Child Custody and Support – Georgia Child Custody and Child Support Guidelines

Georgia Child Custody and Support Guidelines:

Custody may be awarded to either parent based on the best interest of the child or children and what will best promote their welfare and happiness. If the child has reached the age of 14 years, the child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child’s selection shall be controlling, unless the parent so selected is deemed unfit to have the custody of the child. In all cases in which the child has reached the age of at least 11 but not 14 years, the court shall consider the desires, if any, and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody. Contact Diane Cherry at the Cherry Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation on keeping custody of your child.

The court at any temporary or permanent hearing may grant sole custody, joint custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody where appropriate. [Based on Georgia Code - Sections: 19-9-1 and 19-9-3]

Child Support:

Georgia uses an income-shares model to determine the amount of child support. The court will consider the existence of special circumstances and may adjust child support based on:

  • Ages of the children.
  • A child’s extraordinary medical costs or needs in addition to accident and sickness insurance, provided that all such costs or needs shall be considered if no insurance is available.
  • Educational costs.
  • Day-care costs.
  • Shared physical custody arrangements, including extended visitation.
  • A party’s other support obligations to another household.
  • Income that should be imputed to a party because of suppression of income.
  • In-kind income for the self-employed, such as reimbursed meals or a company car.
  • Other support a party is providing or will be providing, such as payment of a mortgage.
  • A party’s own extraordinary needs, such as medical expenses.
  • Extreme economic circumstances including but not limited to, unusually high debt structure or unusually high income of either party or both parties, which shall be construed as individual gross income of over $75,000.00 per annum.
  • Historical spending in the family for children which varies significantly from the percentage table.
  • Considerations of the economic cost-of-living factors of the community of each party.
  • In-kind contribution of either parent.
  • The income of the custodial parent.
  • The cost of accident and sickness insurance coverage for dependent children included in the order.
  • Extraordinary travel expenses to exercise visitation or shared physical custody.
  • Any other factor which the trier of fact deems to be required by the ends of justice, as described below:

Contact Diane Cherry at the Cherry Law Firm, P.C. to remain abreast of all the laws for child support in Cobb and Cherokee County. Child support continues until the child becomes 18 years of age, dies, marries, or otherwise becomes emancipated, except that if the child becomes 18 years of age while enrolled in and attending secondary school on a full-time basis, then such support shall continue until the child completes secondary school, provided that such support shall not be required after the child attains 20 years of age. A non-custodial parent may be ordered to provide insurance for the child or children for so long as he or she is obligated by this order to provide support. Where applicable, the court shall also include income deduction orders. [Based on Georgia Code - Section: 19-5-12].

Your Problems Are Now Our Problems

For more information regarding how we can help you through any family law or criminal issue, call us at 770-444-3399 or contact us by email today. Our office is conveniently located in Kennesaw, Georgia close to downtown Marietta and conveniently located in between the Cobb County and Cherokee County Courthouses and is  easily accessible to all of metro Atlanta, including Fulton, Dekalb, Paulding, Bartow and Douglas counties.

Schedule Your Consultation Today

If you are struggling with a serious family law or criminal defense issue, Diane Cherry can help you pursue a favorable outcome. Call today to speak with experienced Cobb County criminal and family law attorney, Diane Cherry.

The Cherry Law Firm, P.C.
1301 Shiloh Road, Suite 1620
Kennesaw, Georgia 30144
770-444-3399-Telephone
770-444-3376-Fax

 

Posted in Attorney, Child Custody, Child Support, Cobb County, Divorce, Lawyer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cobb County Divorce Lawyer Guide to Divorce and Family Law in Marietta, Canton, Kennesaw and Acworth, Georgia:

Guardian Ad Litem

 

Cobb and Cherokee County Divorce

Our blog today for our Metro Atlanta Divorce Lawyers Blog  is in regard to the program of Guardian Ad Litem in Cobb County. A guardian ad litem is an attorney who has had at least 20 hours of specialized training for child welfare and custody issues. In contested child custody cases, modifications of custody, modification of visitation, allegations of neglect or abuse, the court may assign a guardian ad litem to evaluate more closely the situation and report to the court their observations. The Court or the guardian ad litem may order psychological evaluations and drug testing where appropriate to help make a custody determination.

The cost of a guardian ad litem can be quite high for most divorces in Georgia. Litigants should be aware that Cobb and Cherokee County provides a guardian ad litem (GAL) at a reduced rate per hour.

Your Problems Are Now Our Problems

For more information regarding how we can help you through any family law or criminal issue, call us at 770-444-3399 or contact us by email today. Our office is conveniently located in Kennesaw, Georgia close to downtown Marietta and conveniently located in between the Cobb County and Cherokee County Courthouses and is  easily accessible to all of metro Atlanta, including Fulton, Dekalb, Paulding, Bartow and Douglas counties.

Schedule Your Consultation Today

If you are struggling with a serious family law or criminal defense issue, Diane Cherry can help you pursue a favorable outcome. Call today to speak with experienced Cobb County criminal and family law attorney, Diane Cherry.

The Cherry Law Firm, P.C.
1301 Shiloh Road, Suite 1620
Kennesaw, Georgia 30144
770-444-3399-Telephone
770-444-3376-Fax

Posted in Cherokee County, Child Custody, Child Support, Child support modification, child support modification cobb county, Cobb County, cobb county divorce, Divorce, Family Law, family law attorney in Cherokee County, Fulton County, Lawyer, legal help | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Child Support Modification in Georgia

http://www.stevenbrooksphotographer.co.uk/media/img/gallery/children/3-252-children.full.jpg

www.cherrylawoffice.com

A child support order can be changed or modified if there is a material change in circumstance since the original court order of child support. The party seeking to modify child support will need to petition the court, and will have the burden of proving that circumstances have changed in such a manner that the child support order needs to be altered.

The Basics of Child Support

Public policy places a strong emphasis on each parent providing child support for his or her children. As such, each state has set forth formulas that are used to determine the appropriate level of child support based on the time the children spends with each parent, the incomes of both the custodial and non-custodial parents, the special needs of the child, the number of children, the financial obligations each parent has, and a number of other factors. Careful determination goes into an order of child support that is determined using these formulas.

How to Modify Child Support

Child support orders may be changed in one of two ways. The first is that the parents may agree to modify child support in which case they can present that desired change to the court, who will usually approve it provided there is no strong and compelling reason not to. The second is that one parent can seek a change without the approval of the other parent and can petition the court to make the alteration. If the second scenario is the scenario you find yourself in, you need to be aware that getting the court to make a change may not be a simple matter as courts are only going to make a change if there is a good reason to do so.

This good reason is referred to under the law as a material change in circumstance. A number of different things could constitute a material change in circumstances. For example, one of the parents can experience a drastic change in income that may require recalculation of child support obligations. This is usually in regards to a loss of employment or other unavoidable change in income. Another example of a material change in circumstance is a necessary change in the financial cost of raising the child such as an expensive medical diagnosis. Another material change in circumstances might be a change in the custody order that changes the amount of time the child spends with each parent.

There may also be other factors as well that lead to an alteration of child support order modification, depending on the circumstances.

Getting Help

You should consult with a child support lawyer, explain your situation and get advice on when and how to modify child support.

What to expect from The Cherry Law Firm?

(770) 444-3399

It is our sincere goal to offer you big firm experience in a comfortable atmosphere.  You will have an expertly drafted and comprehensive  property settlement agreement allowing you to live separately and without conflict from your spouse.  We enable you to have the most prolific financial security available including providing you with a long-range plan for your financial stability.

When children are involved, these services allow you to focus your attention on the children’s best interests.  In relationships without children, it permits parties to go their own separate ways if that is their objective.  Above all, the goal is to negate the loose ends and eleviate any residual issues.

VIA: http://family-law.freeadvice.com

Posted in Attorney, Cherokee County, Child Custody, Child Support, Child support modification, Cobb County, Divorce, Family Law, Fulton County, Georgia, Lawyer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CUSTODY AND VISITATION

http://stealsanddealsforkids.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/mom-child.jpg

Few issues in divorce are as emotional as the issue of child custody.

Child custody refers to a set of responsibilities and rights of parents regarding childcare, general welfare, authority, religion, education and health. Spouses can resolve issues of custody and visitation out of court through a private agreement which is the most used and preferred.  This is called a parental consent or a consent order that is subsequently approved by a judge.

The challenge in the private custody agreement is the development of a practical arrangement that allows each parent to maintain a constant relationship in relation to the raising of their children.

If you are facing a custody issue, it is important to carefully consider the current and future needs of your children. If the parents are in agreement to a court taking a decision, each parent has equal rights to physical custody of the child.

In cases where custody is disputed, the Court must make a determination “to promote the interests and welfare of the child.” The interests of the child is the key point that courts should utilize to guide decisions about custody.

The judge will consider past conduct and present and if the evidence supports the claim of custody. You must show that your behavior and skills will improve the general welfare of the child more-so than your spouse. Other factors taken into account are:

The physical, mental, emotional, moral and religious influences,
The child’s preference,
The ability of each parent’s care,
Each parent’s family atmosphere
Each parent’s availability to the child,
Economic situation of each parent and their potential and
Other factors that illustrate what is best for the child.

A custody action may also be taken to court for any parent, relative, or other entity (subject to certain exceptions) to claim the custody of a minor. If it is determined that a parent would not be a better caregiver for the child, the court may grant custody to the non-parent request (such as a grandparent). This is a complex area of ​​law and should seek the advice of an attorney.

Georgia statutes do not show a preference for one parent in custody matters. The court may grant equal custody (joint custody) for both parties, or giving primary custody to one parent (sole custody) and visitation privileges for the other. Joint physical custody can be a time to share equal time between parents and requires the greatest amount of cooperation. There is also legal custody is concerned with how decisions are made for the child.

In a divorce, custody proceedings can go before or after divorce or carried out while the action is pending.

Until you and your spouse sit in agreement, or until a court order of custody is issued, each parent has the right to  physical possession of their child. A written document formalizes the rights of custody and visitation and avoid unplanned changes in custody arrangements for a parent.

Custody decisions affect your family life after divorce for a long time, so it is in yours and your child’s interest in understanding the rights and obligations. An experienced family lawyer can help the overall development and negotiation of settlement agreements of custody, providing references to the experience of mediation, and the formalization of agreements reached as a result of mediation or litigation.

Whether you: (1) need a divorce mediation law firm to represent you in mediation proceedings; (2) need an experienced Georgia collaborative law attorney; (3) are facing divorce and unsure where to start; (4) need custody and support help, we have the right family law attorney for you. We can also help you execute a pre-marital agreement.
Contact us anytime to schedule an appointment.  The Cherry Law Firm in Kennesaw, GA.  (770) 444-3399

Posted in Attorney, Cherokee County, Child Custody, Child Support, Child support modification, Cobb County, Family Law, Fulton County, Georgia, Lawyer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Can I Modify Child Support?

http://www.dianeparfitt.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/School_Children.jpg

In most states, a support order is made based on the income of both parents, the child’s needs and other relevant matters. If there is a substantial change of circumstances … you lose your job, your ex-spouse has a significant wage increase, the existing order of child support can be modified. Below are the steps normally involved in the modification of a support order.
Here’s how:

One must determine whether a change in circumstances has occurred in order to request a modification. In most states modifying a support order requires proof that the state of the parent has changed.  Whether it be job related or there has been a change in the situation of children.

For brief examples, maybe the child’s legal custodian has lost their job or if the child is now living with the other parent. The Court will have to agree that the change of circumstances is large enough to make the original support order no longer apply to the living situation.
Gather evidence and document any evidence that shows a change of circumstances has taken place. For example, if you have lost your job, get a statement from your previous employer. If your child is sick and now requires expensive medical care save copies of all of the medical bills.
Some courts use standardized forms for the modification of child support orders. Contact your local court or an attorney for more information. For example, sometimes the request is called a “petition” for the modification or a “movement” for modification, etc.

In addition, there may be forms needed to support the changes.  Such as an affidavit about financial affairs or financial balance sheet. Finally, you may need to submit several copies of your documents with the court.

Present the documents before the court. Some states have a general court for all civil actions, while other states have a separate family court.  Make sure you know that your submission for amendment is in the proper court.
If you request a modification yourself, it is your responsibility to provide copies of the motion or petition to the other parent and provide a copy to the clerk of the court. Talk with your court clerk for information about what to serve the other parent. Each district has its own rules regarding the proper method of serving a judicial motion or petition.
Complete and return a proof of service to the court clerk. A proof of service is a standard used in court, where the person completing the service attests that copies of court documents were, in fact, served to the other parent.

Tips:

If the request for modification court pro se, it is always best to consult a lawyer to make sure you take appropriate action.
The courts will only consider “the best interest of the child.” If your motivation to apply for a modification of a child support order is to reduce the amount you pay or increase the amount you receive for personal gain, think twice before moving forward.

The Cherry Law Firm provides affordable and meticulous representation in the following areas:

  • Divorce
  • Child Custody
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Prenuptual Agreements
  • Legitimation
  • Separate Maintenance
  • Modification Actions
  • Contempt Actions
  • Protective Orders

Attorney Diane Cherry has more than seventeen years of legal experience and has handled hundreds of cases in both state and federal courts. Her extensive federal court experience rivals that of attorneys who have practiced law for more than thirty years.

In addition to experience, when you choose The Cherry Law Firm, you are choosing to work with an attorney and staff who still believe in providing personal, one-on-one service that goes well beyond the norm. We truly care about our clients, and we think that shines through in how we serve them.

Contact Kennesaw family law attorney, Diane Cherry today to schedule a free initial consultation regarding your case.  Our office hours are Monday – Friday 8:30 – 5:00pm. Evening and weekend appointments are available as needed to suit your busy schedule. Call (770) 444-3399 today.

Posted in Attorney, Cherokee County, Child Custody, Child Support, Child support modification, Cobb County, Divorce, Family Law, Fulton County, Georgia, Lawyer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Managing Children’s Emotions and Perceptions in Divorce

http://www.cherrylawoffice.com

(770) 444-3399

Help Your Children Survive Divorce.

While divorce proceedings may pose a great burden upon parents, they often have a significant affect upon children as well, who may not fully understand what is happening in the family’s transition. Parental separation can fundamentally shift a child’s world view, requiring careful steps to ensure that children are able to soundly cope with changes the divorce brings. It is crucial that parents remain focused upon helping children transition during the process:

1. Encourage open communication from your children. Although the complete scope of the process might immediately escape children, it’s important that you take time to allow a child to express his or her feelings about the event. This is a way in which you can both come to understand outside viewpoints, as well as providing you with an opportunity to reach and explain the situation in a manner that resonates with the child. If you have multiple children, it’s important to speak to them both individually and collectively, as each child is likely to have a different, personal response to the events unfolding, depending on their age and personality.

2. Ensure that all children have a stable social safety net throughout the process. Since the fundamental role of the family is to provide a safe setting in which children can learn and grow, it’s important that one continue to provide this level of support even during parental separation. Ensure that children are in a safe environment and remain outside any legal or argumentative environments that might surround the divorce; if you understand with your spouse around children, remain friendly and amicable, independent of your internal feelings. Always reach out to your broader, extended social network so that children feel comfortable – allow them to spend time with friends, relatives and counselors so that they have feelings of stability in spite of the changes around them.

3. Maintain continuity in your own personal life so that you can remain a strong parent. In order to help children cope with a divorce, it’s important that one ensure stability in all facets of life, from work to friendships. By maintaining an equilibrium in your life, you can ensure that you’ll bring a balanced approach to keeping your life in order so that you can remain strong for your children. It may be beneficial to spend time with a counselor so that you can work through any anxiety or feelings that you have, in order to ensure a proper outlet for those emotions; while it’s okay to express yourself around children, one should also ensure that emotions are kept in check and expressed in a structured fashion so children feel comfortable. In order to help children remain strong during a divorce, each parent has to be strong independently.

4. Keep legal challenges outside of the child’s daily life. Although court proceedings are a core part of any divorce, children should not have to grasp the details of the legal fight. Instead, keep the legal details separate from your relationship with your children. When working out a legal settlement, always keep the best interests of your children in mind, as those considerations should trump any financial or situational disputes that might arise in the proceedings. Even during the direct divorce proceedings, ensure that you have enough time to devote to nurturing and taking care of your children. Also, take care of yourself, physically and emotionally, so that you have the energy and ability to parent the children.

5. Allow children an expressive outlet to ensure their lives are well-balanced. While no divorce is fun for children, it’s important to ensure that children continue to have elements of joy in their life, from celebrating parties with friends to enjoying time off from school on the weekends. Take time away from the bustle of daily life to take your children to a park or to a nice dinner out with relatives so that they can continue to find enjoyment in life, in spite of the larger situation.

Posted in Attorney, Child Custody, Child Support, Cobb County, Divorce, Lawyer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Child Custody and Support – Georgia Child Custody and Support Guidelines

Georgia Child Custody and Support Guidelines:

Custody may be awarded to either parent based on the best interest of the child or children and what will best promote their welfare and happiness. If the child has reached the age of 14 years, the child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child’s selection shall be controlling, unless the parent so selected is deemed unfit to have the custody of the child. In all cases in which the child has reached the age of at least 11 but not 14 years, the court shall consider the desires, if any, and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody.

The court at any temporary or permanent hearing may grant sole custody, joint custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody where appropriate. [Based on Georgia Code - Sections: 19-9-1 and 19-9-3]

Child Support:

Georgia uses an income-shares model to determine the amount of child support. The court will consider the existence of special circumstances and may adjust child support based on:

  • Ages of the children.
  • A child’s extraordinary medical costs or needs in addition to accident and sickness insurance, provided that all such costs or needs shall be considered if no insurance is available.
  • Educational costs.
  • Day-care costs.
  • Shared physical custody arrangements, including extended visitation.
  • A party’s other support obligations to another household.
  • Income that should be imputed to a party because of suppression of income.
  • In-kind income for the self-employed, such as reimbursed meals or a company car.
  • Other support a party is providing or will be providing, such as payment of a mortgage.
  • A party’s own extraordinary needs, such as medical expenses.
  • Extreme economic circumstances including but not limited to, unusually high debt structure or unusually high income of either party or both parties, which shall be construed as individual gross income of over $75,000.00 per annum.
  • Historical spending in the family for children which varies significantly from the percentage table.
  • Considerations of the economic cost-of-living factors of the community of each party.
  • In-kind contribution of either parent.
  • The income of the custodial parent.
  • The cost of accident and sickness insurance coverage for dependent children included in the order.
  • Extraordinary travel expenses to exercise visitation or shared physical custody.
  • Any other factor which the trier of fact deems to be required by the ends of justice, as described below:

Child support continues until the child becomes 18 years of age, dies, marries, or otherwise becomes emancipated, except that if the child becomes 18 years of age while enrolled in and attending secondary school on a full-time basis, then such support shall continue until the child completes secondary school, provided that such support shall not be required after the child attains 20 years of age. A non-custodial parent may be ordered to provide insurance for the child or children for so long as he or she is obligated by this order to provide support. Where applicable, the court shall also include income deduction orders. [Based on Georgia Code - Section: 19-5-12].

Posted in Attorney, Child Custody, Child Support, Cobb County, Divorce, Lawyer, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Child Support; How Much?

Changing Child Support

One of the mistakes people make on a regular basis is to just agree to pay less child support than the figure set by the court. The reason it’s a mistake, and the reason you should avoid it is that even though the other parent is telling you it’s okay to pay less, that’s not up to the other parent. Every month you’re paying less than you’re supposed to pay, that’s a little more you owe anytime the recipient spouse decides to collect it. In most states it earns interest at a set rate, and you’ll owe that too.


If you and the other parent agree that child support needs to increase, you may not need to file anything at all. Just pay the higher amount. If the parent paying it ever gets horsey and reduces the payment again, you can always go back to court for a recalculation. It’s only if the child support needs to decrease that you need to make sure the court gets involved.

Fortunately, changing child support isn’t a big deal in most states. The system of child support most every state uses is pretty logical, including the procedure for making changes. Anytime child support would change by any significant amount up or down, the party who wants child support to change can go back to court and call for a recalculation.

And precisely because this is so cut and dried, there’s no reason for the recalculation to be adversarial. If it needs to change, before you have your lawyer file anything, just call the other parent, point out the change as you figure it, and see if the other parent won’t work with you to file a simple joint petition to modify. That way, the two of you cooperate to solve the problem, you pay less money to people like me, and you have more money left over to spend on your children.

And there’s an extra benefit. If you work together, the change will usually happen much faster, so you can begin enjoying the effect of the change sooner.

Posted in Attorney, Child Custody, Child Support, Cobb County, Divorce, Lawyer, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Facts of Divorce

Divorce Q & A

 

Divorce affects, directly or indirectly, virtually every family in the country. The following information is designed to briefly summarize Georgia’s divorce laws.

Marriage is a civil contract that the state has an interest in preserving. Accordingly, the marriage relationship may be dissolved only as provided by law through (1) a divorce or (2) an annulment; or altered by (3) a decree of separate maintenance granted by our courts. In any case, there must be a proceeding in the superior court of the county in which the defendant resides (or the county where the parties resided during the marriage if the defendant left the county within six months before filing) and the person seeking the divorce must prove grounds for divorce (valid reasons prescribed by law).

What are the grounds for divorce in Georgia?
In Georgia there are 13 grounds for divorce. One ground is irretrievably broken (sometimes referred to as the no-fault ground). The other 12 grounds for divorce in Georgia are fault grounds.

What is a no-fault divorce?
To obtain a divorce on this basis (irretrievably broken), one party must establish that he or she refuses to live with the other spouse and that there is no hope of reconciliation. It is not necessary for both parties to agree the marriage is irretrievably broken. Also, it is not necessary to show that there was any fault or wrongdoing by either party.

What are the fault grounds?
To obtain a divorce on one of the 12 fault grounds, one must prove that there was some wrongdoing by one of the parties to the marriage.

As an example, one fault ground is adultery. Adultery in Georgia includes heterosexual and homosexual relations between one spouse and another individual.

Another fault ground for divorce in Georgia is desertion. A divorce may be granted on the grounds that a person has deserted his or her spouse willfully for at least one year. Other fault grounds include mental or physical abuse, marriage between persons who are too closely related, mental incapacity at the time of marriage, impotency at the time of marriage, force or fraud in obtaining the marriage, pregnancy of the wife unknown to the husband at the time of the marriage, conviction and imprisonment for certain crimes, habitual intoxication or drug addiction and mental illness.

Is there a residence requirement for getting a divorce in Georgia?
Yes, one spouse must have lived in the state of Georgia for 6 months or Georgia must have been the last domicile of the marriage.

Must the husband and wife live apart when a divorce complaint is filed?
No, but the spouses must be considered separated in a legal sense before one can file for a divorce. Spouses may be considered separated even if they are living in the same house if they are not sharing the same room and/or not having a sexual relationship.

How does one file for a divorce?
The person seeking the divorce (the plaintiff) will file a document called a complaint with the appropriate superior court. This complaint includes information on the marriage including present living arrangements, children of the marriage, assets, debts and the specific grounds on which he or she is seeking the divorce. A copy of the complaint will be served on the other spouse (the defendant) by the sheriff, unless the defendant chooses to acknowledge service by law.

Where does one file for a divorce?
A complaint for divorce should be filed in the superior court of the defendant’s county of residence or, if the defendant has recently moved from the state of Georgia, in the county of the plaintiff’s residence. This would be considered the domicile of the marriage. Upon the defendant’s consent, the complaint may be filed in the plaintiff’s county of residence regardless of whether or not the defendant has moved from the state of Georgia.

What should I do if I receive a complaint for divorce that my spouse has filed?
The spouse who receives the complaint should promptly consult an attorney. The spouse may contest the reason claimed for the divorce or contest the claims for child custody, child support, alimony or property division by filing an answer with the court.

Is there a way to live apart without divorcing?
A party who wishes to live apart permanently, but who does not want to get a divorce, may file a separate maintenance action. The spouses will remain legally married although living apart. The court may order that alimony be paid by one spouse to the other and the court may divide property between the parties.

What is an annulment?
Unlike a divorce, which dissolves a valid marriage, an annulment is a legal decree that the marriage is now void and was invalid from its inception due to one or both parties being unable, unwilling or fraudulently induced into contracting marriage. If there are children born of the marriage, an annulment may not be granted and the marriage may only be dissolved by divorce.

Must I go to court to get a divorce?
Not necessarily. Spouses may be able to reach an agreement resolving all issues arising from the marriage, including finances, division of property and custody and visitation of children. The agreement is presented to the court as a settlement agreement and, upon approval, made an order of the court. The court’s order, called a final judgment and decree, concludes the lawsuit. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a judge or jury will resolve the issues. However, a judge always decides matters of child custody and parenting time.

How long does it take to get a divorce?
If there is agreement between the parties, the divorce is considered uncontested. An uncontested divorce may be granted 31 days after the defendant has been served with the complaint for divorce. If there is disagreement as to any matter, the divorce will be obtained when the case reaches the court, which can take many months.

What happens while I wait to go to court?
Either of the spouses may request a temporary hearing. This hearing is not a final trial. A temporary hearing resolves the issues of child custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, debts and possession of property on a temporary basis until the final trial. The judge will issue a temporary order that applies only until the time of the final trial. The temporary order may also prohibit one party from interfering with the other party or the children and prevent the transfer and selling of assets.

What is decided at final trial?
Child custody, parenting time, child support, division of marital property and debts, and alimony are decided at final trial. Questions of child custody and parenting time are decided by the judge. The judge alone or a 12-person jury (if one of the parties has requested) will resolve all of the financial issues of the marriage, such as division of property, division of debts, alimony and certain findings concerning child support (gross income of both parties and whether any deviations from the presumptive amount of child support are in the best interests of the child, and if so, what those deviations should be). At the final trial, both spouses present evidence by his or her own testimony and may call other witnesses. The decision rendered by a judge or jury is written into a court order that is binding upon both parties. The wife’s maiden or former name can be re-established if she so desires.

What about the children?
The welfare of children is of major concern to the court. Neither parent is automatically entitled to custody. The judge looks at the best interests of the child when determining custody and what will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness. The judge considers many factors when deciding custody, including but not limited to: the love, affection, bonding and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child, the child and his or her siblings, half siblings and step siblings and the residence of such other children; the willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child; each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs; the home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors; each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social and extracurricular activities; and each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities.

May a child choose where he or she wants to live?
A child more than 14 years of age may choose which parent will have custody upon consent of the court. The child’s choice shall be presumptive unless the parent so selected is determined not to be in the best interests of the child. The court considers it important for a child to maintain relationships with both parents; therefore, parenting time rights are awarded to the parent who does not have legal custody of the child.

May the parents share custody?
Pursuant to Georgia law, both parents come before the court equally. The court, in its discretion, may award joint custody or sole custody. There are two types of custody. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions regarding the child. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child with one parent having final decision-making authority for each of the major decision areas: medical, educational, extracurricular and religion. Physical custody means the actual physical custody of the child by each parent. Joint physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way to assure the child substantially equal time and contact with both parents. In awarding joint custody, the court may order joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both.

How does the court determine parenting time?
Effective Jan. 1, 2008, the law in Georgia requires all persons divorcing with children to have a parenting plan. Every parenting plan must include that it is important for both parents to continue a close relationship with the child; that both parents recognize that the child’s needs will change and grow as the child matures and take the child’s changes and growth into account; that a parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with such parent; and that both parents will have access to all of the child’s records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, extracurricular activities and religious communications.

Additionally, a parenting plan must include where and when a child will be in each parent’s physical care, designating where the child will spend each day of the year, including holidays, birthdays, vacations, school breaks and other special occasions and when each will begin and end; transportation arrangements and exchange locations and times and costs associated with transportation, and whether supervision will be needed for any parenting time and, if so, the particulars of the supervision.

Finally, a parenting plan must include decision-making authority to one or both of the parents with regard to the child’s education, health, extracurricular activities and religious upbringing, and if the parents agree the matters should be jointly decided, how to resolve a situation in which the parents disagree on resolution; and what, if any, limitations will exist while one parent has physical custody of the child in terms of the other parent contacting the child and the other parent’s right to access education, health, extracurricular activity and religious information regarding the child.

What are child support obligations?
The child support law in Georgia changed effective Jan. 1, 2007. The new law is based on an income shares model that requires consideration of both parties’ gross income. Gross income has a very broad definition and encompasses salary, commissions, income from self-employment, bonuses, overtime payments, severance pay, recurring income from pensions, interest and dividend income, trust income, capital gains, gifts, prizes, lottery winnings and income from any other source. Once the monthly gross income of each party is determined, the two incomes are added together to get the combined adjusted income amount. A Child Support Obligation Table is then used to get the basic child support obligation. To use the table, locate the line corresponding with the combined adjusted income amount and then apply the amount in the column that corresponds with the number of children for whom support is being determined. That basic child support obligation is then applied to each parent’s proportionate share of the combined adjusted income.

(For example, if the father’s monthly gross income is $3,000 and the mother’s monthly gross income is $2,000, their combined adjusted income is $5,000, of which the mother’s income represents 40 percent and the father’s income represents 60 percent. The child support obligation for a family with combined adjusted income of $5,000 per month for two children is $1,297. Thus, if the father is the non custodial parent, he will pay 60 percent of the child support obligation, $778.20, or if the mother is the non custodial parent, she will pay $518.80, which is 40 percent of the child support obligation.)

The cost of medical insurance on the child and the cost of work-related childcare will result in the amount of the child support payment being modified with credit being given to the parent who is actually paying these expenses. In addition, the amount of child support may be modified by certain deviations provided it is in the best interest of the child to deviate from the presumptive amount of child support. Examples of deviations may be extraordinary education expenses like private school tuition or tutoring; extraordinary medical expenses; or special expenses, which must exceed 7 percent of the basic child support obligation, such as extracurricular expenses, summer camps, dental insurance, parenting time adjustment or any other appropriate deviation. You can access the guided electronic worksheet used in calculating child support at www.georgiacourts.org/csc. You may also download an Excel® version of the worksheet through this same website.

In addition to the child support payment, the court (or parties by agreement) will also designate what percentage each parent will pay of the child’s uncovered medical and dental expenses.

In Georgia, both parents have a duty to financially support the child until that child turns 18, marries, dies or becomes emancipated, whichever occurs first. However, if the child has not graduated from high school prior to reaching age 18, then the obligation to support that child continues until the child graduates from high school provided the child remains a full-time student, but not beyond the age of 20.

May I receive money for the children’s college?
The court cannot order parents to pay for college. However, parents may agree to pay child support beyond the age of 18 or to pay for college expenses.

What is alimony?
Alimony is payment by one spouse to the other for support and maintenance. The court may grant alimony to either the husband or wife. Alimony may be for a limited period or until the spouse receiving alimony dies or remarries. It may be paid in one payment of money or property, or it may be paid over a period of time.

What happens to “our” possessions in a divorce?
One of the most difficult and complex areas of divorce is the division of marital property. Marital property is all property acquired during the marriage, except for property received by gift from a third party or by inheritance. Each spouse is entitled to an equitable share of all marital property acquired during the marriage. The judge or jury will decide on the division of marital property. Marital property will be divided equitably (not necessarily equally) between the parties regardless of how the title to the property is held. There is no set formula or percentage amount used to divide marital property.

How will the court order be enforced?
The court order may be enforced by garnishment or a contempt action. A contempt action is filed in the same court that issued the divorce. In addition, support orders can be enforced through the district attorney’s office if the non-paying spouse resides out of town.

If my spouse and I agree on matters pertaining to getting a divorce, do we still need an attorney?
An attorney will ensure that all matters that should be resolved in a divorce are resolved. Acting without an attorney could end up being a costly mistake both to the parties and to their children.

What do I do if I am the victim of family violence?
Georgia has a law protecting victims of family violence. The parties do not have to be married in order for a victim to ask the court for relief. However, the parties have to reside in the same household. A victim of family violence can file a petition with the superior court that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future. The court can issue a temporary order granting a variety of remedies, including eviction of the offending party from the residence or providing suitable alternate housing for the victim and children, as well as financial relief.

The victim does not need an attorney to file a family violence petition. The clerk of the superior court in the victim’s residing county may provide forms for the petition or be able to direct a victim to a family violence shelter or social service agency for direction.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment