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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.