn't get a prenuptial agreement. Can I still get a prenuptial agreement?
Since you are already married, you can't get a prenuptial agreement. But you can get a postnuptial agreement. A post nuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement except that they are entered into after a couple is married. You can use the postnup to split assets just as you would have had you obtained a prenup.
My wife calls me a "dumb ass redneck" because I dropped out after 9th grade and I'm tired of her belittling me. She thinks that just because she grew-up in Buckhead and her father owned a bank she's so much better than me.
Sometimes marriages don't work out when people are from two very different socio-economic backgrounds. Differing backgrounds can cause issues that, if left to fester, can be detrimental. And what your wife is saying is downright abusive.
My wife was showing our 19-year-old daughter her sex toys. This really bothers me and I think it's inappropriate. Can I get a divorce for that?
In the state of Georgia you can get divorced simply because you no longer get along with your spouse. As for the sex toys, please know that they are legal, widely available online and in most major pharmacies. Perhaps your wife and daughter were just having an open and honest discussion about sexuality.
My husband bought season tickets to the Atlanta Falcons football team. But maybe I want to see the Falcons too. Can that be addressed in our divorce?
Yes, it can be addressed. The right to purchase season tickets to professional and college sports teams can be addressed in a divorce. These tickets can be difficult and expensive to get. They can be an item that is negotiated in a divorce agreement.
I think we can do an uncontested divorce. The only issue we have is child custody. I don't want my husband near the kids because he's a drug addict and an alcoholic. Is that uncontested?
No, since you have an outstanding issue--in your case child custody--it is not considered an uncontested divorce. Child custody can be one of the most difficult and complex issues in a divorce case.
I'm worried that my wife and I are so angry and the emotions are so raw that our divorce will be bitter. We live in Milton, GA.
We've seen that in divorces where the parties have worked out a lot of their emotions and anger, the divorce does not have to be acrimonious or bitter, In fact, these divorces can go smoothly.
My husband just came out as gay and I'd like an agreement on how to split property if we get divorced. Can I do that even if we've been married for 32 years?
Yes, there are such agreements and they are called "postnuptial agreements." A postnuptial agreement is like a prenuptial agreement, but for couples who have already gotten married.
If I have a gun collection, is that considered an asset by a court?
Yes, a gun collection is an asset because it has economic value of some kind. It may be a valuable asset or it might have little value, but it is still an asset.
My son looks nothing like me. My wife admitted to cheating with several different men. How can I find out if I'm the boy's father? We live in Forsyth County.
A paternity test is utilized to determine if you are the child's father. These tests use DNA to see if you are the father or not. DNA testing is effective and accurate.
Can I become legally separated from my spouse In Gwinnett County instead of going through a divorce?
Yes, you can. In Georgia you can get legally separated and address all of the issues that you would in a divorce, including child custody and visitation, child support, and financial issues.
If we get divorced, can I take my kids to Mexico for vacation? I was born in Mexican.
That would be something to negotiate if you think your spouse would object. Generally, a parent can take children on vacation. But if a spouse suspects that the other parent won't return, that could certainly be a complicating issue.
Parental rights in Atlanta: What does a judge consider in Fulton County?
The standard is this: what is in the best interest of the child? It's not the parents' desires that count. And unless the child is breast feeding, neither the gender of the parent nor the gender of the child is relevant.
A Fulton County judge will look at each parent's capacity to foster a positive relationship with the child. The assessment will penalize a parent who degrades the other parent in front of a child, or who tries to limit or sabotage the child's relationship with the other parent.
An Atlanta judge will also consider factors such as the safety and age of the child, and the stability offered by each parent.
I just found out that my husband hasn't filed taxes for either of us for at least 10 years. He said we were filing jointly. He admitted that he used the money for gambling and his gay lover, who is a Roman Catholic priest! I'm so over our marriage but what about the tax issues?
The IRS has programs for spouses who were truly unaware that their partner committed a tax crime. We can discuss your options when we meet. And in the divorce we can address this issue and how to pay back taxes and penalties.
Do most women change their last name after they get divorced?
Some women do and some women don't. It's very much a matter of personal preference. This can be an important issue. When many women get married, they often decide to change their last name to that of their husband. However, after getting a divorce, the wife then may want to change her name back to her maiden name. In some divorces, especially where the marriage was long-term or there were children involved, some women may decide to keep their married name. If you want to change your name after divorcing, you should mention that to your Georgia divorce lawyer so that you can be properly guided in how to do so.
What is equitable distribution?
Equitable distribution is the term used to express that assets and earnings accumulated during marriage should be divided equitably (fairly), but not necessarily equally.
I can't believe it's come to this point but I need a divorce because my wife keeps insulting my favorite football team, the Atlanta Falcons. She's a New Orleans Saints fan and she calls the Falcons "pathetic," "losers" and she thinks quarterback Matt Ryan shouldn't even be in the NFL. It's just sad, but I can't take it anymore.
We must say this is actually the first time we've encountered a divorce situation due to differing NFL allegiances. Many people have favorite teams that are different than their spouses, but we've never seen it reach the level of potential divorce. Perhaps this is an issue that can be worked out in counseling, which is probably what you should try first before moving forward with divorce. It would be most unfortunate if a football rivalry caused your break-up.
Does menopause affect divorce rates? I live in Duluth, GA.
Over 60% of divorces are initiated by women in their 40s, 50s, or 60s. According to a recent study by the AARP, it seems that menopause may be a contributor to this phenomenon.
Menopause affects you physically and emotionally. Hormones fluctuate and that can cause a host of physical issues like hot flashes, night sweats, itchy skin, migraine headaches, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness and irregular periods. The majority of women will experience irritating symptoms, and the majority struggle with midlife weight gain.
Many women feel unattractive going through so many uninvited changes. Exhaustion, depression and and moodiness can leave them feeling isolated and confused.
When is a divorce final in Gwinnett County?
In Georgia, a divorce is final the day it is granted in Court if there is a court appearance required, or the day the Judge signs the Decree if the divorce is granted based on the documents filed without a hearing.
I discovered my wife is actually a man. I found out on the honeymoon. I never suspected anything. Yes, she has a penis. Can I get a divorce?
Yes, you can get a divorce. Your wife certainly should have disclosed that she's a transsexual prior to marriage. We have handled this type of case before. Interestingly, it occurs most frequently between people who identify as "conservative" because there is little or no sexual relations prior to marriage and so they don't know of the situation. Obviously, it must be quite difficult to discover that your wife is a man, at least anatomically.
My spouse uses cocaine, heroin, marijuana and meth around our kids. Can I get custody?
Using illegal drugs around children can cause a change of custody. Custody is determined by what is in the best interest of the child. Someone using potent illegal drugs around a child would likely be deemed a danger to that child. A judge might certainly determine that a parent is unable to fulfill his or her parental obligations if they are a serious drug user.
Should I get a divorce? Or file for legal separation?
There is very little difference in the state of Georgia between divorce and legal separation. There is similar paperwork for both divorce and legal separation. The legal process is the same. Both can involve the same legal issues. And the time involved is about the same. The Court filing fees and legal costs will be about the same. Really, the difference is that, at the end of the divorce process, you are a divorced individual, free to remarry or date if want. If you are legally separated, it is like you are divorced, but you are not actually divorced, and thus you are not free to marry.
My husband's an alcoholic. He drinks way too much and he acts like a jerk. Do you see that a lot? We live in Milton, GA.
Alcoholism is a very common condition. Many Americans have alcohol problems. Indeed, many marriages are negatively impacted by drinking. When some people drink they can become abusive, both physically and mentally. This can lead to many marital and legal difficulties.
Can I make my husband pay child support for a child that's from my previous marriage and he's not her father? He always said she's his daughter, but she isn't biologically.
Unless he legally adopted the child, he would not under Georgia law have to pay child support for her. Adoption is a formal process that would have given him parental rights.
If I'm going through a contested divorce, should I keep notes of what's going on with my kids?
An effective way to show that you are a responsible parent is to keep notes on things like your relationship and the time spent with your children. Note what you did with your children, who was present, how the kids responded, why they were having fun or learning something new, etc.
Are there any legal or practical reasons fathers should not be awarded child custody just as often as mothers?
There is no legal reason under Georgia law why the father should not be awarded custody of the children. Nowadays both parents are usually very involved with their children. So the issue becomes what is the age of the children and what their best interests are.
With older children, they are able to say with whom they would like to live.
How does bipolar affective disorder impact marriage?
Bipolar disorder affects millions of Americans. Marriages are greatly impacted by mental health. Marriage certainly can be stressful and precipitate the onset or relapse of mental illness. At the same time, marriage is also considered as a protective factor against mental disorders. Indeed, there is scholarly evidence to suggest that patients with mental disorders have higher rates of marital arguments, separation, and divorce.
Interestingly in Eastern societies like India, beliefs that marriage can cure mental illness are also widespread. It is important to note that data demonstrates high rates of sexual dysfunction among patients receiving various psychotropic medications which can be prescribed to battle mental illness. So it is important to understand the marital and sexual adjustment of patients with various mental illnesses and their spouses because the adjustment can be difficult for many people. Resolution of marital and sexual maladjustment can lead to overall improvement in the outcome of the illness and an improved marriage.
If I have a common law marriage, do I need a formal divorce in Georgia?
Common law divorce does not exist here in Georgia or anywhere else. If a common law marriage has, in fact, been created, a formal divorce is necessary to terminate it. Even if there is no common law marriage, court action may be necessary to divide jointly-owned property or to determine issues regarding children like custody, visitation or child support.
My husband and I have traditional gender roles in our marriage. But I'm not happy. Are androgynous couples happier. Why is that? We live in Buckhead.
Some research suggests that couples who hold onto traditional gender roles are not as satisfied with their marriages as those who accept more contemporary roles, not based on the gender dichotomy. Progressive thinking couples are sometimes referred to as androgynous. That's because the two partners share some personal traits. Both spouses possess some degree of what might be considered masculine traits and feminine traits.
Some shared masculine traits might be:
- More interested in abstract ideas and concepts. (Facts over feels)
While some feminine traits may include:
Androgynous couples, it is said, do better because they can identify with each other. The couple has similar ways of thinking and they have an easier time communicating. That's because they understand each other. By contrast, those who are more traditional might have difficulty seeing their partner's side of issues. Thus, they are not as well equipped to handle them because they see the world primarily from the perspective of their different gender roles.
Vaginal dryness is destroying my marriage and I'm looking to get divorced. Is this common?
This is an under-treated medical condition that can severely and devastatingly impact ladies. Postmenopausal women have higher rates of vaginal atrophy in the United States than in other developed countries, in large part because they refuse to consider remedies such as estrogen therapy, according to a recent survey presented at the North American Menopause Society.
It causes painful sex so the women and their partners avoid it. This destroys intimacy, effects emotional and physical health, and ruins relationships.
Does having an uncontested divorce still mean I still have to go to Court in Georgia?
It depends. Even with an uncontested divorce a court appearance is sometimes necessary. The theory is that the state is considered a party to every marriage and must participate in every divorce, even if that means a judge simply signing-off on a divorce. The Judge, who represents the state, must find that the settlement appears fair and reasonable to all parties, and that children are adequately protected. An uncontested divorce hearing is often quick and routine, if needed.
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Our firm stands out because of our huge commitment to compassion for our clients. It's simple and straightforward: we want to see the best possible future for you and your children. If abuse is involved, we see your safety as the number one priority. We don't believe in creating contention for no reason. We believe in being reasonable. We will give your case the full time and attention it deserves to determine whether mediation or other collaborative methods might be the best way to resolve your case.
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Divorce court litigation can be painful and difficult. We do everything we can to make this process easier for our clients. You can count on our experience to help make this difficult process as easy as it can be.
Our goal is to create productive, positive and cost effective family law and divorce solutions for our clients. We realize the importance of knowing when to boldly and immediately and effectively confront an unreasonable adversary, and when escalating a conflict – and the financial and emotional costs that go along with it – is unnecessary to gain our objectives.
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Retaining a divorce lawyer who is experienced enough to work towards a settlement of all the many issues in your divorce case is very important. In fact, in many ways, your future depends on it. And we have that vital experience. We can help you reach a divorce settlement that addresses all the many issues in your divorce including dividing property between separate property and marital property, properly allocating debt from the marriage, alimony, child support, child custody and visitation.
Experienced attorneys Valerie Sherman and Bill Sherman and the team at the Sherman Law Group will help you navigate the entire bankruptcy process from start to finish. As for experience and knowledge, we're we've been called the best. We've served as a Magistrate Judge, an Assistant Attorney General and as a Senior Assistant County Attorney.
As some unrepresented people discover to their disappointment, having deep knowledge of divorce law requires a level of knowledge that takes formal education and years of experience. Presenting the law and facts persuasively is fundamental to a positive. Other resources must often be integrated into the divorce process. Cases involving business interests may require the assistance of a forensic accounting expert. The Sherman Law Group attorneys understands what it takes to prove or disprove a contested issue, and how to accomplish this in an economical, efficient manner.
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