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Cherokee County Divorce Law Blog

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.

Dividing a house during a divorce

Georgia property owners who are going through a divorce may wonder how the property will be divided between the two former partners. Even if one spouse is award a house that was owned jointly in the divorce decree, both names will still be on the loan unless the owner files for a new mortgage. The mortgage will still show up on the credit report of both people despite the decree of divorce. If one person's name is on the loan, creditors can sue that person because they still have a contract with them, even if the divorce decree states that the other person is keeping the home and taking on the debt.

One option for splitting up large assets such as a home is for the spouse who will be leaving the property to buy the other one out and for the spouse who is staying to refinance the property in his or her name alone. Doing this prior to the divorce can make the whole process go much more smoothly. That way, the spouse who is moving out will be able to qualify for new loans. If the spouse who is moving cannot pay the full amount of the other spouse's investment in the home, gift funds may be used to reach the full amount.

Understanding the current divorce rate

Residents in Georgia may be surprised to hear that the national divorce statistics may not be on the rapid increase that have many grown to expect. Despite widespread public perception, recent studies suggest that the divorce rate is not as high as 50 percent and is not increasing as many have been led to believe. New statistics show that the high divorce rate realized during the late '70s and early '80s were more akin to outliers than long lasting trends.

Data shows that approximately 70 percent of the marriages started in the 1990s are approaching their 15th anniversary. During the 1970s and 1980s, only 65 percent of the marriages lasted that long. In addition, couples that married during the 2000s are divorcing at even lower rates. Economists believe that the feminist movement of the q970s contributed to the current declining rates. Modern marriages are now based more on sustaining comparable incomes, mutual interests, love and shared household duties.

What is the Hague Convention?

Prospective adoptive parents in Georgia may be interested to learn about the Hague Convention. Each country creates its own laws and standards in regard to the protection of children. However, the statutes of individual countries are not sufficient to protect the interests of children who are adopted internationally.

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption establishes standards for international adoptions with the goal of safeguarding intercountry adoptions. The Convention focuses on working to ensure that an international adoption is in a child's best interests. In addition, the Convention seeks to prevent the trafficking, sale of or abduction of children.

Understanding and avoiding adoption fraud

The adoption process can be delicate and emotional. Adding to the difficulties that are already present during such proceedings, some prospective parents may fall victim to adoption fraud. Families in Georgia considering an adoption may benefit from recognizing warning signs of such fraud.

Adoption fraud is defined as any intentional wrongful misrepresentation or illegal action taken by someone involved in the adoption process while seeking financial gain. Also known as wrongful adoption, the birth mother, the adoption agency or the prospective adoptive parents can perpetuate this type of fraud. Adoption fraud includes such actions as an agency charging too much for the process and a birth mother taking money from more than one family for medical bills, payment of housing and other expenses. Other examples include a woman who is not pregnant posing as a birthmother while requesting payment of expenses, someone trying to sell a baby online, and adoptive couples who promise to adopt a baby and disappear once the adoption process is complete.

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.

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