Archive for June, 2013

GA Domestic Partnerships: An Alternative Solution for Alternative Couples

Posted on: June 7th, 2013

Several readers have sent me emails asking the same question: “Are Georgia domestic partnerships limited to same-sex couples?”  The answer is “Of course not.”  Same-sex couples living in Georgia tend to use domestic partnerships more frequently because of the political and legal climate that surrounds same-sex marriage.  Simply put, same-sex couples are the ones who most frequently create domestic partnerships in Georgia because they lack the alternatives available to heterosexual couples.  However, many heterosexual couples seek the protections of a domestic partnership agreement.

For example, consider the rather common case of a boyfriend and girlfriend who live together, but are not married.  They may be philosophically opposed to marriage, or they may be giving marriage a practice run – “try before you buy” if you will.  In either case, the law views each person as roommates.  While you might be living with the most important person in your life, the law does not see it that way.  In this case, a full or limited domestic partnership might be an appropriate choice for the couple.

Another common situation is an older, or middle-aged, couple, where at least one person has been married before.  While they may be happily in love with each other, the scars and bitter experiences of their earlier marriages and past divorces (even uncontested divorces) leave them unwilling to remarry.  Or one of their divorce settlements might leave one or the other in a situation where remarriage is not an option.  In this case, a domestic partnership agreement could be the right choice.

A less common scenario is polygamy.  While polygamy is often a taboo subject in America, it is common and legal in other parts of the world.  What is the loving family to do, where the husband has legally married more than one wife in his home country, and then the family decides to immigrate?  Under American law, polygamy is illegal, so he has to choose which of his wives he wants to keep, and which one he wants to “demote.”  A domestic partnership would be an excellent choice to make sure his entire, extended family is cared for and protected.

As you can see, domestic partnership agreements are an option for everyone.  Everyone’s situation is unique however, so while a domestic partnership is always an option, it may not be the best option.  That’s why, when thinking of making a, hopefully, life-long commitment, you should consult one of our domestic partnership attorneys who specializes in GA family law so that you can do what is right for you.

Ending a Common Law Marriage

Posted on: June 5th, 2013

Although no legally recognized marriage ceremony is performed or civil marriage contract established, a common law marriage is legally binding in some states such as Alabama, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Texas, and in some rare instances, Georgia as well. While each state’s laws vary, generally speaking to be considered a common law marriage a man and woman must reside together in a state that recognizes common law marriage for a significant period of time. The couple must hold themselves out as a married couple meaning the couple uses the same last name, refer to each other as “my husband” or “my wife,” or file joint tax returns. Lastly, the couple must intend to marry as legally contracted on the basis of the state’s rules and regulations.

If created before January 1, 1997 the state of Georgia will recognize a common law marriage. Georgia no longer has a common law marriage and there are no circumstances that will allow a couple to form a common law marriage regardless of how long the couple have lived or will live with each other. However, Georgia may recognize common law marriages that occurred in other states.

The existence of a common law marriage requires the couple to proceed with a formal divorce to end the relationship. If you are ending a relationship considered to be a common law marriage we advise you to speak with one of our experienced divorce attorneys to see what options are available for you. We look forward to hearing from you!

Visitation Rights of Grandparents in Georgia

Posted on: June 3rd, 2013

In recent years the issue of a grandparent’s right to seek visitation has been a controversial and propagating phenomenon. Prior to former president Clinton’s signature of the Visitation Rights Enforcement Act in 1998, grandparents were awarded visitation rights only within the state they resided. If the custodial parent were to move to another state the grandparent would be faced with additional litigation to exercise their rights of visitation in the child’s new state of residency. The passing of the Visitation Rights Enforcement Act enabled grandparents the right of visitation without regard to which state the child resided.

Although the act grants visitation rights to third parties no matter the child’s location within the United States, states interpret the act differently leaving grandparents without guarantee of their ongoing access to a grandchild. To seek child custody or visitation rights in Georgia, grandparents can file an Original Action for Visitation or become involved in an existing case for custody, divorce, adoption, or termination of parental rights.

However, it is important to note that in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville in 2000 the court ruled that a fit parent will be awarded the exclusive legal right to determine who visits their children. In Georgia, the Supreme Courts have ruled that requiring grandparent visitation may violate a parents’ right to raise a family without interference.

The visitations right of grandparents and third parties remains hotly debated and presents difficult and complex legalities. We advise speaking with one of our family law attorneys if you are experiencing a visitation or custody issue. Our attorneys can advise you of your rights and responsibilities, and help you determine the best course of action for you and your family. We look forward to working with you.