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6 Things You Should Look For When Choosing A Divorce Attorney

Posted on: May 19th, 2015

Woman Looking Into SunsetBy: Shannon Hames

When I was going through a divorce a few years ago and looking for a divorce attorney, I had no idea what to look for when it came time to choose one. My main concern was my ability to afford the retainer. I chose my lawyer based on his low retainer and I have spent the rest of my time regretting that decision. I now advocate for people (especially women) to do their research and look for these 6 things in a lawyer before hiring one:

  1. EXPERIENCE – What kind of experience does the lawyer have? How much time has he spent before a judge in a courtroom? If not much, he may steer you to settle to avoid arguing in front of a judge. If he lacks in negotiation skills or can’t use knowledge of the law to your advantage, you may end up giving up more than you can afford to lose. Education is not the same thing as experience.
  2. WISDOM – As we progress in life and have experiences, we gain wisdom. We start to pick up on subtleties and that helps us avoid the pitfalls. A wise attorney can use their experience to help steer you away from those pitfalls. Wisdom is a difficult thing to gauge, but look for it nonetheless.
  3. COMPASSION – It’s not always about the money. There are few things worse than a heartless lawyer who lacks compassion. I know because I hired one based on his cheap retainer. After he forgot about my case until the night before, showed up unprepared and made me call friends from the courthouse to testify for me (causing me to lose all of the important things), he then asked the judge to have my ex pay him an additional sum and never returned a call to finish my case.  How do you know if a lawyer has compassion? Find out if he volunteers his time? Does he take indigent cases? Does he have a good online reputation? He may be a member of a legal or social club, but a lawyer with a good heart will be using his legal talents for business as well as for helping those who cannot help themselves.
  4. TOUGHNESS – This is important. There are some lawyers out there who are “bulldogs” and can be very tough. They have a way of intimidating other lawyers and scaring them into settling an issue that could have a different outcome with a tougher lawyer who can give it right back. Find one who knows how to stand strong for you.
  5. KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW – This cannot be overstated enough. A lawyer who knows the law and keeps up with the changes and understands the importance of continuing education can easily outsmart a lawyer who doesn’t put in the same effort.
  6. KNOWLEDGE OF THE LOCAL COURT / JUDGE – When a lawyer spends time in the courtroom arguing his cases, he gets to know the style and temperament of other lawyers and judges. If you hire a lawyer who doesn’t know your county court or judge, you could be doing yourself a huge disservice.

3 Things Social Media Can Reveal to Damage Your Divorce Case

Posted on: May 8th, 2015
Atlanta Divorce Attorneys

Social Media can negatively impact divorce cases

As the popularity of social media continues to grow, our staff of Atlanta divorce attorneys see things that come out on social media which have an impact in their divorce cases. We usually advise our clients to use caution on social media during a divorce because everything on social media may be discoverable. To give you some ideas about what can be found and used against you, these are 3 things that social media can reveal to damage your divorce case:

  1. Questionable Parenting – Sometimes, parents use social media to teach their children a lesson. This article highlights how parents took to social media to shame their children. It created controversy about parenting and what some feel is a private matter that should be handled quietly at home. Although it may be your parenting style to talk about how you busted and punished your child on social media, certain judges might see it as abusive. Oversharing is another problem that can arise for people; not only in their own life, but also in the lives of their children. Posting embarrassing photos, personal information and generally eliminating any privacy for the child can become an issue in a divorce case.
  2. Affairs – People who post photos and videos of them with a person that they might be dating can be damaging. A court may respond negatively to a person who “flaunts” their new relationship on social media. In addition, documenting a relationship through social media can be used in court to deny spousal support or to demonstrate character (or lack thereof). Your best bet: keep your romantic life off of social media.
  3. Lifestyle – Some lawyers have used the pages a person likes, such as a drug legalization group, to support arguments against someone’s character before a judge. They can also use photos, videos, comments on other people’s pages/blogs and other digital footprints to build or bolster a case against you. Checking in at the Cheetah Lounge at 3am when you are supposed to be at home with the kids may speak volumes to a judge when it comes time to prove that you should not get custody of your children.

Deactivating your social media may be the safest route when it comes to protecting yourself in your divorce case. If you must use social media, do not assume your ex can’t see it due to your privacy settings. Do assume that your spouse and the judge can and will see everything you post. If you keep this in mind, it will help you make good choices about what you should and should not post during your divorce.


Who Can Legally Marry You?

Posted on: April 30th, 2015

Atlanta Law Firm This week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments for marriage equality and our Atlanta law firm is following this issue closely. Kitchens New Cleghorn provides legal services to many same-sex couples, and we fully support the dignity of their relationships. Although a large part of our business is helping some people end their marriages in the easiest way possible, we celebrate marriage and respect it for the special institution that it is. That’s why when one of our friends had pics on social media showing her officiating a wedding in Florida, we got curious about who can be a wedding officiant here in Georgia.

Kitchens New Cleghorn law clerk Burton Peebles researched this issue for us (what the law specifically says about who can act as a marriage officiant in Georgia). Here is what he told us:

“A marriage license may be authorized in Georgia by any Governor; former Governor of Georgia; any judge, including judges of state and federal courts of record in Georgia; city recorders, including recorders outside of their municipality; magistrate judges; ministers; or other persons of any religious society or sect authorized by the rules of such society to perform the marriage ceremony. This provision is interpreted broadly. However, if not a judge, justice of the peace, Governor or former Governor, city recorder, or magistrate, an officiant must have the authority under the rules of any religious society to solemnize a marriage (i.e. a deacon, elder, or ordained minister).”

Our rules are very liberal in comparison with some other states, such as neighboring North Carolina, where some “officiant” certifications obtained online do not satisfy their legal requirements to perform marriages. To ensure your marriage will be legal, be sure that your officiant is legally certified to perform the marriage ceremony.

 


4 Things You Should You Know About Georgia Adoptions | Atlanta Adoption Attorneys

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015

Atlanta Adoption AttorneyIn addition to being Atlanta divorce attorneys, we also have the happy job of being Atlanta adoption attorneys. The absolute joy of helping to create families for Georgia’s children is one of the best parts of our law practice. Because adoption should be encouraged, our lawyers want to educate Georgians on the 4 most common things that people should know before they decide to embark on their adoption journey:

  1. Age is a factor

    You must be 25 years old or older to legally adopt a child in Georgia. Although there are many people younger than this who are mature enough, the law requires this minimum age as a way of mitigating pitfalls from becoming a parent before you are financially and emotionally ready to assume responsibility for a child.

  2. Fiscal responsibility is a must

    The law requires that a person demonstrate a healthy level of responsibility when it comes to managing money. Your financial background will be considered when you apply to adopt a child. Be sure that you have repaired any damaged credit issues and can prove that you are capable of earning an income that can provide for he needs of a child.

  3. Your home will be inspected

    It’s a typical requirement that your home is inspected when you adopt or foster parent a child. You don’t need to have a house like Martha Stewart to pass the inspection, but you do need to demonstrate that the adopted child will have his own room, bed and the normal amenities (electricity, running water, etc.) that one would expect in a safe home.

  4. Character counts

    Obviously, Georgia has a vested interest in placing children with people who have solid character. This includes having friends and family who can speak well of you and your character. It also means that you must have a clean criminal background check.

For more information about the adoption process, you can check out the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services page. If adoption is something that you have been considering, please visit our website and learn more about our adoption services here in Atlanta.

 


What is Family Law? | Atlanta Divorce Lawyers

Posted on: April 8th, 2015

Family LawAll Atlanta divorce lawyers see their share of couples who want to end their marriage. But at Kitchens New Cleghorn, we don’t limit our practice only to divorce. We also practice family law.

Family Law is a term that encompasses a variety of core services. These services include both contested and uncontested divorces, adoption, child support, alimony, marital property and prenuptial agreements. Sometimes, people may have already gotten a divorce but needs change and they may require a modification to a child support agreement. Or perhaps a couple wants to protect their assets before deciding to marry so there will be less to argue over or lose in the event of a divorce in the future.

Because each family is unique, law services should be designed to customize to each different family situation. In addition, a great lawyer knows that it’s important to know what the goals for each family are.  There should never be a “one size fits all” approach to legal care.

Other Atlanta divorce lawyers may also have family law practices. But at Kitchens New Cleghorn, we work with our clients to protect them from unforeseen roadblocks. We also draw upon our experience to help them navigate the complexities of the law in regards to their particular situation. It is a satisfying experience to see the love on the face of a newly adopted child, or the relief on the face of someone who had a positive outcome in a worrisome divorce case. We practice family law because we value new beginnings and enjoy serving others in this way.


The Business of Marriage | Atlanta Law Firm

Posted on: April 3rd, 2015

Plans A B and COur Atlanta law firm sees a variety of problems, including divorce. But as a business, we can certainly see the value of treating marriage like one, too. Planning ahead, setting goals and knowing how to solve potential problems if/when they occur are all business principles that can be applied to marriage in order to strengthen it.

One of the first things people do before starting a business is to write a business plan. It’s a road map for how the business will operate and includes things such as mission statements, culture, human relations, budgets and growth plans. All of these aspects of a business plan can be applied to preparing for a marriage. Here’s how:

  1. Mission statement – what is the purpose for your marriage? Talk about this with your partner and write it down. This might be the time that you find out that you both think about the purpose of marriage very differently and may avert problems on down the road if you understand why you want to marry.
  2. Culture – what do you want your home life to be like? If you know in advance that your spouse will be in front of a giant-screen television every weekend watching some type of sporting event while you envisioned shopping at flea markets and antique stores with them, you may both be in for a big disappointment. Talk about what you want your home life to be like, how you will treat guests, how you will raise children, spend holidays, etc. Make your agreements before these issues come up.
  3. Human Relations – how do you make sure that you are both receiving your benefits package? (You know, the benefits of being married?) What if someone needs to be written up for a reoccurring problem? How will you handle conflicts? How can you reward excellent effort?
  4. Budget – how you will manage the cash flow? Do you want to save a certain amount for a home down payment? Do you want to pay off debt first? Will you carry a balance on your credit cards? Will you consult each other on large expenses before making a purchase? What should each person do to contribute to these goals? Discuss and come up with a strategy to make sure that you have a mutual understanding of your financial goals.
  5. Growth – do you want children? When? How many? What if a natural pregnancy isn’t an option? Adoption? In vitro fertilization? Foster-parents? What are your plans (and back-up plans) for expanding your family past the two of you? The time to make these decisions is now, before you tie the knot.

After you’ve decided to marry your friend, sit down together to work through these issues and, as this article in Forbes explains, write down your goals (plans) to commit to, you can expect an easier time making important life decisions together because you will have already done it before.


5 Steps of Divorce Mediation | Atlanta Divorce Practice

Posted on: March 24th, 2015

Atlanta Divorce Mediation

In our Atlanta divorce practice, we sometimes have clients who are not able, for a variety of reasons, to come to an agreement on one or more terms of their divorce. When this happens, we can arrange for our clients to try to resolve their disputes through divorce mediation. The two biggest reasons we recommend mediation as a tool is to save money and because anything can happen in a courtroom. If a couple can’t resolve their differences and end up asking a judge to decide, they may not like the terms of the divorce that a judge will set for them.

mediation

The mediation process is often misunderstood. People sometimes don’t realize that it can be a good, cost-effective way for a couple to come to a settlement agreement.

The process is fairly simple:

  1. The couple meets at the mediator’s office and each person is seated in a separate room with their own lawyer.
  2. The mediator, a trained listener, will usually have a brief meeting with the attorneys to get an overview of each side.
  3. He/she then meets with and listens to both parties individually to identify the areas of agreement and disagreement.
  4. He/she will impartially go back and forth to act as a negotiator, often keeping the important issues at the forefront and filtering out the emotions. He/she will try to keep things moving forward in a positive direction so that each party can see that progress is being made.
  5. Any areas of agreement that can be worked out are written up and signed off on by both parties. Sometimes, people leave with a partial agreement and go before a judge to hear and decide on only one or two issues.

Speaking with a client about her recent mediation experience, she described it this way:

My ex-husband can be very intimidating and had been bullying me each time we had to see each other. Mediation took the pressure off of me because I didn’t have to sit face-to-face with him and feel afraid. I had an amazing mediator with a great personality who took the time to really listen to what I needed and why. He asked many questions and was able to calmly reason with my ex-husband. The mediator got him to see the facts of the case outside of the anger he was feeling towards me because I wanted to leave the marriage. Our mediator helped us both understand the reality of what a judge could or would say to us if we were to go to court. As a result, we were able to evaluate our risk and came up with a settlement that we could both live with.

Mediation does have pros and cons, as Joyce Kitchens explains in this video. But because a mediator works for both people, unlike a lawyer who only works for their client, both parties know that they have a person who is trying to work with them to help them. For this reason, mediation usually has a very high success rate and is a tool that we endorse when our clients are not able to come to a resolution.

 


Financial Impact of Divorce on Women| Atlanta Divorce Attorneys

Posted on: March 19th, 2015

Credit CardsAs Atlanta divorce attorneys, we get to assist many women in their divorce cases. They come from a variety of backgrounds and have many different types of living and working arrangements. We work to help them come up with fair and equitable settlements so that they can move forward in a positive direction at the end of it all. But sometimes, especially in the area of finances, divorce can have a significant negative impact on the lives of women.

According to a recent NBC News Feature, women can be at a severe financial disadvantage after divorce for a variety of reasons. Among them are lack of education, childcare expenses, relying on an unreliable ex-spouse to meet child support and debt servicing obligations, and stay at home moms spending too much time outside the workforce when they need to return after a divorce. In addition to these problems, divorce sometimes impacts a person’s credit rating.

How can women prevent such negative consequences? First, check out 5 Things to Consider Before Filing for a Divorce. Then, try to get as much education as you can before you file. Update your resume and find employment before you are in a crisis mode. If you can’t work, try to work as a volunteer so that you will have some recent work experience to put on your resume. Pay any outstanding bills to clean up your credit and start to build your support network with friends and family. Then, call us and set up an appointment for a consultation so we can make a plan to minimize risk and maximize your life, post-divorce.


Is Porn Preventing Marriage? | Atlanta Law Firm

Posted on: March 10th, 2015

Atlanta Divorce AttorneysOur Atlanta law firm does a variety of work including divorce, adoptions, contracts, business and protections for same-sex couples. Many people have heard how painful divorce can be and how the emotional upheaval of the changes that ending a marriage can bring. As a result, some decide not to marry in order to avoid the potential emotional and financial problems. That’s why it surprised us to read that a team of researchers determined that the rise of free Internet pornography is causing the decline in the percentage of young adult males who are married, and may even be contributing to the trend.

Michael Malcolm, an associate professor of economics at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, told an interviewer that he believes this study was a convincing argument. “Pornography increases the alternatives for sexual gratification.”

In addition to the porn meeting a sexual need, people are finding that they can stay home and have their social needs met through video games and virtual works can provide a false sense of gratification that sometimes leads to isolation and a lack of support system.

The problem is being studied by psychologists and sociologists. The consensus is that although the internet is supposed to serve us by making our lives more efficient, it is becoming the very thing that is preventing us from entering into a wide variety of social contracts, including marriage.


One Million Per Month for Child Support ?

Posted on: February 27th, 2015

When it comes to divorce settlements, a good family lawyer knows that child support can be a huge factor in the Child Supportdivorce agreement. Recently, the estranged wife of billionaire Ken Griffin asked a court to grant one million dollars per month for child support for their 3 children, ages 2, 4 and 7.

Dias Griffin is basing her request on an Illinois law what says children of divorce “are entitled to continue the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.” According to her budget, the money is necessary. She plans to spend $14,000 on food for the 3 children, $160,000 on monthly vacations, and don’t forget the thank you notes that will be sent on $2,000 per month in stationery.

Mrs. Griffin has also asked the judge in the case to nullify her pre-nuptial agreement that Mr. Griffin had her sign the day before their 2003 wedding. She reported to the court that it was signed under duress and only gives her 1% of his estimated net worth. That 1% happens to be $50 million dollars.

In our family law practice, we try to help our clients get the necessary support to continue to keep their children in the same standard of living they were used to during the divorce. Although there is no standard amount for child support, our partner, Jeff Cleghorn, gives a brief overview about how child support is calculated in the state of Georgia. If you want to discuss your child support needs, please give us a call today!


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