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Five Overlooked Threats to Marital Bliss

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Affairs, financial difficulties, and communication problems – these are the most commonly experienced marital roadblocks. As a result, many married couples actively work toward addressing these issues in an effort to secure their relationship. But, in addition to communication, financial and infidelity concerns, there are several other relationship roadblocks married couples may face that are often overlooked. Listed below are just a few of the overlooked threats to marriage. If you are recently married, or if you have been married for several years, considering and addressing the threats listed below may help you avoid the calamity that may be caused by leaving these issues unchecked.

  1. Marriage is hard work, often fraught with disagreements, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings. Thus, those who go into marriage expecting marriage to be easy often become disillusioned and frustrated.
  2. Marriage should be based on a foundation of honesty and trust. However, being honest with your spouse and being brutally honest with your spouse are two very different things. Sometimes, when you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best to stay silent, because thinking honesty is always the best policy may end up fostering more resentment than it solves.
  3. Many people are keenly aware that marriage does not magically change people. However, some fail to realize this principle also applies more broadly. If your family was not fond of your significant other prior to your wedding (or vice versa), it is very likely this opinion will not change. As a result, believing you can change your family’s opinion of your spouse may place a strain on both your marital and familial relationships.
  4. People do not easily change their minds about their desire to have children, professional aspirations, or decisions concerning religious or social affiliations. With this being said, if your spouse told you his or her position regarding an important issue like the ones listed above, believe them. Ignoring what your partner said he wanted before you married with the hope you will change their minds will be unfruitful at best, and as worst it will be the root of several arguments.
  5. Generally, with the exception family abuse issues, what goes on between a married couple should not be shared unless both spouses are comfortable sharing that information. So, failure to discuss and set boundaries on what is shared outside the relationship may lead to marital strife if one spouse continually shares intimate details with others without the other spouse’s consent.

Get Married or Go to Jail?

Monday, September 21st, 2015


Imagine a Judge giving you a choice – get married or go to jail. This is essentially what happened to a Texas man who pleaded guilty to an assault charge of punching his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Judge orders man to get married or go to jail, by Tony Marco,, August 8, 2015. In that case, the Judge gave the man the choice between spending 15 days in jail, or two years of probation. One of the probation terms was getting married to his girlfriend within 30 days. Before the Judge executed the order, he apparently asked both parties if they were OK with that term of probation, and they both said yes. Accordingly, the order was entered and they got married shortly thereafter.

While the couple themselves seemed to be OK with the ordered marriage, the woman’s father was less than pleased and tried to talk them out of it. According to the father, “Judge Rogers stepped into my family and tried to tell them what to do without any regard for me or anything. This isn’t his decision. I told them they didn’t have to do this, but they were afraid. They are young and they didn’t now that they had any other options.” The father may very well be correct.

In Georgia, “[t]o constitute an actual contract of marriage, the parties must consent thereto voluntarily…” O.C.G.A. § 19-3-4.

Though this case is in Texas, it is likely that that state has similar laws regarding entering into marriage voluntarily. In this case, though both parties indicated that they were “OK” getting married, it is unknown if they would have actually gotten married if not for the probation terms. If they woman’s father is correct that the couple didn’t know they had any other options, this seems to indicate that they felt they had to get married and, as such, didn’t do so completely voluntarily. As such, they may not have a valid marriage.

If, however, the marriage does prove to be valid, they would certainly have a good ground for divorce if they lived in Georgia. One ground for divorce in Georgia is “force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage.” O.G.C.A. § 19-5-3(4). Here, there was certainly duress as the man was set to go to jail if the parties did not get married within 30 days. Thus, they would easily be able to obtain a divorce if they chose to do so.

Rights and Benefits of Marriage

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

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As Atlanta Divorce attorneys, we often write about the four core topics of divorce, which include equitable distribution, alimony, child custody, and child support here on our Atlanta Divorce Attorney blog. However, before a marriage can be dissolved by divorce proceedings, there must be a valid marriage to begin with. Once a couple enters into a valid marriage, the institution of marriage confers certain benefits, rights, and protections on each person. Once those rights and benefits are conferred by marriage, a divorce is necessary to legally sever this relationship and determine the respective rights of the spouses once the marriage is dissolved.  Just as the process to obtain a divorce varies from state to state, the rights and benefits conferred to couples upon marriage also vary. But, there are some benefits of marriage that widely applicable, these benefits typically include:

Tax Benefits: One of the most important financial benefits that comes along with marriage is the ability to file joint income tax returns with federal and state taxing authorities. The ability to file joint tax returns is important, because it allows couples to take advantage of tax deductions and other benefits not available to single individuals. And additional tax benefit derived from marriage includes the ability to create a “family partnership” under federal tax laws. Creating a “family partnership” allows families to divide business income among family members.

Estate Planning Benefits: Marriage also bestows very important estate planning benefits on married couples. Once married, spouses are entitled to inherit a share of the other spouse’s estate, receive an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property given to or bequeathed to the other spouse, and create life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples.

Government Benefits: Social Security, Medicare, disability benefits, and certain veterans’ and military benefits are just a few example of the government benefits spouses may be entitled to on the account of the other spouse due to marriage.

Employment Benefits: Certain employment related benefits are another important benefit conferred by marriage. For example, spouses are able to obtain insurance benefits through the other spouse’s employer, take family leave to care for the other spouse during an illness, and receive wages, workers’ compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.

Other Legal Benefits and Protections: In addition to the various types of marital benefits set out above, there are several other legal benefits and protections that are granted by marriage. This list is by no means exhaustive, but some of these other legal benefits and protections include: The ability to visit a spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility, the ability to make medical decisions for a spouse if that spouse becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment, the right to sue a third person for wrongful death of a spouse and loss of consortium, the right to claim the marital communications privilege during a court proceeding, and the ability to obtain  immigration and residency benefits for a noncitizen spouse.

One Woman, Ten Marriages

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

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In Georgia, a person can only enter into the contract of marriage if he/she: (1) is of sound mind, (2) is at least 18 years old (or is at least 16 with parental consent), (3) has no living spouse or previous undissolved marriage, and (4) is not related to his/her prospective spouse by blood or marriage. O.C.G.A. § 19-3-2. These prerequisites to a valid marriage are similar in every state. Still, they are violated fairly often, which will deem the marriage invalid.

For example, a woman in New York is facing felony charges for marrying ten different men – and only divorcing one of them. New York Woman Marries 10 Times, Only Got Divorce Once: DA, by Tara Fowler,, April 10, 2015. Liana Barrientos obtained New York marriage licenses for each of her marriages, but her scam was only uncovered after she filed her tenth marriage license. Barrientos is now being charged with filing fraudulent marriage licenses since, obviously, she knew that she had not been divorced before filing for each subsequent license. According to the article, it is unclear at this time whether the husbands will also face charges.

In Georgia, a marriage of persons unable to contract (such as by having a previous undissolved marriage) is void. O.C.G.A. § 19-3-5(a). Though this case is in New York, it is likely that that state has similar prerequisites to divorce as Georgia. As such, in this case, the only valid marriage would be Barrientos’ first or second one. If the one divorce was after the first marriage, then her second marriage would be valid. However, if the one divorce was not the first marriage, then the first marriage still stands and no subsequent marriage would be valid.

If Barrientos is interested in actually remaining married to any of these men, she may have a silver lining. In Georgia, if a marriage is void because of a previous undissolved marriage, “after removal of the impediment to marriage, a subsequent free and voluntary consent and ratification of the marriage accompanied by cohabitation as husband and wife shall likewise render the marriage valid.” O.C.G.A. § 19-3-5(b). Thus, if Barrientos obtains a valid divorce from the one valid marriage, she can ratify whichever marriage she chooses so long as her husband voluntarily consents and the parties live together as husband and wife. Unfortunately for Barrientos, this may be impossible, as it looks like she may be cohabitating in jail for awhile.


The Effect of Employment on Divorce

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

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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.

Should I Tell My Spouse I Cheated?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

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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.

Prenuptial Agreements on the Rise Nationwide

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The connotation that prenuptial agreements are legal tools that are only useful to the wealthy is still widely held. However, according to a survey of several family law attorneys nationwide, it appears that this view is dissipating and prenuptial agreements are gaining more and more popularity nationwide. According to a survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 63% of the divorce and family law attorneys report seeing an increase in clientele seeking prenuptial agreements within the last three to five years. Specifically, many attorneys reported seeing a 46% increase it the number of women requesting prenuptial agreements.

This increase in the interest and the instance of couples seeking prenuptial agreements prior to marriage may be due to several factors such as the current state of the economy, the trend of individuals tending to wait until later in life to marry and society’s increasing acceptance of prenuptial agreements. Regardless of the rationale explaining the recent upsurge in the popularity of prenuptial agreements, as Georgia divorce attorneys we suggest that any individual or couple considering entering into a prenuptial agreement seek independent legal representation to discuss the merits and possible drawbacks of a prenuptial agreement in the context of their specific situation.

Financial Infidelity

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Infidelity is one of the leading factors that lead to divorce in Georgia and nationwide. However, romantic infidelity is not the only sort of unfaithfulness that may lead to the dissolution of a marriage. Financial infidelity may also have a disastrous effect on a marriage.

The concept of financial infidelity may seem like a foreign one at first blush, but when you consider it, financial fidelity is often viewed by many as just as important to romantic or emotional fidelity. Trust is a vital part of any healthy relationship, and once that has been broken, regardless of how it has been broken, the relationship will suffer.  In a marriage, one of the biggest elements of that trust is with money. You and your spouse work hard, and you both expect to share the resources in some ways that benefit you both. But, when one spouse discovers that the other has been making financial moves that undermine the goals mutually agreed upon by both spouses, it can be a very hard pill to swallow.

Financial infidelity can come in all shapes and forms such as one spouse spending far more money than his or her partner imagined, racking up bills and quietly paying them out of the shared checking account, or even worse, a situation where one spouse is using marital funds to finance an extramarital affair unbeknownst to the other spouse. If you find yourself in a situation such as the ones described above, below are a few steps that you should consider going forward:

Step 1: Decide what you want from the situation. First, cool down and determine what outcome is most desirable and how you and your spouse can potentially work together to achieve that outcome.

Step 2: Ask yourself why your partner is doing this. Is it addiction, an affair, or is your spouse simply refusing to connect his or her spending to the goals you have together? Your ultimate solution may very well depend on the actual root of the financial infidelity.

Does your partner perhaps not agree with those goals you share?

Step 3: Have the conversation. Calmly share your concerns with your spouse and allow him to her to air their position. Try your best not to get angry. But if emotions get out of hand, simply end the conversation and give the situation more thought until both you and your spouse cool down. If despite several attempts at productive discussion, you and your spouse are still unable to reach an acceptable conclusion, it may be an indication of deeper problems in your marriage. If this is so, consulting with an experienced family law attorney may help you determine what steps you should take to ensure you and everything you have worked hard for are protected.

Should I Confront My Spouse’s Lover?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Post affair, the other woman (or man) is likely the object of several of your most intense negative emotions. You may be wondering; “Who is this person?” “Why are they doing this?” “What does this person have that I don’t?” and “Should I confront them about the affair?”

Whether or not to confront your spouse’s lover after discovering the infidelity is a deeply personal decision. However, if you are considering confronting your spouse’s affair partner, you should seriously consider the following:

  • Why? – What are your motives? Do you desire to confront the other man or woman in an effort to end the affair, or are you looking for an apology? Regardless of your motivations, please know that you will likely be disappointed. Remember, especially if this person knew your spouse was married, it is very likely that he or she has no sympathy for you. Before seeking to confront your spouse’s lover, consider the possibility that such a meeting may actually do more harm than good.
  • They may be crazy – Safety first. Regardless of whether you know the person your spouse is cheating with, no one likes to be confronted. Especially in cases such as this, individuals tend to react severely. Please, don’t needlessly risk your safety.
  • Don’t expect an apology – As mentioned above, if your goal in seeking to confront your spouse’s lover is to seek an apology, stop now. It is very likely you will not get one. In fact, it is not uncommon for the lovers of adulterous spouses to actually blame the injured spouse for pushing the cheating spouse away.

Where does your spouse stand? – Is the affair still ongoing, or has it ended? If the affair is still ongoing, there is a risk that confronting the lover may only add fuel to the fire. Although this may be hard to phantom, confronting your spouse’s lover may be an ego boost to your spouse. Please save yourself this humiliation. Although it may be tempting, it is often the case that the answer to the above posed question is a resounding “NO!” It usually isn’t worth it.

Cheating Spouse’s Guide to Rebuilding Marriage Post Adultery

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

You’ve cheated. You are laden with feelings of guilt and despair, and desperately want to come clean with your spouse. But, you’re sure that if you do, your marriage will never be the same, or worse, your spouse will divorce you. So, what do you do? First, realize that your marriage will not be the same. Upon learning of your affair, your spouse will be consumed with your affair. They will want to know who, when and most importantly, why. Second, try your best to be understanding. Your spouse is hurt, confused and feels betrayed, so don’t expect an easy resolution. If you want to rebuild your marriage post affair, take a look at the advice outlined below on how to work with your wife/husband to save your marriage after the trauma of an affair.

  • Your spouse will be angry. Grin and bear it. Try your best not to reciprocate with anger.
  • Expect for your spouse to distrust you for a while. Do whatever is in your power to show them you deserve to be trusted. Remember, you have betrayed their trust, and you will have to earn it back.
  • Save your spouse from the details of the affair. Even if they demands that you disclose details of the affair, or details regarding your lover’s appearance, resist. The occurrence of the affair has hurt them enough; spare your spouse the trauma of having mental images of your affair replaying in their mind.
  • Apologize, apologize, apologize.
  • Stop the affair. To save your marriage, you will have to be committed. Not only must you be committed to saving it, you must be committed to your spouse as well.

Saving your marriage is possible, but it is going to take a lot of work from both you and your spouse. You both have to want it.