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Sometimes, even though a couple has been struggling in their marriage, when one spouse files for divorce (the petitioner) it can be a shock to the other spouse (the respondent). Both parties may feel a mixture of emotions ranging from sadness or relief to betrayal or anger.
Hopefully the emotions of divorce do not overtake rational thought and lead to poor decision-making. Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent in an Atlanta divorce, an experienced attorney can help steer you clear of decisions which you may regret. An attorney is there to provide counsel and offer legal options, although the choices are always yours to make.
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If you and your spouse have been married 20 months, there may be little or no attachment to the assets accumulated during your marriage. If you and your spouse have been married for 20 years, the situation could be entirely different. If one of you is a stay-at-home parent, you may be attached to the house and its garden. Conversely, if the house was a remodel, the spouse who did the remodeling may be very attached to the home.
The marital assets have not only financial worth; they may have emotional value as well. It is generally in the couple’s best interest if they can agree on how to divide their assets and debts. If they can’t agree, the court will decide while considering factors such as:
- Behavior or each party prior to and during divorce proceedings (hiding assets or spending down assets)
- Child custody arrangements
- Each spouse’s present and future financial needs
- One spouse’s contribution to the increased earning power (career or schooling) of the other
- The age and health of each spouse
- The contribution of each as a parent, wage earner or homemaker
- The couple’s standard of living
- The length of the marriage
- The type of property and its value
Alimony Or Spousal Support
When a couple is a career couple, it may be possible that neither party will be required to pay spousal support or alimony, although this is not always the case. Reasons that a judge may order alimony range from the need for career training, the desire to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, the health of each spouse and whether or not the divorce was on grounds of adultery.
In Georgia, a spouse who was proven to have committed adultery is barred from receiving alimony.
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The court prefers that a couple come to an agreement regarding child custody. Isn’t that what most couples prefer also? If you and you ex-spouse can be civil to each other, you have a chance of holding joint high school graduation parties, and both dancing at their weddings. It is important to understand that should you and your spouse not agree on child custody and a parenting plan, the court will make a determination for you.
Child custody can be either legal or physical. Parents can share either one, or have sole custody of either type. Legal custody is the ability of a parent to make decisions regarding medical, educational and religious issues. Physical custody is the actual physical location of the child, or who is responsible that day for the food, clothing, shelter and well-being of the child.
The court prefers shared custody, and has no preference for the gender of a sole-custody parent. Common custody and parenting plan arrangements include:
- Joint legal custody and shared physical custody. The child spends every other week with each parent and alternates holidays. Some couples alternate at six-month intervals, although this is not common.
- Joint legal custody and primary residential parent. The child lives at one home and has weekend overnight visits with the noncustodial parent. Holidays and vacations alternate.
- Joint legal custody and an out-of-state nonresidential parent. If the noncustodial parent moves away, the children may visit once per quarter, during school holidays, or in some cases spend the entire summer with the out-of-state parent.
- Sole legal custody and visitation. If one parent has an addiction, or there has been a history of abuse, one parent may have sole legal custody and visitation may be required to be supervised.
In instances where the divorce was on grounds of adultery, the child custody is not affected by the grounds for divorce. Alimony may be impacted, however.
Both parents are required to support their children until the age of 18 or the age of 20 if the child is still in high school. If one parent is the primary custodial parent, or in instances where there is income disparity, one parent may be required to pay child support to the other parent. The state of Georgia has child support guidelines, and an online calculator form, although the information is detailed and the forms can seem complicated.
Consultation with an experienced divorce attorney may provide you with a more accurate estimation of your potential child support payment. The court considers several factors including:
- Either parent’s child support obligations to children from a previous relationship
- Any extraordinary needs of a parent (medical condition, for example)
- Financial and child care contributions of each parent
- Costs of education (private or public school)
- Custodial parent’s income
- Day care expenses
- Each child’s medical costs or extraordinary needs
- Extreme economic circumstances (natural disasters, job layoff)
- Family spending levels prior to divorce
- Health insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs
- Potential hidden income of a parent
- Shared physical custody arrangements
- The ages of the children
- Visitation travel expenses for out-of-state or long-distance parent
After the divorce is finalized, and if the circumstances change significantly, either parent can request a post-divorce modification of child support or child custody determinations.
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High Net Worth Divorce
The division of property for a high net worth couple can require the use of financial consultants with specific areas of expertise. An experienced divorce attorney representing a client in a high-asset divorce should know who to contact for precise types of financial issues. Those issues could include:
- Foreign holdings
- Hard to value assets
- Hidden assets
- Illiquid assets
- Long-term investments
- Patent ownership or intellectual property
- Real estate rental property
- Silent partner in a Limited Liability Partnership
- Valuation of a family-owned business
A judge or a jury will decide the financial issues, including the division of property and alimony.
Approximately 106,000 servicemen and women call Georgia home, at least temporarily. Whether stationed at Fort Benning, Fort McPherson, Robbins AFB or other military location, if you are seeking a military divorce in Georgia, you may wonder how it may differ from a civilian divorce. In many ways, such as the division of property, waiting periods and residency requirements, they are the same or similar.
The area in which a military divorce is the most different is the area related to child custody. Shared child custody determinations and parenting plans, if one parent may be deployed for an extended period of time, can be difficult. Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent in a military divorce, it is a wise idea to consult with an attorney who has military divorce experience. Many of the decisions which you and your spouse will be making have long-term ramifications, and so you want to make those decisions carefully.
Divorce And Bankruptcy
When most people think about dividing their marital property during a divorce, they may think about the assets. Who gets the house or will it need to be sold? Will my spouse get my car? How do we divide the boat?
It’s important to keep in mind that the debts are split as well as the assets. If one spouse had a secret credit card, the debt would belong to both parties, even though only one party knew about the debt. Similarly, if one spouse files for bankruptcy after divorce, the creditors could come after the ex-spouse, even though the debts were assigned during the divorce to the spouse filing for bankruptcy. In this way, one ex-spouse filing for bankruptcy could force the other spouse to file for bankruptcy protection also.
If you or your spouse is at risk for bankruptcy, it is important that the issue is thoroughly discussed with a qualified divorce attorney as well as a bankruptcy professional.
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Why Hire An Atlanta Divorce Attorney?
There are many factors to consider when divorcing, one of which is the type of post-divorce relationship you wish to have with your ex-spouse and your children. An experienced divorce attorney can work with you to obtain the type of post-divorce life you’d like to have. If you have concerns about the well-being of your children, your attorney can work with you to protect their best interests. If having a cordial relationship with your ex-spouse is important to you, your attorney can help you work toward that goal as well.
Divorce law varies per state, and to some extent varies per county. The type of experienced divorce lawyer you may want is one who will work to protect your best interests and those of your children.
How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer
Some people have a trusted family lawyer who writes the family wills, handles the real estate closings and maybe represents someone charged with drunk driving. Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent in an Atlanta divorce, you may be best served by obtaining the legal services of an attorney who focuses his or her legal practice on divorce. A general practice lawyer may not fully understand the nuances of divorce laws in Georgia.
When choosing a divorce lawyer, look for an attorney who has represented people who are in a similar situation compared to yours. If you’re a high-asset couple, look for an attorney who is familiar with complicated financial matters. If you are likely to face a child custody battle, look for an attorney who has succeeded in previous cases.
There are many choices you will need to make when obtaining a divorce. Selecting a qualified and experienced Atlanta divorce attorney is your first choice. Get a FREE divorce case review today.