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Cherokee County Divorce Law Blog

How does the court determine parenting time?

Every couple that divorces in Georgia and has children must develop a parenting plan. Within this document, the parents must acknowledge that it is in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both of them. The parents will also acknowledge that the needs of the child may change as the child gets older. The plan stipulates that the parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions about the child.

A parenting plan will spell out when each parent will have custody of the child during weekends, holidays or school vacations. In addition to stipulating when the child will be in a certain parent's custody, it will also determine when visitation will begin and end. Details regarding how the child will be transferred between parents and where the child will stay will be determined by the terms of the parenting plan.

Grounds for divorce in Georgia

In Georgia, marriage is a legally-binding contract that can only be dissolved through the courts. Couples who believe that their marriage is irretrievably broken may file for a no-fault divorce. With this option, there is no need to show wrongdoing on the part of either party. The only requirement is that one spouse must establish that he or she will no longer reside with the other party and that there is no hope of reconciliation.

There are other instances where one party may want to establish that the other is at fault for the dissolution of the marriage. Georgia recognizes twelve different fault grounds. These include mental abuse, physical abuse, mental incapacity at the time of marriage, impotency at the time of marriage, marriage under fraudulent pretenses, addictions and mental illness. The conviction and imprisonment of one of the spouses for certain crimes is also included.

State of Georgia uses formula to determine child support needs

There are a number of different things to take into account when a Georgia couple wishes to end a marriage, particularly how any and all children shared by the spouses will be cared for into the future. One of the most difficult parts of the entire divorce process comes when one party is asked to meet certain child support obligations with the other.

As of 2007, Georgia laws regarding child support obligations underwent several changes. The primary difference in the new law as opposed to older models includes consideration of both parties' income levels when determining child support payment orders and amounts. Gross income, or totals for all income earned, for each party is now averaged together to come up with one final amount.

Georgia child custody details

Divorcing parents should familiarize themselves with information pertaining to the custody of their minor children before appearing for a hearing on the matter. If the parents are able to discuss the issue of their children's custody together, they may come to some agreement on many or all aspects, and these agreements may then be presented to the court for approval.

In a divorce case, the judge is allowed to choose who gets custody. If parents want to equally share in making decisions on issues such as their children's religious teaching and education, joint custody can facilitate such mutual participation. Sole custody gives one parent the legal authority to make all decisions concerning the children. The other parent, called the noncustodial parent, may be given visitation rights but will not be sharing in any decision-making role.

Legal battle over Georgia gay marriage ban continues

Georgia banned same-sex marriage with a 2004 constitutional amendment, but the move is being challenged in the courts. Similar efforts have been initiated in all of the other states that currently do not allow same-sex marriages. The group bringing the action in Georgia is spearheaded by a same-sex couple who filed a suit in April 2014 petitioning a federal court to compel Georgia to recognize same-sex marriages.

However, the group received a setback in July 2014 when the Georgia attorney general filed a motion to dismiss the suit. The motion asserted that the issue of gay marriage in Georgia was a state matter, and it argued that a federal court lacked the jurisdiction necessary to grant the gay marriage advocate's petition.

Adoption and the necessary steps

Georgia residents who are thinking about adopting must be at least 25 years of age if they are single and need to be at least 10 years older than the children in question. Married people must be living with their spouses and must be 10 years older than the child, or children, to be adopted. Both married and single people must have resided in the state for six months before filing the paperwork to begin the adoption process.

Those interested in adopting in Georgia must start the process by contacting the Department of Family & Child Services then attending an information session. From there, interested parties must attend training offered by either their counties' DCFS or a licensed adoption agency that is contracted by DCFS. Part of the training includes a home assessment and leads to an evaluation of the family seeking to adopt. If approved after those steps, people are considered to be in pre-placement and are waiting to have children assigned to them. They also have the option to identify children who they would like to adopt. Lastly, an adoption petition must be filed after a release is sent to a parent-to-be by DCFS. A successful hearing with a superior court judge finalizes the process.

Wife seeks sole custody in high-asset divorce

Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire hedge fund manager, made headlines and may have caught the interest of Georgia couples when he decided to divorce his wife, Anne, to whom he has been married for 11 years. On Sept. 2, she filed documents in Cook County, Illinois, that formally requested she be allowed to move to New York and take sole custody of their children. According to court documents, she asserts that their prenuptial agreement, which she signed on the day before their wedding in July 2003, should be voided because she was pressured into agreeing to it under stressful circumstances.

According to the filings, Mr. Griffin suggested that the couple attend counseling in order to work through their differences prior to the wedding. They saw a psychologist who advised her to sign the agreement. However, the documents also say that Mr. Griffin was already a patient of that psychologist prior to the counseling session and did not disclose that information to his wife-to-be at that time. She contends that the counseling session was a ruse intended to convince her to sign.

The basics of property division in a divorce

In a U.S. divorce, property and debts are divided according to either community property law or equitable distribution principles. Georgia, along with most states in the country, is an equitable distribution state, meaning that absent an agreement between the parties, assets and debts are divided in a manner that the court deems fair, but which may not be equal.

Thus, if one spouse in Georgia made significantly more money than the other spouse during marriage, a judge may determine that the most fair way of dividing the couple's marital assets is to give the higher-earning spouse a larger portion. Property division does not necessarily mean a literal division of property, as certain assets like a house cannot be physically divided. If a judge does believe that it would be most equitable to give each spouse an equal share of something like a family home, the judge may order the parties to sell the home and split the proceeds in half.

Prenuptial agreements on the rise

The number of couples using prenuptial agreements is growing, but since no one is required to report it and many people find the subject distasteful or embarrassing, the exact numbers are unknown. Prenuptial agreements carry a stigma and many people think that they are only for the rich who want to protect themselves from gold diggers. However, these marital agreements are a practical tool that could offer Georgia couples security and a chance to discuss important matters regarding finances and property division.

Assets that people bring into a marriage are considered separate property and are not subject to division in the event of a divorce. However, income earned while married, which might include monies from separate assets, could be seen as marital property. Some couples prefer to keep their earnings and assets separate. Georgia has an equitable distribution statue that requires a fair distribution of marital assets, but a prenuptial agreement could classify certain assets as separate and exempt.

Georgia couples hope to see end to same-sex marriage ban

Same-sex couples that have not been allowed to legally marry in Georgia have a reason to be cautiously optimistic for change. A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia allowed a decision to end the state's same-sex marriage ban to proceed. While the U.S. Supreme Court has now blocked that ruling and granted a stay, supporters of same-sex couples' right to marry in Georgia hope that their state will be the next to repeal its same-sex marriage ban.

In 2004, an amendment to Georgia's state constitution made it illegal for same-sex couples to marry. Voters approved the amendment through a referendum. In recent years, however, courts in many other states have found that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional and invalidated them.

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