Nishit Patel knows that you have many questions that need answers when you face a family law issue. On this page, he provides answers to common questions that his clients ask.
Georgia law requires that at least one of the spouses be a resident of the state for at least six months before filing for a divorce. If you reside in another state, you can file in Georgia if your spouse has lived here for at least six months. In most cases, you file in the county where your spouse lives.
Divorcing spouses may agree on matters relating to equitable division of property, custody and parenting, alimony (spousal support), and child support, all of which are within the court’s jurisdiction in a divorce action. If the parties reach agreement themselves or with assistance from legal counsel or mediation, they prepare and sign a written agreement and file it with the court. The judge reviews the agreement to ensure that all the terms and provisions are consistent with the requirements of Georgia law.
If the spouses disagree on any of the issues within the court’s authority, the judge decides those issues for the parties.
Georgia law provides for equitable division of all types of marital property, including both assets and debts. The standard requires that property acquired during the marriage be divided equitably or fairly, which does not necessarily mean equally (50-50).
Separate property of a spouse is not included in the equitable division. Establishing that an asset (or debt) is separate property is sometimes an issue in a divorce case.
For some divorcing couples, division of marital property is a significant issue. Other spouses may be able to reach agreement on the division. But before you agree on property division, be certain that you fully understand your legal rights under Georgia law.
Yes. Georgia law gives courts wide discretion in awarding alimony, either during the proceeding or as part of the final divorce decree. Either party may ask the court to award alimony. In making a decision on alimony, the judge takes a wide range of factors into account. The potential for alimony is one of the important reasons that legal representation in a divorce is crucial.
In Georgia, judges decide child custody and visitation issues based on what is in the best interests of the child. In some divorce cases, custody is one of the most difficult issues to resolve. If your divorce involves issues relating to custody and visitation, legal representation is essential.
Both biological parents have a legal duty to support a child. In most cases, the court orders the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. The issue of child support is determined separately from custody issues, based initially on a mathematical formula that takes both parents’ income and financial resources into account. The judge can deviate from the formula amount when the child’s needs justify it.
If one of the parties fails or refuses to abide by a divorce decree, custody order, or support order, the other party can petition the court to enforce the order. Attempting to resolve violations privately, such as by withholding visitation for support payments or similar tactics, is not permitted under Georgia law. Agreements between the parties to modify the terms of an order are also not enforceable, unless the court modifies the order to include them.
If circumstances change substantially after the court enters a child custody or support order, you have to petition the court to modify the original order. An agreement between the parties to change the terms of custody or support is insufficient and not legally enforceable.
While Georgia law does not require a person to be represented by a lawyer in a divorce case, you should at least talk with an experienced divorce lawyer before you move ahead with a divorce.
Complex state laws and strict court procedures complicate the process. Specific detailed documents must be filed with and reviewed by the court. If you are not well-versed in the laws and process requirements, you can make mistakes that end up being costly and delaying the process considerably.
In addition, a Georgia divorce judge has broad-ranging authority to decide important issues affecting your property rights and alimony terms, as well as custody and support issues relating to children. If you are not aware of all your legal rights — and of the full authority of the court — you could make decisions that have a substantial negative impact on the rest of your life. Your lawyer makes certain that you know what your rights are and that those rights are fully protected during the divorce case.