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Lump Sum Alimony in Georgia

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

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Just like periodic or monthly alimony, lump sum alimony is spousal support paid by one spouse to the other spouse post-divorce. What differentiates lump sum alimony from periodic alimony is how the payment is made. Instead of being paid in monthly or bi-weekly payments, lump sum alimony that is either awarded or paid in one lump sum. Although lump sum alimony takes the form of a single payment from the obligated spouse to the recipient spouse, it should not be confused with equitable division. Lump sum alimony is not a division of a couple’s marital assets, it is a lump sum payment to be made from the obligated spouse’s separate or non-marital assets.

There are certain benefits to receiving alimony in a lump sum, instead of on a periodic basis. For example, a lump sum alimony award ensures the recipient spouse will receive a pre-determined amount of alimony, regardless of remarriage, cohabitation or change in financial circumstances. Just as there are benefits, there are drawbacks as well. To determine if lump sum alimony is a viable option in your divorce, see our article regarding lump sum alimony in Georgia for more information, and contact one of our friendly Georgia divorce professionals with any questions.

Georgia Child Support Helpline

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

In Georgia, child support is primarily based on the income of both parents, and the ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child or children involved. Georgia’s child support worksheet is the method Georgia courts use to determine the appropriate amount of child support to award the custodial parent in each case. The child support worksheet is a document used to enter the financial information of both parents to calculate the amount of child support according to Georgia’s child support guidelines. Anyone can access and download a copy of Georgia’s child support worksheet. In fact, each party to a divorce in Georgia must submit a proposed child support worksheet for the court to consider.

If you are represented by a Georgia divorce attorney, your attorney will complete and submit a proposed child support worksheet on your behalf. However, if you are representing yourself during your divorce, you must complete and submit this form yourself. If you are completing this form yourself, it is important that you complete it fully and completely. Otherwise, the child support calculation may be inaccurate, and this inaccuracy may be financial detrimental to you. Although instructions are included with the child support worksheet, there may be some aspects of the worksheet that remain confusing. If you need more guidance on how to complete the child support worksheet, please review the instructional articles on our website entitled: How to Complete a Child Support Worksheet.

Additionally, the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia has launched a Child Support Worksheet Helpline. This helpline is a free service that helps unrepresented individuals prepare child support worksheets. The child support helpline is manned by volunteer divorce attorneys who will work with callers to prepare child support worksheets. Once the worksheet is prepared, the volunteer attorney will email or mail the finished worksheet to the caller. If you are working to complete a child support worksheet in your Georgia divorce or child custody case, and you are not represented by an attorney, you can call the helpline at (404) 526-8609.

Studies Suggest Debt is the Most Harmful Relationship Issue

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

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When considering the most common precursors to divorce, issues such as infidelity, abuse, lack of communicating, and unrealistic expectations often come to mind. However, in a poll conducted by Money.com, there was one marital issue that consistently outranked the previously listed issues: debt.

Although it is well know that disagreements about money can often lead to marital strife, Money’s poll pinpoints debt as the financial issue that is most associated with the breakdown of relationships and divorce. In fact, an article authored by Utah State University associate professor Jeffrey Dew seems to confirm this study. In his article, Dew discusses studies that indicate that marital satisfaction and the likelihood of divorce are directly correlated to debt levels and assets. Dew’s article reveals that as debt levels increase, and available assets decline, marital satisfaction also declines.

Despite the findings revealed by Money’s poll and Dew’s article, there is hope for couples experiencing high debt levels and financial distress. Because marital satisfaction tends to track debt levels, as a couple successfully pays down debt, marital satisfaction increases. Thus, the key for couples experiencing marital strife due to debt or other financial concerns, is to work together to set financial goals and work together to achieve them.

The 4 Georgia Divorce Issues – What are they and do they apply to you?

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

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In every Georgia divorce, there are four issues that must be resolved either by settlement agreement or court Order: equitable division, child custody, child support, and alimony. While there may be other “issues” that muddy up the resolution of the case, everything will fall under one of these main categories. The following is a brief overview of each of these issues and to whom they will apply:

  1. Equitable division (division of marital assets) – In Georgia, division of marital assets is equitable, not necessarily equal. This means that there will not automatically be a 50/50 split of everything. Rather, the court will look at the circumstances of the case and divide everything while taking those circumstances into consideration. Each party will keep their own separate property (anything with which they came into the marriage) and everything else – from the marital home to cars to furniture – will be divided in an equitable way according to the particular circumstances of the case. The issue of equitable division is one that must be addressed in every divorce case, even if just to say that the parties acknowledge that all assets are separate property and there are no marital assets to divide.
  2. Child custody – There are two aspects of child custody – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody has to do with decision making over the child(ren), while physical custody has to do with where the child(ren) will live and when they will see each parent. In Georgia, divorcing parents have to file a Parenting Plan outlining exactly how custody will be handled. Obviously, if a couple has no children together, this issue will not apply in their divorce case.
  3. Child support – In Georgia, child support is based upon each parent’s income and then adjusted for other child related expenses such as health care and work related childcare costs. These amounts are put into a child support calculator to determine the presumptive amount of child support. The court can deviate from this presumptive amount for extraordinary situations such as high/low income, visitation related travel expenses, life insurance and parenting time. See O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. Again, if a couple has no children together, this issue will not apply.
  4. Alimony – Alimony is payment made from one spouse to the other for his/her support. Unlike child support, there is no calculator for alimony. Rather, the amount of alimony is based upon the needs of one party and the ability of the other party to pay. Many factors are considered in determining whether alimony should be awarded and its amount including how long the parties were married, the financial circumstances of the parties, and the standard of living established during the marriage. See O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5. This issue often applies in long marriages where one party has a substantially higher income and assets than the other.

Can You Relocate After Your Divorce?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

After a divorce is finalized, most people want to live their lives completely free of their ex-spouse. If you and your ex had no kids together, this is often possible. However, when there are kids involved, you have to consider your ex before making any major life decisions – at least until the kids are 18 and no longer subject to any custody or child support order. One question often asked of family law attorneys is whether one parent can relocate to a different city with the children. The answer to this question is not black and white. Each family is different with unique facts to consider.

In considering a move, the first thing you should do is to consult your final divorce decree or settlement agreement. Often, these agreements have clauses requiring notice to the other parent of any intent to change residence, as well as requiring the parent desiring to move to give complete, updated contact information. The purpose of requiring notice is two-fold. First, it is just common courtesy to inform a child’s parent of where that child will be living so the two of you can hopefully work out a modified visitation schedule, if necessary. Second, it gives the other parent the opportunity to object to the move. This is more common when one parent is attempting to move with the child out of the city and away from the other parent.

The most important thing to consider in planning a move with you children to another city is whether that move is in the children’s best interests. If a move will take children away from their school, friends, and family, this may not be in their best interests. However, if you are moving for a job opportunity that could be great for the whole family, this may trump the fact that your children will have to adjust to a new place.

Whatever the reason for the desire to move, you must consider the children and the impact it will have on their lives. If they are old enough, talk to them about it. As difficult as it may be for you, be open to any wishes they have to remain in the same city with the other parent. The court will consider this anyway if the move becomes a litigated matter. Also talk to your ex to work out a custody and visitation arrangement that will make practical sense after the move. If your children know what to expect and when they will see the other parent, the move will become a bit easier for them.

One set of twins – two fathers?

Monday, June 29th, 2015

In a very unusual family law case, a New Jersey woman just found out that her two-year-old twins have two different fathers. New jersey judge rules twins have different fathers, by Haimy Assefa, cnn.com, May 8, 2015. The mother had filed a paternity action against the man she believed fathered both children and a DNA test proved he was only the father of one of the children. Apparently, the mother had sexual intercourse with two men within the same week and, while this medical phenomenon is extremely rare, it is not impossible. As a result of the paternity case, the mother now receives child support for one of her twins, but will have to file a paternity/child support action against the other father (assuming she knows who it is) in order to receive any child support for her other child.

This case brings up some interesting family law issues. Though they are twins, these two children will be treated in the eyes of the law as regular siblings. Everything from child support to custody will be treated separately as there are two different fathers to contend with. Once the paternity of the second father is established, the child support cases will remain separate.

Custody may be considered together, however. The children have been raised together their entire lives and it would likely not be in their best interests to split them up. As such, if either father wants custodial/visitation rights, the court would likely consider the relationship between the twins and make sure any visitation allowed them to be at their mother’s together. For example, if the fathers each had visitation every other weekend, the court would likely order the visitation to be on the same weekend, so that the children could spend as much time together. Thus, while this case certainly presents some interesting issues, the court will still look at the best interests of the children in making any determinations regarding custody and visitation.

Divorce Myth – All Marital Property Will Be Divided In Half

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

When a family law attorney meets with a prospective client for the first time, that attorney often has to spend time dispelling some divorce myths in order to give the prospective client a better idea of what to expect throughout the divorce process. One widely believed divorce myth is that all marital property will be divided in half. This statement is misleading for several reasons.

First, taking this statement literally does not make practical sense. The court will not make a list of each item of marital property and give 50% ownership to each spouse. There are numerous types of marital property including, but not limited to, the marital home, bank accounts, cars, and retirement accounts. While dividing a bank account in half is not complicated, this solution does not work for other marital assets. Consider the case of the marital home. It would make no sense if the court awarded 50% ownership in the home to the wife and the other 50% to the husband. Who would live in the house? What if one spouse wants to sell the house and the other does not? Rather, instead of splitting each marital asset in half and bringing up a whole other set of potential issues, the court will look at the sum of all marital property and figure out a way to divide that sum in a way that makes practical sense. Maybe the husband is not interested in keeping the martial home. In that case, the court can put the home in the wife’s “column” and give other assets to the husband to balance it out.

Further, this statement is misleading because, in Georgia and many other states, marital property is divided equitably, which does not necessarily mean equally. This means that the court will look at all relevant facts in the case to help determine how the marital assets should be divided. For example, if one party committed adultery and spent marital funds on his/her paramour, the court may give a larger amount of the marital estate to the other spouse to balance out this inequity.

When meeting with a divorce attorney for the first time, it is important to get any myths you have heard out on the table. Don’t be embarrassed if you have believed something that is not true – it certainly won’t be the first time that attorney has heard it. It is better to have any myths dispelled at the beginning of your case than to hold onto to something you believe to be true, only to find out too late that it is not.

Should I Seek Joint Custody or Primary Custody?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Should you split child custody 50/50 with your ex-spouse, or should you seek primary physical custody? This is a question that every parent considers at some point during the Georgia divorce process.

Although many believe it is best for children when one parent have primary physical custody, because it allows children to have one stable primary home, and it obviates any stress children may endure by having to constantly move around between two households. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests that children fare better when they spend time living with both parents. Even though this study goes against the beliefs of many concerning the best interest of children post-divorce, this Georgia law has supported this conclusion for decades. As recited in Georgia statutory law:

It is the express policy of this state to encourage that a child has continuing contact with parents and grandparents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their child after such parents have separated or dissolved their marriage or relationship.”

O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(d).

With this recently published study, as well as Georgia law in mind, if you are considering divorce or if you are currently going through a divorce or child custody matter and are wondering which child custody arrangement would be best for you and your children, it is important to consider all options, and to seek the guidance of an honest and experienced Alpharetta family law professional.

Is Jail an Appropriate Remedy for Failure to Pay Child Support?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

In Georgia, as well as in several other states, one way a state can enforce a court’s directing a non-custodial parent to pay child support is to incarcerate that non-custodial parent for failure to pay. In fact, not only can states and courts enforce child support order by jailing the offending non-custodial parent, but the Federal government may also levy criminal charges against a non-custodial parent who fails to pay child support.

Although incarceration is an available remedy for the failure of a non-custodial parent to pay child support, is it appropriate, and is it effective? In a recent article published by the The New York Times, many argue that although the “threat of jail [is] considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay,” sending non-custodial parents who are simply unable to pay to jail defeats the purpose.

Those who adopt this argument often rely on the fact that a non-custodial parent cannot pay child support while incarcerated and may lose his or her job as a result of that incarceration. Thus, this remedy is self-defeating. Those who advance this argument also contend that the reason many non-custodial parents find themselves in a situation where they are unable to pay child support is because the original child support orders obligated them to pay more than they were financial able to pay in the first place.

Although these arguments are sound, and may be applicable in some situations, there are many situations where a non-custodial parent, despite his or her ability to pay, simply refuses to do so. If that parent takes active measures to avoid paying child support, the question then is what should the court or the state do to ensure the best interest of the children effected are served. Although it may seem unsavory, the threat of jail is often a very effective tool to ensure that some non-custodial parents comply with their child support obligation.

Please note thought that if you are a non-custodial parent whose circumstances have changed, leaving you unable to pay child support as ordered by the court, there are steps you can take to reduce your child support obligation. One of those steps is seeking a downward modification of child support. For more information on who is eligible for such modifications and how to go about obtaining one, see our articles on child support and child support modification.

Divorce By Facebook?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

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Once a divorce Petitioner files all of the documents and pleadings required to initiate a divorce case in the court system, the next thing that must happen is that the Respondent (the Petitioner’s spouse) must be personally served with these documents. Personal service means that a sheriff, marshal, certified process server, or other person appointed by the court must personally deliver these documents directly to the Respondent. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4. The purpose of the strict rules governing service of process is to ensure that the Respondent receives proper notice of the proceedings so that he/she has sufficient opportunity to respond and defend him/herself. In some divorce cases, the Respondent will agree to sign an Acknowledgment of Service, which is a document signed under oath attesting that he/she did, in fact, receive all of the required divorce documents. In other cases, however, the Respondent makes service of process as difficult as possible on the Petitioner, causing the Petitioner to look to other avenues to perfect service.

A recent example of this can be found in a divorce case out of New York, where a court recently found that Facebook is an acceptable way for a wife to serve her husband with the divorce papers. Divorce By Facebook: New York woman can file online, by Stephanie Gallman, cnn.com, April 6, 2015. In that case, the wife had been attempting to serve her husband for years, but she and her attorney haven’t been able to physically find him. She did speak to him by phone and was told, “he has no fixed address and no place of employment,” and further refused to cooperate with service. The wife’s attorney filed a motion for “service by alternate means,” asking for the ability to serve the husband via Facebook. After the wife sufficiently proved that the account belonged to her husband and that he consistently logged on to the account such that he would see the summons, the Judge granted the motion and allowed service by Facebook.

While this appears to start a slippery slope of alternate means of service, it is important to note a few facts in this case that likely had an impact on the Judge’s decision. First, the parties separated shortly after they were married and never lived together. Second, the parties had no children together. Third, the wife was not asking for any money or property from the husband – all she wanted was a divorce. The fact that there were not real issues over which to argue (i.e. child custody, child support, alimony, property division) may have made the Judge be a little more lenient that he otherwise would have been.

However, the Judge did say “the advent and ascendency of social media” make sites like Facebook the “next frontier” as “forums through which a summons can be delivered.” Those are pretty strong words and it will be interesting to see how this could trickle down to other courts in New York and around the country.