Understanding the divorce process in Atlanta, Georgia
The reality of today's marriages is that over 50% of them will end in divorce. Divorce is a difficult process, and it may feel like you are alone, but obviously, given the divorce statistics, you are not. If you are thinking about filing an Atlanta divorce, there are many divorce issues which must be considered. If you have children or property it is even more important to understand the affects an Atlanta divorce will have on your family.
Does Georgia divorce law allow spousal support? How much child support will you have to pay or be entitled to receive? How will the courts decide to distribute your assets? How will your debts be divided? If you do not know the answer to all of these divorce questions, it is time to contact an Atlanta divorce lawyer.
Divorce lawyers in Atlanta help thousands of clients each year. Atlanta divorce lawyers understand that divorce is complicated and given the emotional stress of a divorce, you may need professional legal help.
Children and Divorce in Atlanta
Unlike other states, Georgia's child custody laws will allow a child, who is 14 years or older, to determine which parent they would like to live with after a divorce or separation. A child's preferences are the controlling factor and can not be contested by the other parent unless the Georgia courts determine the chosen parent is not fit for custody.
If the child is younger than 14 years of age, the Georgia court may evaluate a variety of factors to determine what child custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Custody arrangements which may be available in an Atlanta divorce include joint physical custody, joint legal custody, sole physical custody or sole legal custody. Courts will review all possible arrangements and will attempt to determine a custody arrangement which they believe is in the best interest of the child. Factors which the Atlanta court will consider prior to making a child custody decision in an Atlanta divorce will include:
- The age of the child
- The mental and physical needs of the child
- The history of the parent's interaction with the child including the emotional attachment of a parent to the child
- Whether either parent has a history of abuse or violence toward the child
- Whether both parents have the ability to encourage and support a continuous and positive relationship between the child and the other parent
- All other relevant information the court needs to consider
Child custody decisions in an Atlanta divorce are one of the most important decisions that will be made by your family. It is important to obtain the expert advice of an Atlanta lawyer regarding these matters. More information can also be found in the Georgia Code, Sections: 19-9-1 and 19-9-51.
Atlanta Child Support
In Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia, both parents are liable for supporting their minor child. Georgia has official child support guidelines which outline the method used to determine child support in an Atlanta divorce, if the parents are unable to come to a mutual agreement.
The court may evaluate a variety of factors to determine support payments including:
- The ages of the children
- The child's medical costs and extraordinary needs
- The child's educational costs, including daycare costs
- The amount of time the child spends with each parent
- The type of support obligations each parent has for the household
- Whether a parent has any hidden income
- The income of the custodial parent
- All other extreme economic factors
- Whether either parent has any extraordinary needs
- The spending level of the family
- The cost of insurance
- The cost of travel to visit or pick-up the child
Atlanta child support payments may be required until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school. Atlanta child support obligations may be terminated if the child marries or becomes emancipated. Atlanta child support payments may be modified by court order and may be allowed if the parent's income substantially changes.
Child support laws can be complicated. Contact a divorce lawyer in Atlanta if you have questions concerning the amount of child support which must be paid or you may be eligible to receive in an Atlanta divorce. More information for calculating child support in an Atlanta divorce can also be found in the Code of Georgia Annotated, 19-5-12, 19-6-14, and 19-6-15.
Enforcing Atlanta Child Support
If you are the custodial parent of a child and are not receiving child support payments you can contact The Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) for help. The DCSS provide a variety of child support services for parents in Atlanta and other cities throughout the state of Georgia. Child support services which are provided include:
- Locating noncustodial parents
- Confirming paternity
- Establishing Atlanta child support orders
- Enforcing child support orders
- Enforcing and establishing Atlanta medical support orders
- Collecting and distributing Atlanta child support payments
Failure to pay child support has very severe financial and legal consequences for non-paying parents including:
- Withholding child support from paychecks, unemployment or weekly worker's compensation benefits.
- Intercepting federal or state income tax refunds to pay for child support which is in arrears
- Reporting parents delinquent in Atlanta child support payments to credit bureaus
- Suspending or revoking driver's, professional, occupational hunting or fishing licenses for failure to pay child support
- Reviewing and changing Atlanta child support orders periodically
- Intercepting lottery winnings of more than $2,500
- Filing contempt of court actions
- Filing liens to seize matched bank accounts, lump sum worker's compensation settlements and real or personal property
- Denying, suspending or revoking the passport of someone who owes more than $2,500 in child support
Information above is provided from the Division of Child Support services in Georgia.
Atlanta Divorce Laws
Like all other states, Georgia has instituted state laws which outline grounds for filing for a divorce. Couples who wish to file for an Atlanta divorce must meet the state guidelines and must have evidence to support their divorce claims. Divorce grounds in Georgia include no-fault and fault based grounds.
Atlanta No-Fault grounds for divorce:
- Irretrievable breakdown of a marriage - Under this condition an Atlanta couple may file for a divorce if they can prove their marriage is broken and can not be repaired. The petition for dissolution of the marriage will not be granted until 30 days have elapsed from the date of filing the Atlanta divorce petition.
Atlanta Fault Based Grounds for divorce:
- Consanguinity - The spouses were too closely related by blood to marry.
- Mentally incapacitation - Either spouse was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage and unable to consent to the marital contract.
- Force, duress or fraud
- Pregnancy - The wife was pregnant with another man's child at the time of the marriage, and her condition was unknown to the husband.
- Adultery - Either spouse has had sex with another person other than their spouse.
- Incurable mental insanity
- Willful and continued desertion - Either spouse has left the other spouse for at least 1 year.
- Felony Conviction - Either spouse has committed a felony and has been imprisoned for a term of 2 years or longer.
- Habitual drunkenness
- Cruel Treatment
- Impotence - Either spouse is impotent at the time of the marriage.
Divorce law in an Atlanta divorce can be complicated. Contact an Atlanta divorce lawyer if you have questions about whether or not you can file for an Atlanta divorce. More information can also be found in the Georgia Code - Sections: 19-5-3
Legal Separation in Atlanta
Under Georgia state laws there is not a status called "legal separation", but couples may be legally separated if they are no longer having marital relations and they consider themselves separate. Couples should formalize their separation by filing a separation maintenance action which is defined under O.C.G.A. § 19-6-10. The separate maintenance is basically a lawsuit which is filed in an Atlanta court which will address all of the common separation issues surrounding your marriage (division of property, child custody and support of children) but does not grant an Atlanta divorce.
Separation maintenance orders can be drafted by either spouse with or without the assistance of an Atlanta divorce lawyer. This document is a legal document and is a binding legal order which serves to define how each spouse wishes to have the marriage issues resolved. Prior to filing a separate maintenance order, one of the parties to the marriage must have been a Georgia resident for at least 6 months. More information about residency requirements is outlined in the Georgia Code Section 19-5-5.
Annulments are allowed under Georgia state law, although in recent years with the increase in no-fault divorces and the decreasing stigma of getting a divorce, annulments have become increasingly rare. Meeting Georgia's annulment requirements may be more difficult than simply filing for a no-fault divorce. If you are considering filing for an annulment in Atlanta, it is important to contact a divorce lawyer.
Petitions for an annulment in Atlanta must be filed in the appropriate Superior Court and have many of the same procedural requirements as an Atlanta divorce. Filing an Atlanta annulment will not entitle either spouse to permanent alimony payments.
Annulments may be allowed in Atlanta if the Atlanta court considers the marriage void at the time of its initiation. Common actions which void an Atlanta marriage will include:
- Consanguinity- The husband and wife were related in such a way which is prohibited by Georgia law.
- Mental Incapacity - Either spouse did not have the mental ability to agree to the marriage contract.
- Underage Marriage - Either spouse was under the age of 16 and was too young to consent to the marital contract.
- Fraudulent Marriage - Either spouse was forced or fraudulently coerced into the marriage contract.
- Bigamy - Either spouse was married to another person at the time of the marriage
Marriages which were forged by fraud, duress or where a spouse is underage become valid if they produce a child. Under these conditions the spouses will not be allowed to file an annulment but must file for a Atlanta divorce.
Atlanta Divorce Residency Requirements
All states, including Georgia, have instituted state laws which outline divorce residency requirements. Most couples will not have difficulty meeting these requirements, unless they have recently moved or are planning to move in the near future. Contact an Atlanta divorce lawyer if you have divorce residency questions about your Atlanta divorce.
Georgia divorce residency requirements are as follows:
Spouses must reside in Georgia for 6 consecutive months before they file for a divorce in Atlanta or any other city in Georgia. Uncontested divorces in Atlanta may be filed in the county where the filing party currently resides. If the Atlanta divorce is contested, the filing party must file in the Atlanta County where their spouse resides. Military personnel who are stationed in Georgia must have lived there for the year before they file for divorce. The divorce action can be sought in any county next to the military base where they are stationed (Georgia Code - Sections: 19-5-5).
Alimony in Atlanta
Spousal support or alimony is the payment of money or other types of financial support to one spouse, either permanently or temporarily, after an Atlanta divorce. No spouse is guaranteed alimony in an Atlanta divorce, and a spouse will not be awarded permanent alimony in an Atlanta divorce if they are guilty of desertion or adultery. However, temporary alimony payments may be awarded without regards to this issue.
The courts will evaluate each divorce on a case-by-case basis and determine if a spouse is entitled to either a lump sum award or periodic payments. Atlanta spousal support payments will end at the death or remarriage of the requesting spouse or earlier if determined by the court.
Atlanta courts will not make final alimony judgments until they have reviewed the following factors in the Atlanta divorce:
- The future earning capacity of each spouse
- The standard of living in which each spouse has become accustomed to in the marriage
- The current financial status and income of each spouse
- The assets of each spouse
- Whether the requesting spouse has made non-economic contributions to the marriage which can include career building, homemaking and child care duties
- The conduct of each spouse during the marriage
- The age of each spouse
- The mental and physical health condition of each spouse
The duration of the alimony payments is also determined by an Atlanta court after they have reviewed the following:
- The amount of time it will take the requesting spouse to obtain the proper education and training to become self-supporting
- The length of the marriage
Spousal support may be a contentious legal issue. Modifications may be possible, but there are restrictions to modifying the length of time it will be paid. Lump sum alimony is not subject to modification. Talk to an Atlanta divorce lawyer if you have questions about the amount of alimony you may receive or the amount of alimony you may be required to pay after an Atlanta divorce. More information about alimony after an Atlanta divorce can also be found in the Georgia Code, Sections: 19-5-5, 19-6-1 and 19-6-5.