Family & Personal Matters

Discreet and Efficient Legal Counsel

Interpersonal problems are part and parcel of our daily lives, but they can manifest in draining and expensive ways once the courts get involved. The Anderson Firm has been helping clients in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Fayette, Clayton, and Gwinnett Counties sort out their complex and emotional family matters for years. 

Our firm can assist you with the following matters:

Divorce

To get a divorce in Georgia, state law requires at least one of the spouses to be a Georgia resident (i.e., having lived in Georgia for six months or longer). This spouse must also be the one who files the Petition for Divorce. Like many other states, Georgia is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning couples may cite irreconcilable differences (known as an “irretrievable breakdown” in Georgia) as grounds for divorce.

Those filing for divorce in Georgia must wait at least 30 days until their case is finalized; courts hope the couple may reconcile within this period (but only if a couple is divorcing because of an irretrievable breakdown). This 30-day waiting period will not be enforced if the couple is divorcing on other grounds, such as adultery, desertion, abuse, or addiction.

No-fault divorce cases proceed much more quickly than at-fault divorce cases, as you must prove (with substantial evidence) the non-filing spouse is at fault. In no-fault divorce cases, all the filing spouse needs to do is prove interpersonal incompatibility with his or her spouse.

Child Support

The state calculates child support orders according to the guidelines outlined in the Income Shares Model. This model estimates how much an intact family unit would spend on the child or children’s welfare each month and then splits it according to how much each parent makes on a monthly basis. Like other states, Georgia only requires the non-custodial parent — the parent with whom the child or children does not spend the majority of their time — to pay child support. However, it might be difficult to determine which parent is the custodial parent if the child or children split their time equally between both parents.

Parents who wish to modify a child support order must show a significant change in one of the spouse’s financial or job-related circumstances. If you’ve already modified the terms of your order, you must wait two years to modify them again — except in special cases like involuntary job loss, remarriage, changes in parenting time, or the non-custodial parent’s failure to comply with visitation orders.

What happens if the custodial parent isn’t paying child support? The judge can hold a non-paying parent in contempt of court. The court will look at whether or not the non-paying parent’s actions are willful (like an intentional refusal to pay support) or non-willful (a job or income loss, for an example). In addition to ordering compliance with the order, the court has the authority and discretion to order that the non-paying parent pay for the attorney’s fees and costs spent to get what is legally owed, as well as putting that parent in jail.

In Georgia, child support typically ends once the child turns 18. This age can be extended to 20, though, especially if the child is still a full-time high school student past age 18. In this case, the child support will end either when the child turns 20 or graduates high school — whichever happens first.

Prenuptial Agreements

It might seem counterintuitive — and somewhat discouraging — to enter a marriage with an agreement outlining property and asset division in the event of a divorce. However, this can be one of the smartest moves a soon-to-be-married couple can make, as a prenuptial agreement (or prenup, as it’s known colloquially) will take out much of the guesswork in a divorce.

Prenuptial agreements are enforceable under Georgia law, meaning the court will consider them during a divorce case. There are a few circumstances, though, where a court may not enforce a prenuptial agreement. The reasons for this may be that the agreement was obtained under duress, through fraud or misrepresentation, or by mistake due to nondisclosure of certain facts regarding the couple’s property or assets. 

Moreover, a court may not enforce a prenuptial agreement if it is unreasonable or if the circumstances at the time the agreement was signed have since significantly changed. If a judge or court finds that a prenuptial agreement is unenforceable for any of these reasons, it will not be incorporated into the final divorce ruling.

If you’re thinking of signing a prenuptial agreement with your future spouse, there are a few preliminary measures you should follow:

  • Don’t Wait to Create — The best time to begin creating and outlining the terms of a prenuptial agreement is six to 12 months before you get married. This leaves you plenty of time to discuss the specifics, negotiate the terms, and meet with a family law attorney. Waiting too long to create a prenuptial agreement may also create legal consequences, as some courts won’t enforce agreements that were created too close to the wedding date. Some terms in these agreements, which are enforceable in Georgia, may not be enforceable in other states.
  • Get Your Own Attorney — Both spouses should have their own attorneys help them reach an agreement on the prenuptial agreement. If you and your future spouse only have one attorney drafting the prenuptial agreement, they can legally only counsel and represent one of you. The unrepresented party will have to sign an acknowledgment stating that he or she refused representation and is willingly entering the agreement.
  • Have Your Paperwork Sorted — It’s wise to keep an organized record of your separate and shared debts and income in addition to a list of all your assets. You must include this information when filing the prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement can only be validated if parties fully disclose their financial and asset information.
  • Don’t Mix Properties — The advantage of spouses owning separate properties is that there’s no question as to who retains them in a divorce case. Commingled properties, on the other hand, are much more difficult to divide. That’s why you should purposely keep any liquid assets of yours separate in a marriage, as it will expedite the property and asset division process in a divorce.

Postnuptial Agreements

The difference between prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements is that the latter are created during a marriage, instead of before. They essentially determine who gets which assets and properties in a future divorce case. Think of them as prenuptial agreements you sign after the wedding. In most cases, couples will sign a postnuptial agreement if they didn’t have the option to create a prenuptial agreement.

Another reason a couple might decide to sign a postnuptial agreement is if they experienced serious changes to their financial situations during their marriage. Couples with blended families may also benefit from these types of agreements, as they can make sure each spouse’s children will not suffer any financial insecurities. Similarly, a postnuptial agreement can also keep spouses safe from extra financial obligations mandated against each other.

The rules for enforcing a postnuptial agreement in Georgia are the same as the ones for prenuptial agreements.

If you’re having trouble broaching the subject with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, try framing the agreement as something that will benefit you both; you can even cite specific financial changes to support your decision. If you have a prenuptial agreement, you can tell your spouse that a postnuptial agreement would be nothing more than an update of the existing agreement. You can discuss it while discussing other important financial paperwork, such as wills, trusts, or power-of-attorney orders.

Family law issues are so much more than legal matters, which is why The Anderson Firm provides personalized, creative solutions to these issues. Get started with us today by booking a consultation.