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Cherokee County Divorce Law Blog

Georgia custody disputes may be resolvable without court

In Georgia and other states, parents and guardians who become involved in custody disputes may be able to avoid going to court. While formal judicial resolution can provide useful resources for families during their battles, court cases are only one way to settle such arguments. Parents can also devise unique parenting agreements that set the terms of future interactions with their ex-spouses and children. These documents are commonly filed along with divorce paperwork, and they become legally binding after gaining official approval from a judge.

According to legal advisors, parenting agreements should address certain specifics. Though these compromises are dependent on the circumstances of each case, issues like physical custody of a child, parent visitation schedules and contact with relatives and third parties are all commonly included. Parents may also want to consider deciding where their children will spend time during significant events like birthdays and holidays. Those who draft vacation and custody schedules in advance can incorporate such details into their agreements.

Limiting the cost of a divorce

Getting a divorce can be an expensive process in Georgia, but there are ways for individuals to keep the costs in line. Financial planners encourage those going through one to prepare for the divorce ahead of time by developing a better understanding of their assets, income, living expenses, and debts. Worksheets can be used to work through the process, and specialists can help in cases where there are family businesses or high-value assets.

People may also want to learn more about their rights and responsibilities in relation to the divorce process. While someone may not want to pay child support, for example, the state may have clear guidelines for determining the amount of support that will be required. Fighting against those legal guidelines may prove to be expensive and fruitless. However, there may be other areas where an individual will have a strong legal case for limiting their losses.

Divorce evidence can be found on social media web sites

Georgia spouses who are contemplating a divorce may want to watch their personal posts on social media sites. That's because their spouse could use these postings as evidence against them to bolster their chances of a more favorable divorce settlement.

Two-thirds of U.S. lawyers say they use Facebook postings as a key source of evidence, according to the American Association of Matrimony Lawyers. Postings on other social media sites, such as Twitter and MySpace, also are used. These sites are good ways to connect with old friends and make new ones, but they also set the stage for potential divorce and child custody battles. Using social media sites to find evidence is acceptable under the law.

Credit, debt and division of assets in divorce

Couples in Georgia who are divorcing often need to work out issues regarding the division of their assets and debts, and they may also need to consider how this will affect their credit reports. Individuals should make certain that they close any joint accounts shared with ex-spouses because they may still be held responsible for those accounts. They should also remove authorized users from individual accounts since the owners of those accounts are liable for the debt.

A divorce decree may divide debts between a couple, but creditors are not necessarily bound by the divorce agreement. If two individuals share a debt and one is supposed to take responsibility for it but does not, the creditor may pursue the other one. The delinquent debt may also appear on the credit reports of both individuals.

Divorce can affect a parent's taxes

Georgia parents who may be going through a divorce may be more worried about which parent will be awarded child custody than their taxes. However, decisions made regarding how the child's time may be split up can actually affect a parent's taxes once the divorce process is complete. As such, tax incidence should be taken into account during the divorce process.

A major tax decision that must be made is which parent will be allowed to claim the child as a dependent. Since only one parent can claim a child, some parents negotiate an agreement that allows them to claim the child every other year. If the couple had more than one child, one parent may claim one child while the other parent may claim the other child. In some cases, the custodial parent may allow the non-custodial parent to claim the child. For every child that is claimed as a dependent, certain tax credits and exemptions may be available.

Divorce battles more frequently include pets

Georgia families may recognize that custody can be a serious issue during a divorce, and pet custody is becoming a common issue for those facing divorce across the country. As battles reach the court room, many are recognizing that a pet is an important part of a family, in some cases filling a gap for a couple without children. This makes the handling of a pet somewhat different than deciding who will receive furnishings and other marital assets.

Statistics indicate that pet ownership has increased dramatically in recent years with nearly 180 million dogs and cats owned by U.S. citizens. Conflict over pets during the division of assets is significant for some because of the relationship and routine established as a pet is involved in family life. A 2013 New York case involving a major battle over custody of a couple's pet led to an approach based on the best interests for all concerned. The judge in the case appointed a single day in court for a hearing on the matter, at which issues such as custody, visitation and care were decided.

How relocation affects child custody

A divorced parent in Georgia who is considering moving may wonder what the laws are regarding child custody. If a parent who has primary physical custody intends to move some distance away, it may be more difficult for the other parent to see the child.

Although laws about parental relocation differ from state to state, in Georgia, it is not illegal for a custodial parent to move. However, the parent who is moving must give the other parent 30 days' advance notice, and that parent may apply for modification of visitation or custody on the grounds that it constitutes a material change of circumstance.

A court will consider a number of factors in deciding what happens next, but the abiding concern will be the child's best interests. A court may switch primary custody to the other parent or revise the visitation schedule. If the noncustodial parent decides to apply for custody, the court may weigh factors such as the age of the child and the child's wishes as well as how disruptive such a move might be for the child.

Can children decide which parent they want to live with?

When divorced or separated parents in Georgia cannot come to an agreement about child custody issues, a judge will have to make those decisions. While considering the different options, a judge might take the wishes of the child into consideration or let the child decide where they would like to live. However, the child must have reached a certain age before they can have an influence on a custody decision.

If a child is between the ages of 11 and 13 when their parents separate, a judge will listen to the child's wishes about which parent they would like to live with. The child's wishes will be considered, but the judge might not necessarily honor them when making a ruling in the case.

Steps to filing a divorce in Georgia

A person who is considering divorce often does not know where to start. Georgia law has established a specific procedure by which a divorce may be filed in order to commence the action. By following the necessary steps, a person may successfully file a divorce case and begin the process of negotiating or litigating its terms.

The first step a person must take is to ensure that Georgia has jurisdiction over the matter. In order to file in the state, the petitioner or the spouse must meet the required residency period prior to filing. If the residence requirements are met, the instigating party may file his or her petition with the court. When the documents are filed, the petitioner will be provided with a notice and summons to respond. Together with the petition, all of these documents must be properly served on the petitioner's spouse.

Dissolving a domestic partnership in Georgia

Domestic partnerships differ from traditional marriages in many ways, but they also share similarities, especially in regards to ending the relationship. When partners wish to separate, they have two options for where to file their petition. If the partners have very few assets and agree to separate, they may file their petition through the county clerk's office or Secretary of State. If a couple has major assets or one partner contests the separation, however, they may need to file a petition in court.

When a couple wishes to dissolve a domestic partnership, the court may treat asset division the same way it does a divorce. The court may divide any assets that the couple acquired during the partnership that were not gifts or inheritances. Depending on the situation, the court may divide all assets equally or divide them based on each partner's equity interest.

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