The Meriwether & Tharp Divorce Attorney Blog

Return to the Blog Home Page

General Family Law

Divorce Hurts: Three Ways Divorce Harms Children

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Stock Image 3

There is no question that divorce hurts. Anger, loneliness, betrayal, sadness, and a sense of loss are common emotions experienced by the husbands and wives who are parties to divorce actions. However, as many know, the pain of divorce is not only felt by the adult parties involved, but children in divorce actions are also negatively impacted. Often times, as parents become increasingly embroiled in the divorce process, the harm suffered by children as a result  may be overlooked until the underlying harm suffered begins to manifest itself in the form of behavioral or social issues.

If you are a parent considering divorce in Georgia, or if you are currently going through the Georgia divorce process, below are is a list of three ways your divorce may harm your children. Armed with this information, you may find it easier to address these issues with your children, either directly or via family therapy, to minimize the harm suffered by your children.

1. Loss of stability. Upsetting a child’s everyday routine has the potential to cause that child great insecurity. Having to leave the home, school, friends and other attachments that he or she has known all their life may result in the child feeling stripped of everything that has been meaningful in life. Although parents often look forward to the new beginning that accompanies divorce, parents should be mindful that their children may not be as enthusiastic about such changes.

2. The loss of a parent. Although divorce often does not involve the permanent removal of one parent from the life of the couple’s children, from the perspective of a child, divorce means losing a parent. One parent remains, while the other moves away. Even if the relocating parent remains relatively close, the child may still feel a sense of loss because that parent is no longer present in the household. With this being said, parents should reaffirm, as much as possible, the love that both parents share for the child. Additionally, consistent parenting time schedules should be developed and maintained to re-introduce an element of stability in the child’s life and assure the child that both parents will continue to play an active role in his or her life.

3. The loss of material things. It costs more to operate two households than it costs to operate one. Thus, it is often accompanied by a fall in socioeconomic status for both parents, and consequentially for children as well. It may be hard for a child to deal with the limitations that often accompany financial restrictions. For example, it may be hard for a child to understand why requests for material items such as toys or clothes were previously granted, but are now rejected post-divorce. In an effort to account for this change, children may resent their custodial parent, and blame him or her for the financial hardship experienced by the family.  Understanding, discussing and empathizing with your child’s feelings may help him or her overcome these feelings.

 

More Couples Opting for Extended Separation in Lieu of Divorce

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

As Georgia divorce attorneys, we have seen firsthand the developing trend of couples opting for extended separation in lieu of divorce. In some instances, the desire to remain married, living in a state of separation, is the result indecisiveness regarding whether divorce is the correct path. In other instances, extended separation in lieu of divorce is utilized by those who do not wish to live in the same marital home as their spouse, but who do not wish to seek a divorce due to moral or religious reasons. However, in the overwhelming number of cases, the motivation to remain married is financial. There are many financial advantages to being married that may no longer be enjoyed by both spouses in the event of divorce, such as certain tax credits or deductions or one spouse’s health insurance coverage.  In fact, for older couples or couples where one spouse has a preexisting medical condition, health coverage alone may be the motivating factor for remaining in a perpetual state of separation. Additionally, it is not uncommon for couples to remain married until the spouse who needs health coverage is eligible for Medicare or until the spouse would qualify to receive a share of the other spouse’s Social Security payment upon divorce.

Although remaining married, yet separated, may be the best option for some couples, it is necessary for any couple considering this option to take certain steps to protect their legal  interests. First, if a couple decides to live in a state of extended separation, it is advisable that they initiate an action for Separate Maintenance. Georgia does not recognize the concept of legal separation, thus if the parties which to have their separated status recognized, they must do so by seeking an order of separate maintenance. This is especially important for spouses who need child support or alimony during the period of extended separation, as initiating a suit for separate maintenance is the only way to receive such awards absent initiating a divorce action. Additionally, couples seeking to live in an extended state of separation should also consider entering into a Post-nuptial or Separate Maintenance Agreement, settling issues such as child support, alimony, and estate matters.

The Effect of Employment on Divorce

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Stock Image 29

According to a new study concentrating on the impact of spousal employment on divorce suggests that there is a strong link between the husband’s employment status and the success of the marriage. The study, entitled “She Left, He Left: How Employment and Satisfaction Effect Men’s and Women’s Decisions to Leave Marriages,” which was published by the American Journal of Sociology, was conducted by Liana Sayer of Ohio State University.

Contrary to popular belief, the study finds that a woman’s employment status has no significant effect on the likelihood that her husband will decide to leave the marriage. Although an employed woman is more likely to initiate divorce proceedings than an unemployed woman, according the the study, the decision to leave the marriage only comes when such a woman reports being highly unsatisfied what the marriage. Additionally, even though a woman’s likelihood of initiating divorce proceedings increase if she is employed, the fact that a woman is employed does not increase the likelihood that her husband will decide to leave the marriage. According to the study, a woman’s employment (or lack thereof) has no real effect or her husband’s decision to leave the marriage.

On the other hand, Sayer’s study finds that a man’s employment does have a significant impact on his decision to leave the marriage. For men, lack of employment not only increases the chances that his wife will initiate divorce, but the likelihood that he will decide to leave the marriage also increases. Surprisingly, the study reveals that even men who are relatively happy in their marriages are more likely to leave if they are not employed. According to Sayer, this result may be explained by the fact that a marriage in which the man does not work “does not look like what [men] think a marriage is supposed to.”  What this research tends to show is that although it has become more socially acceptable for women to seek employment in lieu of remaining in the domestic realm, it has not yet become as socially acceptable for men to be unemployed.

What is Supervised Visitation and When May it be Ordered?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Stock Image 3

Supervised visitation is not a concept that is unique to Georgia. There are several states that recognize the concept of supervised visitation in situations in which the court presiding over the matter deems is appropriate. In Georgia, supervised visitation may be defined as visitation that occurs between a non-custodial parent and his or her child that is monitored or supervised by a third party.

Generally, the third parties that serve as monitors during supervised visitation are social workers or other qualified child care professionals that monitor the well-being of the child and the interaction between the parent and the child during visitation. Under certain circumstances however, family members or other household members may serve as supervisors as long as certain guidelines are followed. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(d). The supervisors normally do not play an active role in the visitation session, but instead observe the visitation session quietly and make observation notes concerning the attitude and actions of both the child and the parent during visitation. In most cases, the monitor will only interrupt or intervene in a visit if the parent threatens the child’s safety or wellbeing.

Supervised visitation is usually court ordered in child custody matters where there are allegations of or prior instances of family violence, child abuse, neglect, drug abuse or alcohol dependence. See generally O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7. Because Georgia courts prefer for children to maintain ongoing relationships and have contact with both parents after a divorce or other family change, supervised visitation is ordered in lieu of completely denying one parent visitation with his or her child in matters where one parent has committed acts of family violence.

Although supervised visitation is normally court ordered, in situations where one parent’s ability to positively interact with his or her children independently is in question, parents may agree for that parent’s visitation to be supervised until that parent is able to positively interact with his or her child without supervision. In situations such as this, the parent may also choose the agency or supervised visitation provider that will facilitate the visits. Alternatively however, in instances where the supervised visitation is court order, the decision regarding who will facilitate the supervised visitation is often made by the presiding court, not the parties involved.

 

 

 

 

Defining Infidelity

Monday, March 17th, 2014

For purposes of divorce in Georgia, adultery (infidelity) is defined as sexual relations with a person other than his/her spouse. In daily life, however, people define infidelity differently.What Is Cheating? New Survey Reveals How Men And Women Define Infidelity,huffingtonpost.com, January 21, 2014. The Second Annual State of Dating in America report, jointly commissioned by dating sitesChristian Mingle and JDate, found that men and women define infidelity differently, but women’s attitudes on the topic have become more liberal.

According to the report, in 2013, 82% of women and 56% of men said they considered “sexting” or online flirting to be infidelity. That number dropped this year to 68% for women and 51% for men.Also, in 2013, 100% of women and 86% of men said that kissing someone passionately was infidelity. These numbers dropped to 90% for women and 75% for men in 2014.

One surprising stat is that nearly 25% of single women and men would consider marrying someone who had cheated on them while they were dating. Either these people do not learn from their mistakesin trusting a person, or they believe that the sacred vow of marriage will make their mate act differently.

My Spouse Has Abused Our Children in the Past; Will He be Granted Custody or Visitation?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Stock Image 6

Depending on the particular circumstances of the case, it is likely that both parents will be awarded some visitation or parenting time with their children. In Georgia, a judge may award visitation or parenting time to a parent who has committed certain acts of family violence “only if the judge finds that adequate provision for the safety of the child and the parent who is a victim of family violence can be made.” O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(a). In order to ensure that adequate provisions for the child’s safety have been made, the court may issue the following orders or place one or more of the following conditions on that parent’s visitation or parenting time:

(1) Order an exchange of a child to occur in a protected setting;

(2) Order visitation or parenting time supervised by another person or agency;

(3) Order the perpetrator of family violence to attend and complete, to the satisfaction of the judge, a certified family violence intervention program for perpetrators as defined in Article 1A of Chapter 13 of this title as a condition of the visitation or parenting time;

(4) Order the perpetrator of family violence to abstain from possession or consumption of alcohol, marijuana, or any Schedule I controlled substance listed in Code Section 16-13-25 during the visitation or parenting time and for 24 hours preceding the visitation or parenting time;

(5) Order the perpetrator of family violence to pay a fee to defray the costs of supervised visitation or parenting time;

(6) Prohibit overnight visitation or parenting time;

(7) Require a bond from the perpetrator of family violence for the return and safety of the child; and

(8) Impose any other condition that is deemed necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of family violence, or another family or household member.

O.C.G.A. §19-9-7(a)(1)-(8). The reason why Georgia courts may opt to allow visitation with one or more of the above outlined restrictions in lieu of simply refusing to award a parent with a history of family violence visitation or parenting time is that it is the public policy of Georgia to encourage and foster relationship between children and both parents. Put plainly, the court prefers for both parents to play a role in their children’s lives if at all possible. However, there are situations in which a parent may lose parental custody of his or her children. According to Georgia statutory law, the criteria for loss of parental custody in Georgia is:

“If a child is found under circumstances of destitution and suffering, abandonment, or exposure or if the child has been begging or if it is found that the child is being reared under immoral, obscene, or indecent influences which are likely to degrade his moral character and devote him to a vicious life and it appears to the appropriate court by competent evidence, including such examination of the child as may be practicable, that by reason of the neglect, habitual drunkenness, lewd or other vicious habits, or other behavior of the parents or guardians of the child, it is necessary for the welfare of the child to protect the child from such conditions, the court may order that the parents or guardians be deprived of custody of the child and that appropriate measures as provided by law be taken for the welfare of the child.”

O.C.G.A. § 19-7-4.

If you are currently involved in a child custody or divorce matter and your spouse or ex-spouse has a history of family violence or child abuse, it is imperative that you contact a Georgia family law attorney with experience handling complex child custody maters to guide you through the process of determining what custodial arrangement will be in the best interest of your children.

It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in a custody case involving domestic violence issues.

Should I Tell My Spouse I Cheated?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Stock Image 22

As Atlanta divorce attorneys, it is not uncommon for us to see marriages irreparably damaged when one spouse reveals his or her affair to the other spouse. With the knowledge that revealing a prior affair may potentially end their marriage, many wonder whether it is best to be honest with their spouse about the affair or continue to conceal the affair in order to spare their spouse’s feelings and save the relationship. Although many family counselors and relationship experts would suggest that honesty between spouses is the best way to strengthen a relationship, there are some relationship experts who would argue that honest may not always be the best policy when it comes to an affair.

According to well-known relationship and intimacy experts, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Dr. Scott Haltzman state that in many instances it may be better not to reveal an affair, especially if the affair is long over. Their reasoning stems from the thought that the marriage will likely not benefit from telling the truth. These experts also suggest that if the affair must be revealed, the best course of action may be to seek marriage counseling to determine if the marriage can be saved. Regardless of this debate between experts concerning whether honesty is indeed the best policy when it comes to infidelity, determining how to approach this difficult subject is a very personal decision. If you are faced with such a decision, it is best to seek the guidance of an individual therapist or counselor who can work with you on how to proceed in your particular situation.

I Fear My Ex is Abusing Our Children During Visitation, What Can I Do?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Stock Image 14

It’s always a parent’s worst nightmare to learn that his or her child is being hurt, neglected or abused by another individual. This anguish is often compounded if the person who’s causing harm to the child is the child’s other parent. Often parents are unsure how to best deal with the situation, especially if the parents are ex-spouses or co-parents abiding by the terms of a court ordered visitation and child custody arrangement.

If you are in such a situation, where you know or have reason to believe that your child or children are being abused by your ex-spouse during visitation, there are steps that you can and likely should take to protect your children. First, if there is ever a situation where your children are at risk of imminent bodily harm or injury, contact the authorities immediately. Second, although it may be very tempting to do so, you should refrain from attempting to limit or interfere with your ex-spouses parenting time with your children, because doing so would be a violation of the court’s custody and visitation order and would subject you to a possible contempt citation. Although you may not interfere with the violation of the court’s order concerning parenting time, if you have concerns about your children’s safety while they are in the care or your ex-spouse, you should contact a Georgia child custody attorney as soon as possible to discuss filing an emergency petition for modification of custody. Filing an emergency petition for modification of custody and visitation will ensure that the court will hear and rule on the matter more quickly, which is essential in matters where the safety and welfare of children is involved.

Delegitimation is Possible in Georgia but is Not Favored

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Stock Image 5

In Georgia, in order for a man to be deemed the legal father of a child, the child must have been born during marriage or have been legitimated. See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-21.1.  If a child is born to two parents who are not married to each other, he or she may be legitimated by their biological father to establish the legal father/child relationship between the biological father and the child. Id. However, what happens in the situation where more than one father seeks to be the legitimate or legal father of one child? In such a situation, a legal phenomenon known as delegitimation may occur.

Delegitimation may occur if, for example:

Mother becomes pregnant and subsequently gives birth while in a relationship with Boyfriend. Boyfriend believing that the child is his files for and obtains an order for legitimation. A few years later, Boyfriend seeks and obtains primary custody of the child. In response, Mother alleges that Boyfriend should not be entitled to custody, because he is not the true biological father of child. After paternity testing is performed, Father is identified at the true biological father of the child, and Father files to legitimate the child. If the court presiding over the matter grants Father’s Petition for Legitimation, Boyfriend’s status as the legal father of child will be effectively terminated, and Boyfriend will effectively be delegitimated.

See generally Davis v. LeBrec, 274 Ga. 5 (2001); Baker v. Baker, 276 Ga. 778 (2003); Mathers v. Dukes, 314 Ga. App. 782 (2012). The issue of delegitimation has been reviewed by both the Georgia Supreme Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals, and the holdings by Georgia’s high courts indicate that although delegitimation as a concept is recognized by the courts, it is not favored. In each of the above cited cases, the court presiding over the matter refused to delegitimate the legal father. Often, the rational for the court’s refusal to delegitimate the legal father often revolves around the best interest of the child standard. Although Georgia courts tend to disfavor delegitimation, this concept is recognized by the court, and may be possible under the appropriate circumstances.

How Can Social Media Impact Your Divorce Case?

Monday, February 24th, 2014

We’ve posted several blogs about celebrity divorces as well as several about how social media can affect a family law case. There is a recent divorce case in the tabloids that combines the two.‘Burn Notice’ Star Seth Peterson – Check Out the 22-Year-Old I’m Banging…NOTMy Pregnant Wife, tmz.com, January 9, 2014. The pregnant wife of “Burn Notice” star Seth Peterson just filed for divorce, claiming her husband was cheating on her with a 22 year old. Ratherthan denying the affair, Peterson has posted pictures of himself and his girlfriend all over social media. Specially, his girlfriend posted pictures of the two together with captions indicatingthat they are, in fact, a couple.

This is a perfect example of how social media can hurt you in a divorce case as Peterson has now admitted the affair and there is photographic evidence of the two together. Peterson’s wife isasking for spousal support and full legal and physical custody of the children. If this case were in Georgia, the Judge would look at the best interests of the children in determining custody. Peterson’s actions regarding this affair would come into play, especially if the children have been or could be exposed to any of it. In addition, in Georgia, his actions could impact equitabledivision. Under equitable division, the Judge looks at all aspects of the case, including the actions of the parties, and marital assets are divided equitably, not necessarily equally. Petersoncould, thus, be looking at a lesser portion of the marital estate. Further, if this case were in Georgia, his actions would prohibit him from receiving spousal support from his wife. He may notbe seeking alimony from her, but it is important to point out.

The lesson to take away from this case is stay away from social medial during your divorce. If you want to still post things to Facebook, make sure they cannot be used against you in any way inyour case. If you are unsure, ask your attorney.