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GA Separate Maintenance or Divorce?

Posted on: August 12th, 2013

Georgia Separate MaintenanceA popular question clients often ask is whether they should pursue a Georgia separate maintenance agreement instead of a divorce. This is an important question because there are significant differences between the two. It’s crucial to understand these differences so that you can make the best choice for you and your situation. Our experienced Atlanta divorce attorneys can discuss each option with you in detail so that you feel comfortable with each and can make an informed decision.

A GA separate maintenance means that a couple remains legally married but live separately and are officially separated, without actually being divorced or their marriage being dissolved. Generally speaking, a couple may choose to go the route of a Georgia separate maintenance agreement for several reasons. One reason is that the couple is opposed to divorce on a moral or religious level, but no longer wish to live together and want formal separation. Another reason to choose separate maintenance over divorce is if an individual wishes to keep health insurance or social security benefits.

If the above reasons sound like they are an important part of your decision-making process, it’s essential to speak with one of our Atlanta family law attorneys for individualized legal counsel. Depending on your situation, our attorneys might advise you that either separate maintenance or divorce would best protect your interests. Regardless of which option you choose, the same set of issues must be resolved, including separation of assets, alimony, and if you and your spouse have children, child custody, visitation, and support. The successful resolution of these issues  require experienced legal assistance, and will literally determine the course of the rest of your life. Don’t wonder whether you made the right choice when it comes to your future – contact our caring attorneys for a free consultation. They will address your questions about Georgia separate maintenance, divorce, and anything else you may be wondering regarding Georgia law.

Image courtesy thewhitestdogalive on Flickr.

Domestic Partnership Agreement in GA: Do You Need One?

Posted on: August 12th, 2013

Domestic Partnership Agreement in GAIf you live in Georgia and are in a same-sex relationship, you might have heard about the benefits of obtaining a domestic partnership agreement. However, you might not know exactly if you need one or how to go about obtaining one. Unfortunately, since same-sex marriage is not yet recognized by the state of Georgia, it is important to take specific legal steps to protect your family and your assets from the court system, which will not follow your wishes when it comes to distributing your assets.

So, an important question to ask yourself regarding whether or not you need a Georgia domestic partnership agreement is, are you and your partner in a committed relationship? If the answer is yes, a domestic partnership agreement is Georgia is an important step in protecting your relationship. Another question you should ask yourself is, do you or your committed partner have significant assets? Or do you have children? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, filing for a domestic partnership agreement is essential, and will make sure that your assets go to the people you wish them to, and not simply to biological relatives, which is often the case in Georgia courts.

In fact, a domestic partnership agreement is one of many legal protections our Atlanta family law attorneys recommend to gay and lesbian clients in Georgia. Our Atlanta domestic partnership attorneys can assist with a variety of other crucial legal measures that will protect you and your interests under Georgia law, including estate planning and more.

The important thing is to be proactive about your future and the future of your loved ones. Our Georgia family lawyers have extensive experience assisting gay and lesbian couples with filing a domestic partnership agreement in Georgia. Don’t leave something as essential as the well being of your partner and your children to chance. Contact our caring, professional Atlanta lawyers today for a free domestic partnership consultation.

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Alimony in Georgia: What You Need to Know

Posted on: August 12th, 2013

Atlanta alimony attorneysIf you are considering filing for divorce in Georgia, or have been served divorce papers, there’s a chance that alimony payments will be a part of your divorce negotiations. There are many factors that determine alimony payments in Georgia, which our experienced Atlanta alimony attorneys can explain to you thoroughly. However, it might be helpful to you to have a brief overview of how alimony payments are a part of the divorce process in Georgia.

Here’s what you need to know about alimony in Georgia:

  • In Georgia, alimony is awarded based on the particular financial needs of either spouse, and also on the projected capability of each spouse to earn income. Although alimony is typically thought of as applying only to women, it isn’t based on gender, so if the husband has demonstrated financial need and can’t earn income, there’s a possibility for him to be awarded alimony in Georgia.
  • Georgia law separates alimony into temporary and permanent. Temporary alimony is sometimes awarded in GA during the divorce process to provide financial stability to the spouse that is dependent on the other. Permanent alimony is usually incorporated into the final divorce decree, and how it is paid out, whether lump sum, periodically, or a combination of both is established at this time.
  • A variety of factors go into determining alimony payments in GA. Some of the top considerations include the standard of living each spouse had during marriage, how long the marriage lasted, the physical and emotional condition of each spouse, other financial resources the parties might have, and more.
  • In Georgia, alimony typically ends if the spouse receiving alimony remarries or passes away.

The final most important thing to know about alimony in Georgia is that it is often a hotly contested issue during a divorce, so it’s imperative to have an  experienced Atlanta divorce attorney on your side throughout the process to ensure you receive the alimony payments you deserve. If you would like to speak with one of our divorce attorneys in Atlanta about your alimony concerns, simply fill out the form to the left or give our office a call for a free consultation.

Image courtesy gwilmore on Flickr.

The Quickest Way to Get a Divorce in GA

Posted on: August 12th, 2013

Georgia Uncontested Divorce, quickest way to get thereIf you’re looking to file for a divorce in Georgia and want it to be completed as quickly as possible so you can move on with your life, you do have some options, but even the fastest route will take a minimum of a month. Also, it may not be in your best interests to complete your divorce as quickly as possible, for a variety of reasons. Here are a few things you need to know about the time it takes to get a divorce in Georgia.


Dealing With the Stress of Divorce

Posted on: August 12th, 2013

Divorce and StressIn terms of psychological stress, divorce ranks among one of the most stressful and traumatic experiences a person can face in life. While stresscan be positive and push us to achieve in life, too much stress can cause a series of negative health effects, both psychological and physical. While an experienced Divorce lawyer can mitigate some of the stress you may face during divorce, it’s still important to be aware of, and even prepare for, the intense amount of stress a divorce introduces into a single person and their entire family system.

Some of the most common causes of stress, many of which are directly caused or intensified by divorce, are:

  • Major life changes
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Financial issues
  • Family and children
  • Uncertainty about the future

Even though stress during a divorce is inevitable, there are steps you can take to reduce it as much as possible to get through this extremely challenging period in your life. Here are some of the best ways to deal with the stress of divorce:

  • Consult with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as you think you, or your spouse, considers filing for a divorce. In this critical period before divorce proceedings begin, you have the opportunity to do as much as you can with a caring attorney ahead of time to make the divorce process  less stressful.
  • Find a licensed mental health professional near you. If you haven’t considered therapy or counseling before, the time leading up to and during a divorce is a good time to start. A counselor or therapist will be able to help you manage the stress brought on by a divorce in new ways that you might not have thought of. Also, it’s good to establish this relationship, as many choose to continue this therapeutic practice during the aftermath of a divorce.
  • Practice self-care. During a divorce, especially if you have children, your first inclination will be to do everything you possibly can to reduce the stress of others, even at the expense of your own well-being. Take self-care days off from work (if you can) and just focus on you. Do things you love simply because you love doing them. You will need to lean on these practices during and after divorce.

Again, the best way to deal with the stress of divorce is to have a vastly experienced and knowledgeable divorce lawyer on your side who will guide you through this complex and difficult process. Contact us today for a consultation.

What the World Would Look Like If Divorce Disappeared Tomorrow

Posted on: August 12th, 2013

A world Without DivorceAt least for the foreseeable future, it would seem that divorce attorneys will still be necessary. Divorce is a fact of our world, of our society. However, that doesn’t stop anyone from dreaming what a world without divorce might look like. Here are a few changes, a mix of both practical and speculative, that might occur if divorce disappeared tomorrow:

  1. Marriage would take on new meaning. Without divorce, marriage would never be looked at the same way again. If marriage was absolutely set for life, a covenant in the traditional way western societies have approached divorce (minus Henry the 8th and his ilk, who used more violent means of approaching the issue), there would be two watershed effects. The marriage rate would most likely decrease even more than it has been, and the average age of marriage would increase as well. If marriage was truly forever, many would think twice before ever popping the question.
  2. Need and utilization of marriage counseling might increase. Every relationship has difficulties, no matter if it’s a marriage, friendship, or even two strangers. Yet seeking help from a licensed marriage counselor when things go south isn’t often utilized as a resource, for a variety of reasons. If divorce was gone and the only way forward was to make it work, couples might flock to marriage counselors. One could argue that this might improve at least the mental and emotional health of our society, in that people who might desperately need counseling wouldn’t seek it out except for in the need to make marriage work.
  3. People would still be human. Despite the positive benefits of divorce being gone, there would definitely be some downsides. Even if divorce disappeared, there would still be people who are unhappy and unsatisfied in their marriage, and there would still be legitimate cause for seeking a divorce, including among many other things, abuse. How society would approach those cases would be a difficult challenge, and provisions would have to somehow be made for separating relationships that are clearly unhealthy for one or both parties.

Only time will tell how the evolving role of divorce will impact society in the future. For the present, if you are considering a divorce, seek the guidance of  a practiced Atlanta divorce lawyer.

Can Business Expect More Progress on Immigration Reform

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013
Will Immigration Reform Move in the House? Not Surprisingly, the Answer has Everything to Do with Politics

Businesses of all sizes – and many businesses in Georgia – are generally supportive of comprehensive immigration reform moving through Congress today because it will make it easier to hire much needed workers.  Yet despite the support of the business community and bolstered border security provisions – both of which helped attract 14 Republican votes in the Senate – prospects for the bill’s passage in the Republican-controlled House this fall remain dim.

Why is that the case?

To get to that answer, we should start with why Congress took up immigration reform in the first place, which according to a recent Gallup poll was 11th in a ranking of issues voters thought were important.

Nevertheless, Democrats put immigration reform at the top of the agenda in 2013.  Why?  Well to a large degree because of the Hispanic vote, which went overwhelmingly for the President and his party in 2012.  According to Pew, Latinos voted for Democrats by a margin of 71% to 27% this last election cycle, a percentage similar to the support President Clinton received in 1992.  But Latinos were only 2% of the electorate in 1992.  By 2012, that percentage grew to 10% and is expected to double by 2030.

Some Republicans looked at those percentages and recognized that they might never win another national election if they continue to lose the Hispanic vote by such large margins.  So some of the Senate’s most conservative members joined forces with Democrats to support the Senate’s immigration reform bill.

But in the House, many Republicans not only don’t need the Hispanic vote to win re-election, supporting a path to citizenship for those here illegally today – or anything that could be characterized as “amnesty” – would be a huge political liability and could invite a primary challenge.

So what has to change for the House to move on immigration reform this fall? Either Republicans looking out for the future of the party’s national prospects are able to convince enough House Republicans to support a bill, which might not be at odds with their constituents back home.  Or the Speaker of the House John Boehner will have to pass a bill with a majority of Democratic votes in the interest of the national party.  The former probably would have happened by now if it was going to happen and the latter might very well cost Boehner his speakership.

So if political calculations put immigration reform on the agenda in the first place, political calculations will also likely determine the bill’s fate.  And right now, the politics of immigration reform for many House Republicans looks a lot different than the politics of immigration reform for the broader Republican Party and certainly the politics of the Democratic Party.

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.