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Family Law

What is Family Law?

Family law is the area of the law that includes divorce. However, family law is more than just divorce. Many people have family law actions that require a family law attorney's help. Family law is state specific. In Georgia, family law can include adoption, filing for paternity or legitimation of your child, grandparent rights, domestic violence issues, pre-nuptial agreements and much more. Below we have included information on common family law actions that may be relevant to you. It's important to note that family law is an area of the law that's rapidly changing. If you need help or have any questions, don't hesitate to call one of Meriwether & Tharp's experienced family law attorneys for help.

What is Legitimation in Georgia?

As stated above, family law encompasses more than just divorce. There are numerous legal matters that could affect your family. Legitimation is one of them. In Georgia, when a child is born to two unmarried parents, the father does not automatically have legal rights to that child. The father must file for a legitimation to have rights to their child born out of wedlock. Before the father legitimates their child, the mother has exclusive custody and she doesn't have to grant the father any visitation. This is why it's very important for fathers to pursue legitimation of their child in a timely manner.

What is Paternity in Georgia?

Paternity actions allow mothers to establish an order of child support for their child. When a child is born out of wedlock, the father has no legal rights to the child. This also means that the father does not have a legal obligation to pay child support. To establish the father's legal obligation to pay child support for their child born out of wedlock, the mother must file a paternity action establishing the child's paternity. Similar to legitimation actions, paternity actions are not always contested and are sometimes agreed to by both parents. This makes the process quicker and more cost effective.

Grandparents' Rights 

Do grandparents have rights to their grandchildren? Yes. However, it is important to note that this area of the law has been changing rapidly in Georgia since 2018. There are different rules for custody and vistiation for grandparents. It should also be noted that parents have rights as well when it comes to defending against grandparents' rights actions.

Learn More About Grandparents' Rights Generally.

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Grandparents' Custody Rights

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Grandparent Visitation Rights

Grandparent with custody of her grandchild.
Grandparents' Custody Rights

In Georgia, it is possible for grandparents to be awarded custody of their grandchildren. Nevertheless, Georgia law will generally presume that is in the best interests of the children to remain in the custody of their parents. Parents generally defend against grandparent custody actions by showing that it is not in the children's best interest to switch custody to their grandparents. Grandparents pursuing custody have to show it is for the best interest of the child or children and will best promote their welfare and happiness. Georgia law on grandparents' custody changed in 2020 and is still rapidly changing, if you have concerns in this area, be sure to contact one of Meriwether & Tharp's experienced family law attorneys.

Grandparent visitation with grandchild.
Grandparent Visitation Rights

Georgia law on grandparent visitation rights changed in 2018. In 2018, Georgia courts said it was no longer enough for grandparents to show that visitation was warranted because such visitation was "in the best interests of child" regarding their health and welfare. After 2018, for grandparents to make a compelling case for visitation, they must show actual or imminent harm to the child by clear and convincing evidence. The law in this area has been changing rapidly over the last few years. If you think you might have a grandparent visitation issue, it might be best to contact one of Meriwether & Tharp's family law lawyers for more up to date advice.

Temporary Protective Order (TPO)

Family violence/domestic violence is a very serious issue. People suffering from domestic violence need effective protection very quickly. This is where a TPO comes in. Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs) are sometimes commonly referred to as a restraining order. TPOs work to prohibit contact between the party seeking the order and alleged abuser. A TPO may also order the alleged abuser to vacate the family's residence or refrain from visiting a certain place or residence. In emergency situations, TPOs can be filed and heard quickly.

Family Violence/Domestic Violence 

In Georgia, domestic violence is referred to as family violence. Generally speaking, family violence is the commission of a felony or assault, battery, stalking, damage to property or trespass against family member or other persons living in the same household. Family violence is not just physical abuse. In many cases, mental, emotional and verbal abuse can make you a victim of family violence. Family violence is a very serious matter. If you believe you are in immediate danger please call 911 immediately.

Post judgment review of your divorce and appeals.

Post Judgment Review & Appeals

Not everyone will be happy with the final result of the divorce. Many people wonder, "what about after the divorce is finalized? What rights do I have if I disagree with the result?" You may not have the ability to file for a modification right away, but you do have other options. In Georgia, your first three options are likely, 1) Motion for a New Trial, 2) Motion to Set Aside and 3) Appeal. A Motion for a New Trial is filed when the evidence presented at trial is inconsistent with the result. This motion asks the court to reexamine the issues and findings of fact in the initial trial. A Motion to Set Aside asks the court to set aside the final judgment of the initial trial because of some kind of legal defect like lack of jurisdiction, fraud, or some other kind of non-amendable defect. Finally, an Appeal is a complicated legal matter that allows the filing individual to appeal the decision of a lower court to a higher court for purposes of being overturned.

A couple making a pre-nup in case of divorce.

What are Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements? 

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are contracts entered into by the parties before the marriage and after the marriage respectively. A prenuptial agreement, commonly referred to as a "pre-nup", is a contract that is designed to divide the couples assets & property in case of divorce. By contrast, a postnuptial agreement is a contract between two married parties entered into during the marriage. For people who are already married, a postnuptial agreement divides assets & property in case of a divorce.

Adoptions in Georgia

Family adopting children.

Adoption is the legal process by which a child is declared to be the legal child of an adoptive parent or parents. Adoptive parents must be several requirements that range from a particular age, residency and fitness as a parent.

Separate Maintenance

In Georgia, there is no such concept as "legal separation" as an alternative to divorce. However, there is a similar concept of separate maintenance. Separate maintenance is where a married couple can live separately but stay married and continue to receive the legal benefits of staying married. The couple will resolve all of the issues that would typically be resolved in divorce, but they will stay married and live separately and apart.

Additional Resources 

Feel free to read more about related topics. You've got questions, Meriwether & Tharp is here with the answers you need.
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