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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.

Georgia Military Divorces

Posted on: May 31st, 2013

Georgia divorces involving an individual that is serving in active duty, the reserves, National Guard, or retired military are referred to as a military divorce. Being a service member does not exempt an individual or couple from the same requirements that civilian couples must meet when filing for divorce. The difference between a civilian and military divorce is a set of unique rules regarding the division of military pensions, residency requirements for divorce filing, and legal protections for the military member.

Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act federal law will not divide nor distribute a military members retirement to a spouse unless the service member and spouse have been married for 10 years or longer while the member has been in active military duty. To be eligible for full benefits after retirement, including medical, a spouse must pass the 20/20/20 test in which the marriage has lasted at least 20 years, the military member performed at least 20 years of service, and there was at least 20 years overlap of the marriage and time spent in the military services.

In terms of GA divorce residency requirements for filing a military divorce, many states will allow a military member or their spouse to file in the state the military member is stationed, the state where the spouse filing resides, or the state where the military member claims legal residency. The couple will be subject to the laws of the state where the divorce petition is filed including laws regarding property distribution, child custody, and child support.

An active duty member has legal protection from being held in default from failing to respond to legal action. Under the Service Members Civil Relief Act military members are protected from lawsuits such as divorce petitions so the serving member can “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.” In effect, the legal proceedings of a divorce can be delayed while the service member is in active duty and up to 60 days following active duty.

If you are an active service member seeking a divorce, we strongly recommend you consult with our Divorce Attorney Jeff Cleghorn, a military veteran. To set up a consultation, give us a call at (404-844-2856).

Actions To Take After Your Georgia Divorce

Posted on: May 29th, 2013

After final divorce papers have been handed over, newly divorced couples often fail to update important documents affected by the divorce. Our lawyers will inform you of the steps you should take, and things you should do, after your divorce is finalized, and a proactive approach is the best way to avoid future perils created by the neglected loose ends of a divorce. To avoid these issues several main documents should be updated immediately after a divorce is finalized.

Will and Estate Planning

Because family circumstances may have changed a new will should be written or an existing will should be amended. How property will be distributed and the executor of your estate may need to be changed.

Living Trust

Many living trusts are revocable and capable of being changed. Who will receive property and who will manage the trust should be reviewed.

Life Insurance

If your ex-spouse is listed as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, a new person may need to be named.

Power of Attorney

In a case of mental or physical disability it is important to update who will manage your business affairs and your health care decisions.

Bank Accounts

Ex-spouses should be removed as an authorized signer on your bank accounts, mutual funds, and money market funds.

Credit Cards

Credit cards held jointly by you and your former spouse should be closed or have your former spouse’s name removed from the account.

The importance of having all relevant businesses and parties informed on your updated marital status is high. All official and business records are subject to change due to a new marital status after your divorce. The list above is for general guidance and is not complete. Please speak with one of our attorneys to assist you with changes to your legal documents.

Please note that the following article was not written by an attorney and should not be construed as legal advice. We strongly recommend you speak with one of our attorneys about your particular legal situation.

Georgia Family Violence Protective Orders

Posted on: May 27th, 2013

Family violence in Georgia occurs when a family or household member harms or attempts to harm another family or household member. Family violence also includes threats of violence or a strong belief that a family member will cause harm in the near future. Family violence in Georgia is a serious crime and laws are in place to protect the abused.

A GA Family Violence Protection Order is a legal document written by a court prohibiting a member of a family or household from remaining in the household or from contacting or coming near the abused. If the abuser violates the order then serious legal consequences will result with violation being punishable by a large fine or confinement in jail for an extended period of time. Both males and females can seek the civil legal protection of a GA Family Violence Protection Order.

Specifically, the order may state that an abuser must:

* Leave the abused alone
* Leave the place of residence (If the abused is not in possession of the home assistance to obtain personal property and temporary residence is granted)
* Give the abused temporary custody of children and set temporary visitation
* Award the abused with temporary child/GA spousal support
* Attend counseling

To obtain a Family Violence Protective Order an application must be filed with the court. A citation will then be sent to the alleged perpetrator and a court hearing will be held. If the order is granted it can be effective for up to a year although if the threat of abuse still persists a court can extend the order. A GA temporary restraining order may also be requested for the time required to serve the citation to the abuser and hold a hearing.

Family violence causes legal, physical, financial, and emotional complexities. Filing a Family Violence Protective Order in Georgia can relieve some of these problems. If you or other members of your family are victim to family violence please contact one of our domestic violence attorneys to assist you with protection from your abuser.

Please note that the above article may not have been written by an attorney, and should in no way be construed as legal advice particular to your situation. Contact one of our family law attorneys if you are dealing with an issue of domestic violence or feel you may need a family violence protective order.