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Cherokee County Divorce Law Blog

The arguments for and against same-sex marriage

Many Georgia residents hold strong views both in favor of and against same-sex marriage. While some hold these opinions based on religious or moral beliefs, others see same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue. Passions run high on both sides of the argument, and the issue has featured prominently in recent years on ballot initiatives and in the courts.

The civil rights argument is based on the principle that all people should be treated equally under the law. This argument largely deals with the legal and financial benefits of marriage unavailable to same-sex couples who have been denied the right to marry. Such benefits include the ability to file joint income tax returns and qualify for benefits under a partners health insurance coverage or pension plan. Civil unions are supported by some as a way of providing these benefits to same-sex couples who are unable to marry.

How is child support determined?

Divorce or separation may be a difficult prospect in any situation, but when children are involved, the scenario can become much more complex. Child support laws can vary by state, but in Georgia, both parents' incomes are considered when the court is deciding the amount to be paid. The courts may also look at severance pay, pensions, lottery winnings and bonuses, among other financial considerations.

When determining child support obligations, both parents' monthly gross incomes are added together to form the combined adjusted income amount. Once this amount is reached, it is compared to the Child Support Obligation Table. This table takes into account the combined income as well as the number of children involved. The chart then provides a specific amount that is necessary for the monthly care of a child.

Child custody in Georgia

Parents and guardians in Georgia may benefit from learning more about how the state handles child custody issues. Noncustodial parents who are interested in obtaining custody of their children are required to file a petition for a custody change with the Superior Court that presides over the custodial parent's residing county. At the hearing, noncustodial parents are required to exhibit material proof of a significant change in circumstance that directly affects family life and the child's best interests.

Custodial parents who have been scheduled for military deployment are expected to arrange any temporary changes or modifications to their parenting plan as soon as possible. In regards to grandparents obtaining visitation or custody rights, family courts typically consider birth parents' rights first. If either parent is willing to care for the child and is deemed competent to do so, a judge may be compelled to grant them custody before any grandparent.

Is support offered to adoptive parents?

The state of Georgia offers assistance in certain adoption cases where it considers the child to have special needs. This includes any child who has any physical, emotional or mental disability, which a licensed psychologist or physician must validate. The definition also includes any child who has been in the custody of anybody other than the biological or legal parents for more than two full consecutive years.

Another special needs case that qualifies for adoption assistance involves biological siblings. As an illustration, if one family cares for a set of two or more siblings, the state may allow that family to receive assistance in one form or another. This is to encourage adoptive parents to keep siblings together and compensate them for doing so.

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.

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