Divorce & Family Law
Whether your family law case involves divorce, children, or both, it will be very sensitive due to the long-term and dramatic impact it will have on everyone involved. You need a lawyer with in-depth knowledge of the field who can argue skillfully on your behalf. I provide more than just that. When your dignity, your future, or your relationship with your children is at stake, as your lawyer I can help you navigate this difficult process with compassion and an eye towards resolving the case as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Learn more about how I can help you with different aspects of your situation:
If you’ve got a divorce, child custody, child support, or legitimation case in Forsyth County or Gwinnett County, give me a call at (678) 807-9150 to set up a free consultation today.
Ending a marriage is one of the most stressful events a person can go through. Aside from the marital relationship, divorce impacts your living situation, your finances, your belongings, your children, your family, your friends, your pets – essentially every aspect of your life. Things can be especially difficult due to the lack of finality – for many family law orders, there are temporary orders at the outset, “final” orders at the end of the case, and potential modifications for years to come. To get through the process, you’ll need support and guidance. I can help you get through this with your sanity, your dignity, and your bank account intact.
For divorces with or without children, most courts - including those in Forsyth County - now require mediation before hearing a contested divorce. In this process, both sides come before a neutral third party to try to resolve as many contested issues as they can before heading to trial. This can be good for you, because it’s faster, less expensive, and a less combative atmosphere than the traditional trial. People are also usually more satisfied with – and likely to follow – agreements that they have a hand in creating, rather than an order handed down from a judge.
Whether you’re in the potentially hostile environment of a courtroom or the more amicable setting of a mediator’s office, you should keep in mind that important rights are at stake, and many of the decisions that are made are final. I can address all aspects of the divorce with an eye towards amicably resolving disputes, but I will take it to court if that’s what is needed to best serve your interests.
If you and your soon-to-be-ex can agree on everything, you may be able to file an uncontested divorce and get things over with as quickly, painlessly, and inexpensively as possible. In this much faster process, you're free to resume your life sooner - usually without ever setting foot in the courthouse.
When the parties who will be living with the results of the settlement have a hand in forming the agreement, they’re more likely to follow it and feel satisfied. However, saving yourself the heartache of a contested divorce now can lead to headaches down the line if you give up more than you can afford to, or if the agreement doesn’t cover the issues that arise later on. For that reason, the settlement agreement must comprehensive, fair to both parties, and created with an eye on your long-term goals. I can make sure that happens because I know the law and I know the most common problems that often arise. To avoid these problems, I personally customize every document to you and your circumstances.
While there are sometimes more immediately pressing matters, the division of marital property is a very important part of a divorce. How you end up financially will definitely affect the quality of the new life you’ll build. And unlike many other aspects of a divorce, once the property has been divided, the decision is almost always final and not subject to future modification.
In Georgia, a divorcing couple’s property can be divided by the agreement of the parties or by the court. When the parties are able to come to an agreement, this can be time-saving, money-saving, and less contentious. If you hope to come to an agreement with your ex-spouse on property division, I can help you come to an acceptable compromise that does not give up more than you can afford to.
However, sometimes an agreement cannot be reached by either negotiation or mediation, and litigation is required. In that event, the court will try to divide the property and debts fairly. Note, though, that “fair” and “half” may be very different, depending on the circumstances of the case. Among other issues, judges will consider the needs of the parties as compared to their earning potential, and whether one party is at fault for the end of the marriage. Whether contested or not, I will advocate for your side to make sure that the result is a fair one that does not take advantage of you.
Under certain circumstances, one spouse may be required to pay alimony (also sometimes called ‘spousal support’) to the other. Usually this is only for a limited amount of time to allow the receiving spouse to continue their education and become more financially independent, although it can also sometimes last until the spouse receiving the support remarries or dies.
The parties to a divorce can negotiate an alimony amount themselves, or the court can decide whether there should be any alimony, and if so, how large the award will be. The judge’s decision is guided by many factors, including the standard of living established during a marriage, the time needed by either party to acquire education or training to find appropriate employment, and the contribution of each party to the marriage. However, the judge can decide to award alimony based solely on one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay.
Whichever side of an alimony dispute you find yourself on, I can be there on your team and go to bat for your side within the framework of the law to a mediator or judge.
Child Custody & Visitation
The most important part of a divorce for any parent is settling child custody in a way that’s best for the children. The law considers this the most important aspect of a divorce as well, and presumes that the involvement of both parents in a child’s life is usually best. However, parents often disagree on who should have the kids, how often, and when. I can help you play the role you want in your children’s lives. If this can be done by agreement through negotiation and mediation, I welcome the less contentious route on such a sensitive issue, and the court will make that agreement binding unless the judge thinks it would be bad for your children. However, if you and your ex are unable to agree and must take the issue to the court, I am absolutely prepared to fight for your rights as a parent.
However custody is settled, it will be written up in a clearly stated Parenting Plan as part of a court order. If you don’t like the plan, if your child’s life circumstances change, or if your ex-spouse isn’t living up to the terms of the plan, you need to call an attorney as soon as possible. With the help of an attorney, you can modify the Parenting Plan or you can make sure that the Parenting Plan is being enforced. If you try to deal with these changes yourself in a way that violates your obligations under the existing plan, you could compromise your case or be held in contempt of court.
Children do not stop having needs after a divorce or after the ending of a relationship. Raising children is expensive, and it can especially seem that way when means are stretched thin after a divorce. However, supporting a child is the legal responsibility of both parents. Even if you were never married, you can still receive or pay support for your children. The courts will try to maintain the child’s standard of living and will use a variety of factors when deciding on child support amounts, such as income, number of children, and the custody arrangement.
Due to the length of the obligation, the factors that led to the initial determination are likely to change. The support amount can be modified, subject to limitations, if there’s been an important change – especially in either party’s income or custody arrangements. Whether you’re paying or receiving, I can make sure that your child support is both appropriate for your situation and fair, for you and your children.
If you are seeking or opposing a modification to an existing child support order, it’s important to keep this in mind: the order stands until it’s changed by the judge. That means that if you lose your job, or your ex gets a raise, or for whatever other reason you think the amount should be changed, you need to act now. If you or your ex fail to make child support payments, a contempt action can be filed. In that event, consequences for the delinquent parent can include wage garnishment, license suspensions, and even jail time until the past-due amounts are paid.
Georgia law, like that of most states, is written to address a traditional family system that doesn’t match the reality of many of today’s children. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the state’s treatment of unwed parents. While the mother of a child has full parental rights, unwed fathers in Georgia bear the responsibilities of fatherhood (such as the obligation to pay child support), without the rights that benefit married fathers (such as visitation with the child).
To gain these rights, the father can use a legal process called legitimation where the father proves his biological paternity and attempts to socially declare the child as his own. If you are interested in legitimation, I can help you in this process as you strive to become a dad rather than just a biological father.
However, sometimes it is not in the child’s best interest for the legitimation to be granted, such as when the father has waited too long to become involved in the child’s life. In such circumstances I can raise a defense on your behalf to block the legitimation and preserve your sanity and your child’s well-being.
The impact of a legitimation is not guaranteed. For example, just because a legitimation is granted does not mean visitation will be awarded. There are no hard-and-fast rules determining the outcome, so it’s important to have a skilled attorney to present your best case for or against any legitimation dispute.
Prenuptial agreements are often used in two types of situations: when a couple want to establish what will happen in the event of divorce, or when a couple is concerned with property rights upon the death of one party. In either event, a prenup should be carefully drafted by a professional to withstand future scrutiny in court.
Prenuptial agreements are best known for setting forth the rights that each party will have to property and support in the event of a future divorce. While this is seen by some as unromantic, it can be better thought of as an administrative procedure before a marriage, much like obtaining a marriage license. A prenuptial agreement doesn't mean that the soon-to-be-newlyweds expect the worst, but rather that they want to minimize the cost and acrimony that can come if things don't work out between them. In this way, a prenup can be used almost as an insurance policy - you hope it's never needed, but if it is, it can save you considerable expense in the event of divorce by minimizing areas of dispute.
Prenuptial agreements are also often used by couples when one party anticipates a large future inheritance of family assets or when two people who have already raised their families plan to marry one another. A prenuptial agreement is used, in combination with wills and other estate planning documents, to set forth what each person will and won't be entitled to when the other dies. In these situations, a prenup works to establish that the parties are on "on the same page," so to speak, bringing comfort to family members. Most importantly, a well-drafted prenup can prevent the litigation that often follows the death of a parent of adult children who has remarried.