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Cherokee County Divorce Law Blog

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.

Dealing with the home during a divorce

For divorcing Georgia couples, even contemplating the intricate process of property division can prove to be exhausting. Depending on the number and type of assets, it may be a more straightforward process or an incredibly complex one. In many cases, dealing with the couple's home can be an extreme challenge. If the home is rented, the issue is less difficult, but if the couple owns a home together, division may prove to be difficult. Often, one spouse buys out the other's share. This can be done with a new mortgage or gift or personal funds. In some cases, it may be difficult to determine which spouse will get the house. If need be, a divorcing person can see a lawyer to ask for advice on whether buying out the house is wise.

If neither member of the couple wants to keep the house, it may be sold and the profits divided. Some people prefer this, as it protects against sudden real estate depreciation. However, many become sentimentally attached to a house or want to keep it for other reasons. If a spouse opts to buy out the house, it's important to ensure that the home is refinanced to reflect only one name on the mortgage. If this doesn't happen and the owner fails to make timely payments, then both people's credit can be adversely affected.

Divorce, marital property and retirement benefits

Having the right strategy for property division at the end of a marriage could significantly improve an individual's financial security as a divorcee. People going through the divorce process, especially those 50 and older, may want to consider any retirement assets of a spouse during negotiations. In Georgia and most states, marital property is divided equitably in a divorce by a judge who presides over the settlement agreement according to the National Endowment for Financial Education.

With some exceptions like inheritances and gifts, most assets obtained by a couple while married are considered marital property. Retirement benefits can be a better option than other assets because of the opportunities they can offer for increased growth. A home, on the other hand, will most likely require maintenance and could depreciate in value over time. Additionally, retirement benefits awarded in a divorce can be used to pay for the legal fees accrued during the process. However, many financial advisers would not recommend that course of action. It should also be noted that those 59 ½ and younger have the option of making a one-time, tax-free withdrawal from either a 401(k) or 403(b).

Former Dodgers' owner wins divorce fees

In Georgia and elsewhere, a contested divorce can easily become a complex wrangle of financial disputes, and these cases get even more complicated when legal fees are at issue. This was the case in California, where the principle asset owned by a divorcing husband and wife happened to be a major league baseball team. The couple finally managed to reach a settlement but found themselves back in court when the ex-wife contested the agreement.

To discourage post-divorce modifications, a stipulation in the marital settlement held that any party contesting the settlement would have to pay the other party's legal fees. Nevertheless, the wife filed a motion to have the settlement overturned; further clouding the matter, meanwhile, was a $36 million lawsuit filed by a fan who claimed the team was directly responsible for a beating suffered at the ballpark.

Couples ending a marriage have financial decisions to make

Divorcing couples in Georgia already have a lot to deal with emotionally, but remembering a few tips early on could reduce stress and eliminate headaches later. Ending a marriage can put both parties in a different tax bracket, and preparing for that as soon as possible can help avoid a shock at tax time. The preparation process can include making decisions on joint debts and assets, how employment income could affect alimony payments, and child custody issues.

Gathering financial information can help both parties keep a proper perspective on how closely money and the legal implications of divorce are tied together. Georgia's equitable distribution law means the judge does not necessarily split a divorcing couple's assets 50/50 down the middle. Property owned by either party before the marriage will revert back to that person, but anything acquired during the relationship is subject to equitable distribution. A number of factors can come into play when determining what is fair and equitable.

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