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Cherokee County Divorce Law Blog

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.

Learning about divorce mediation

Georgia spouses who would like to have an amicable divorce may decide to pursue mediation. Litigation is not always the answer for individuals, especially if they may be able to reach a mutual decision that is in the best interest for both of them. Mediation may help couples negotiate their divorce.

Divorce mediation may decrease the expense of litigation. Individuals who would like to avoid excessive costs and the time-consuming nature of litigation may turn to mediation as an alternative. Another advantage to mediation is that individuals can play a more critical role in reaching a conclusion that is satisfactory to them. Mediation encourages settlement and can be helpful in the family law setting by removing parents and spouses from the adversarial system that is common in litigation. Mediation also provides confidentiality to individuals as they deal with private matters regarding their divorce and their children.

More grandparents getting legal custody of grandchildren

In Georgia and across the country, many grandparents are taking on the responsibility of raising their grandchildren. When children can no longer live with their biological parents for any reason, child welfare workers usually attempt to place the children with close relatives before seeking other alternatives. Placing them with grandparents can provide comfort to both the parents and the children because of similar surroundings and family values. This might help explain why the number of children being raised by grandparents in the U.S. more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

When children are abandoned by their parents or cannot be raised by their parents due to drug addiction, incarceration or similar circumstances, the grandparents often take on that obligation, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Because of this, several federal, state and local agencies have programs to assist grandparents with raising their grandchildren. This assistance includes financial support as well as help with a broad range of other issues that grandparents will face.

Actor financially unable to pay spousal support to ex-wife

Divorcing Georgia couples dividing up their financial assets may be able to learn from the experience of Hollywood actor Terrence Howard. Howard and his ex-wife are divorced, but he has told the court he cannot afford to pay her the $325,000 in spousal support stipulated in the divorce settlement. The reason, he said, is that all of the income he makes from his movies goes directly to his first wife to pay spousal and child support. After taking out the money, she then writes him a check, leaving him with less than $6,000 a month.

Howard has asked the court to throw out the settlement because he was married to his third wife for only one year. He and his first wife were married for 14 years and have three children, two of which are still minors. What complicates matters further while the court is working out the disbursement of funds is that Howard has allegedly been ordered to stay away from his ex-wife because of physical abuse issues. He has agreed to pay $14,800 of her attorney's fees.

Moore high-asset divorce finalized

Movie fans in Georgia and elsewhere in America may be familiar with filmmaker Michael Moore and his highly publicized divorce. Moore recently ended his marriage of over two decades with wife Kathy Glynn; the settlement was finalized on July 22.

Moore, 60, perhaps best known for his documentaries "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11," divorced his wife after the pair disagreed on the remodeling of their 10,000 square foot home. Moore reportedly accused her of spending five times more on the project than she had stated. The Torch Lake home was a popular party location for celebrities including Kid Rock, Madonna and Bruce Willis. Moore was also upset about the alleged breaches to his private electronic communications. Within the more than 700 pages of documentation he filed with the court, he asked that Glynn produce the findings of a private investigator she had hired.

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