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Child Support – Unexpected “Necessary” Expenses

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

 

At times, it seems that expenses for one’s children are never ending. From extracurricular activities to camp and everything in between, expenses for one’s children seem to pop up on a daily basis. This can be especially apparent for divorced parents, as they may constantly have to ask for reimbursement for these expenses from the other parent, which can create awkwardness in an already delicate relationship. Most of the time these expenses have to be paid before a child can participate in a given activity. In that situation, the parents (hopefully) have already agreed on the child’s participation and how the expenses will be divided. But what happens if a child participates in something for which payment is not due until after the fact, and then a parent (or both parents) do not want to pay?

 Under Georgia law, each parent is liable to third parties “for the board and support and for all necessaries furnished to or for the benefit of the parties’ children.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-13. This liability will remain until someone voluntarily pays the amount owed for board, support or other necessaries, or until there is a court order providing for payment or otherwise. Id.

 Consider a situation where a child has a condition that requires a long-term hospital stay. Consider further that insurance covers part of the expenses associated with this stay, but not all of them. The divorced parents disagree about who should be responsible for these out of pocket expenses and, as a result, the hospital bill does not get paid. It might be a situation where the divorce decree did not allocate expenses such as these, or it may be a situation where the decree did allocate the costs to one parent, but that parent refuses to pay. According to the Georgia law cited above, the hospital can sue both parents for the amount owed. If the divorce decree specifies how these expenses are to be allocated and one parent is just being difficult, that parent could additionally be held in contempt of the divorce decree. While this will not prevent the other parent from being dragged into the lawsuit by the hospital, he/she may have some solace knowing that, in the end, the other parent will get what he/she deserves.

 To prevent a situation such as this, make sure the child support language in your divorce decree is very thorough to cover any expected and unexpected expenses related to the children. If a specific expense is not addressed in the decree, try to work it out with your ex ahead of time so you can avoid being dragged into court.

Billionaires – They’re Just Like Us

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

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When you go through a divorce in Georgia, you have to resolve four main issues: equitable division of assets, child custody, child support, and alimony. Whether you are a millionaire, buried in debt, or somewhere in between, the general issues remain the same. For equitable division, it does not matter how many marital assets a couple has, or the value of those assets. Whatever the financial status, the assets will be divided equitably, according to the facts of the case. This is also true for alimony, which is based upon one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1(c). Certainly, in some situations, one spouse’s ability to pay the alimony may be greater than in others, but the balancing test remains the same. For child support in Georgia, both party’s incomes are plugged into the child support worksheets along with other known expenses for the children. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. Deviations can be made for high income (more than $30,000/month) or low income but, again, the basic calculation works the same way. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(i)(2)(A) and (B).

As an example of the above, consider the pending divorce case of hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin and his wife. Billionaire Ken Griffin’s wife wants $1 million a month in divorce, by Jillian Eugenios, CNN Money, February 24, 2015. The couple has been married for 12 years and has three young children together. Mrs, Griffin submitted a budget with her divorce filing which details the amount of money she needs each month and includes $160,000/month for hotels, $2,000/month for stationery, $14,000/month for food, and $300,000/month for a private jet. Overall, Mrs. Griffin says she needs $1 million a month for expenses for the children. Not surprisingly, Mr. Griffin has scoffed at these numbers, saying these expenses are not really for the children. In addition, the article states that Mrs. Griffin is worth $50 million on her own and, thus, Mr. Griffin is arguing that she can pay for her own monthly expenses.

If this case were in Georgia, the court would look at many factors in determining alimony, including the standard of living established during the marriage. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5(a)(1). However, it would also look at the financial resources of each party. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5(a)(4). In a situation such as this, the court may find that Mrs. Griffin does not need any alimony because she has sufficient financial resources of her own. On the other hand, a court may find that she does need some alimony to retain the standard of living the parties had prior to the divorce. As far as child support, if this case were in Georgia, the high-income deviation might kick in on both sides in this case. The noncustodial parent will be paying some amount of child support just as any other noncustodial parent would.

Even though this case deals with many more zeros that the typical divorce case, no one is above the law. If alimony is appropriate under the facts of the case, it will be awarded. If there are children of the marriage, some amount of child support will be awarded. The court will look at the facts of the case and make a determination, just as in any other divorce case.

Million Dollar Child Support

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

As reported by CNBC and CNN Money, the estranged wife of Citadel LLC founder Ken Griffin is seeking a whopping $1 million per month child support award from the wealthy hedge fund manager. Specifically, according to Anne Dais Griffin, she is seeking the child support award to provide the couple’s three children with “the support to which they are accustomed and entitled under Illinois law.” From Anne Griffin’s perspective, the requested child support amount is based on an accounting of the couple’s child care expenses while they were married. However, Ken Griffin contends that Anne is seeking the hefty child support award to support her own spending habits.

Assuming $1 million per month is truly reflective of how much the couples spent each month to care for their children during the marriage, Anne may be justified is seeking this award. According to Illinois state law concerning the calculation of child support:

“(a) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity of marriage, a proceeding for child support following dissolution of the marriage by a court that lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, a proceeding for modification of a previous order for child support under Section 510 of this Act, or any proceeding authorized under Section 501 or 601 of this Act, the court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for the support of the child, without regard to marital misconduct. The duty of support owed to a child includes the obligation to provide for the reasonable and necessary educational, physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child. For purposes of this Section, the term “child” shall include any child under age 18 and any child under age 19 who is still attending high school.

(1) The Court shall determine the minimum amount of support by using the following guidelines:

Number of Children  Percent of Supporting Party’s Net Income

1                                              20%

2                                              28%

3                                              32%

4                                              40%

5                                              45%

6 or more                                50%

(2) The above guidelines shall be applied in each case unless the court finds that a deviation from the guidelines is appropriate after considering the best interest of the child in light of the evidence, including, but not limited to, one or more of the following relevant factors:

(a) the financial resources and needs of the child;

(b) the financial resources and needs of the custodial parent;

(c) the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;

(d) the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child;

(d-5) the educational needs of the child; and

(e) the financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

If the court deviates from the guidelines, the court’s finding shall state the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines, if determinable. The court shall include the reason or reasons for the variance from the guidelines.”

750 ILCS 5/505 Sec. 505. Specifically, as highlighted in the Illinois law quoted above, in determining child support, the court may take into consideration the standard of living the child or children would have had if the divorcing parents stayed together.

It should be noted that Illinois law concerning child support is distinctly different from Georgia law concerning the calculation of child support. As can be seen above, presumptive child support amounts in Illinois are calculated according to the percentages set out in the chart above. On the other hand, child support in Georgia is calculated according to Georgia’s Child Support Calculator.  This is just one of the differences between child support laws in the various states. With this being said, it is extremely important to seek the advice of a team of experienced Atlanta child support attorneys if you are considering divorce or child support modification in Georgia

 

Thirteen Reasons to Divorce in Georgia: Part 13

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

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Wrapping up our blog series Georgia’s thirteen statutory grounds for divorce according to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3, here is ground number thirteen.

Reason #13: Your marriage is irretrievably broken.

By far, the reason most commonly relied upon by spouses seeking divorce in Georgia is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3 (13). This is so, because unlike with the other 12 reasons to divorce in Georgia, couples divorcing for this reason need not allege fault, wrongdoing or incapacity on the part of the other spouse.

An irretrievably broken marriage is defined by Georgia law as a marriage where “either or both parties are unable or refuse to cohabit, and there are no prospects for a reconciliation.” Harwell v. Harwell, 233 Ga. 89 (1974). Put another way, a marriage may be found by a court to be irretrievably broken where the parties are separated, or no longer living together, and there is no hope that the parties will resolve their marital difficulties and reunite. In many cases, both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the divorce proceeds based on this grounds. However, it is possible for one party to oppose a divorce based on this thirteenth reason to seek divorce by alleging that there is hope for reconciliation by the parties. In fact, it is possible for a spouse to contest a divorce based on this grounds by alleging that the parties have resumed cohabitation or engaged in romantic or intimate relations post-separation.

Although seeking a no fault divorce, or a divorce based on a marriage being irretrievably broken, is relatively common in Georgia, as briefly discussed above, there are certain legal nuances concerning this reason to seek divorce in Georgia that require the skill and expertise of a Georgia divorce attorney. Thus, if you are seeking divorce due to your marriage being irretrievably broken, contact your Atlanta divorce team for more information on how you should proceed.

Thirteen Reasons to Divorce in Georgia: Part 12

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

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Continuing our blog series Georgia’s thirteen statutory grounds for divorce according to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3, here is ground number twelve.

Reason #12: Your spouse is addicted to drugs.

As discussed in the ninth installment of our series discussing the 13 reasons to divorce in Georgia, alcohol and substance abuse on the part of one spouse has the potential to seriously damage a marriage, and may have a disastrous impact on a family. As a result, not only is the habitual intoxication of one spouse a reason to seek divorce in Georgia, but the drug addiction of one spouse is also a reason to seek divorce in Georgia.

According to Georgia law, the “habitual drug addiction” of a spouse is a grounds for total divorce in Georgia. O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(12). Specifically, a party seeking to obtain a divorce based on this twelfth grounds for divorce must show the other spouses’ addiction to one or more of the following controlled substances: narcotic drugs, marijuana, or stimulant drugs, depressant drugs, or hallucinogenic drugs. O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(12); O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2(a). Similar to the ninth reason to seek divorce in Georgia, the statutory law allowing for divorce based on “habitual drug addiction” does not specify what rate of use qualifies as “habitual drug addiction.” However, Georgia case law addressing the application of O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(9) (allowing for divorce based on habitual intoxication) may be consulted along with the plain meaning of the words “habitual” and “addiction” to conclude that a party seeking a divorce based on this basis must show a pattern of drug use by the other spouse to prevail.

 

Thirteen Reasons to Divorce in Georgia: Part 11

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Continuing our blog series Georgia’s thirteen statutory grounds for divorce according to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3, here is ground number eleven.

Reason #11: Your spouse has an incurable mental illness.

Unlike some of the other reasons to seek divorce in Georgia discussed in this series, this eleventh reason to seek divorce in Georgia is relatively straightforward and well defined by Georgia statutory law. Specifically, if your spouse suffers from an incurable mental illness, you may seek a divorce in Georgia according to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3 (11). This section of Georgia law states:

“Incurable mental illness. No divorce shall be granted upon this ground unless the mentally ill party has been adjudged mentally ill by a court of competent jurisdiction or has been certified to be mentally ill by two physicians who have personally examined the party; and he has been confined in an institution for the mentally ill or has been under continuous treatment for mental illness for a period of at least two years immediately preceding the commencement of the action; and the superintendent or other chief executive officer of the institution and one competent physician appointed by the court, after a thorough examination, make a certified statement under oath that it is their opinion that the party evidences such a want of reason, memory, and intelligence as to prevent the party from comprehending the nature, duties, and consequences of the marriage relationship and that, in the light of present day medical knowledge, recovery of the party’s mental health cannot be expected at any time during his life. Notice of the action must be served upon the guardian of the person of the mentally ill person and upon the superintendent or other chief executive officer of the institution in which the person is confined. In the event that there is no guardian of the person, then notice of the action shall be served upon a guardian ad litem, who shall be appointed by the court in which the divorce action is filed, and upon the superintendent or chief executive officer of the institution in which the person is confined. The guardian and superintendent shall be entitled to appear and be heard upon the issues. The status of the parties as to the support and maintenance of the mentally ill person shall not be altered in any way by the granting of the divorce.”

O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3 (11).

As alluded to in the statutory law cited above, the rationale behind this reason for divorce is that a spouse suffering from an incurable mental illness is not able to fully appreciate the nature of the marital relationship or the rights and responsibilities that come along with that relationship.  Thus, if your spouse suffers from an incurable mental illness, and you believe divorce may be the most appropriate plan of action, speak with an Atlanta Divorce Attorney to determine if the law allows for a divorce based on this grounds in your case.

Atlanta Reality Star Faces Federal Charges for not Paying Child Support

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

As discussed in our prior post concerning the consequence for failure to pay child support in Georgia, failing to pay court ordered child support is literally a criminal offense in certain instances. Not only is failure to pay child support a criminal offense according to Georgia law, but failure to pay child support may also be punishable as a federal criminal offense under certain circumstances.

An example of the use of federal criminal charges in response to the failure to pay child support is the case of reality star Steven Jordan, otherwise known as Stevie J. Stevie J, known for his role on VH1’s reality show Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta and for his work in the entertainment industry as a musical producer, owes over $1 million in child support according to the criminal complaint filed by the US Attorney’s Office. The criminal levied against the reality start is that he failed to pay over $10,000 in child support over a two year period. The alleged criminal activity amounts to a federal case because Stevie J, who resides in Georgia, failed to pay child support for his children who live in another state.  His children live with their mother in New York. Specifically, according to a press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office, US Attorneys allege that Stevie J has failed to pay over $1 million in child support over the last ten years, despite earning around $27,000 a month in his current role on the reality series.

Stevie J was arraigned in New York Federal Court in early February, and entered a plea of not guilty. Although it will likely be several months before this case is resolved, if Stevie J is convicted, he could face up to two years in prison.

Thirteen Reasons to Divorce in Georgia: Part 10

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

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Continuing our blog series Georgia’s thirteen statutory grounds for divorce according to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3, here is ground number ten.

Reason #10: Your spouse is physically or mentally abusive.

Abuse is never acceptable during a relationship, whether it be a marital relationship, or any other type of romantic relationship. Abuse is not only unacceptable when it is physical abuse, but all forms of abuse, including mental and emotional abuse are similarly intolerable. With this being said, one spouse’s physical or mental abuse is the tenth reason to seek divorce in Georgia. Specifically, in Georgia, one party may seek a divorce based on cruel treatment suffered at the hands of the other spouse. O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(10).

Georgia law defines cruel treatment as consisting of “the willful infliction of pain, bodily or mental, upon the complaining party, such as reasonably justifies apprehension of danger to life, limb, or health.” O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(10). As the definition suggests, it is not necessary for a spouse seeking a divorce on this grounds to show actual physical violence or abuse on the part of the offending spouse, but a divorce may be granted due to the mental or emotional abuse. Slaughter v. Slaughter, 190 Ga. 229, 232 (1940). In fact, Georgia case law suggests that a divorce may be granted due to one spouse’s infliction of mental anguish on the other spouse. Womble v. Womble, 214 Ga. 438 (1958); Ross v. Ross, 169 Ga. 529 (1929). However, to successfully prove that a divorce should be granted on this grounds, a petitioning spouse must show that the offending spouse intended to cause the mental or physical injury. Connor v. Connor, 212 Ga. 92, 94 (1955).

Thirteen Reasons to Divorce in Georgia: Part 9

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

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Continuing our blog series Georgia’s thirteen statutory grounds for divorce according to O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3, here is ground number nine.

Reason #9: Your spouse is a drunk.

 Alcohol and substance abuse has the potential to cause many problems in the lives of individuals facing such addictions, such as physical, emotional, and legal difficulties. Not only do those living with such addictions suffer the potential consequences, but their families must also contend with any negative effects. Additionally, it is not uncommon for alcohol and substance abuse on the part of one spouse to result in marital issues stemming from the addiction, like financial strain, abandonment or infidelity.

Due to the damaging impact alcohol abuse may have on a marriage, the “habitual intoxication” of one spouse is the ninth reason to seek a Georgia divorce. O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(9). Although the statutory law allowing for divorce based on this ground does not specifically define “habitual intoxication,” Georgia case law gives guidance on what a spouse seeking a divorce on this basis must show to prevail. To obtain a divorce due to the other spouse’s “habitual intoxication,” it is not necessary for the petitioning spouse to prove his or her spouse was continuously and constantly drunk during the marriage. Fuller v. Fuller, 108 Ga. 256 (1899). However, a petitioning spouse may not simply show that the other spouse was drunk or under the influence of alcohol once during the marriage. Stimpson v. Stimpson, 213 Ga. 235 (1957). To prevail in a divorce action based on the other spouse’s “habitual intoxication,” the spouse seeking divorce must essentially establish a pattern of drunkenness.

 

I Filed For Divorce, But I Changed My Mind – Now What?

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

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Some people file for divorce after months or years of counseling and trying hard to make the marriage work. Others file for divorce with no attempt to save the marriage. In either category, there are some people who file for divorce and later change their mind. Such is the case with Pamela Anderson and Rick Salomon. Pamela Anderson Files for Divorce from Rick Salomon Again, by Michele Corriston, people.com, February 12, 2015. Anderson and Salomon married in 2007, and had the marriage annulled two months later. They then married again in early 2014. Anderson filed for divorce a few months later, but then dismissed her petition in August 2014. Now, six months later, Anderson has filed for divorce from Salomon again. Going back and forth this many times may not be common, but it does happen. So, what do you need to do if you have filed for divorce, but want to give your marriage another chance?

The first and most important thing you need to do is to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page about the dismissal. This may seem like common sense, but often spouses do not see eye to eye on this. A spouse may be willing to try marriage counseling, but wants to keep the divorce case going just in case. If you have changed your mind, but he hasn’t, then there is no need to dismiss the case, as he will likely file a petition for divorce a short time later.

If you are on the same page about dismissal, you will need to file a Motion to Dismiss your divorce petition. The petition should be filed without prejudice, which means you are free to file it again at any time. If your spouse has filed any counterclaims, those must be dismissed as well. Often, a respondent in a divorce case files and Answer and Counterclaim to the Petition for Divorce. This means that there is also a claim for divorce against the petitioner/filing party. If this is not dismissed, the divorce case will continue on those claims. Once the divorce petition and any counterclaims have been dismissed, the case will be removed from the court’s docket and you will not longer have to worry about it.

It should be noted that, if you dismiss your divorce case and then later decide to file again, you have to start all over. Thus, you will again have to file a Petition for Divorce and have your spouse served with all of the required documents. It will be a completely new case with a new case number, so you will have to modify anything filed in the previous case.