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Published Works
Mr. Cheeley has written two law review articles on domestic relations law:
Representive Cases on Appeal
Family Law
Family law matters can be very difficult for the client emotionally. We understand what you are facing and can give you professional advice and representation to protect your interests. Anyone going through a divorce, custody or other family law matter needs an attorney who looks out for them, so that costly problems in the future can be minimized. No one should undertake to represent themselves in a family law matter! Doing so can cause problems that can be more expensive to correct in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
Child Custody
Child Support
Prenuptial Agreements
Family Violence


What are the grounds for divorce in Georgia?
There are 13 grounds for divorce, 12 of which are fault grounds which require proof in order to grant the divorce. However, the most commonly used ground is the “no fault” ground, i.e., a statement under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no hope for reconciliation.

How long must I have lived in Georgia to get a divorce?
At least one spouse must have lived in Georgia for 6 months before the filing of the divorce. Do the parties have to be separated to file for divorce? Yes. However, they can live in the same household if they are not sharing the same bedroom and are not having a sexual relationship. What is the process for getting a divorce? The legal process begins when a complaint is filed with the court in the county of residence of the defendant. The case then proceeds like any other civil litigation, which can include the filing of an answer to the complaint and the conducting of discovery of the facts. If a jury trial is not requested, the court will issue its judgment. If you want to file for a divorce, or if your spouse wants to file, you should call Joseph E. Cheeley, III, P.C. at 770-831-7910 as soon as possible to protect your rights.

How is a divorce case settled?
It takes two parties to agree to all of the terms which are contained in a written settlement agreement. Beware of verbal agreements and assurances that are not in the settlement agreement. It is important that you have legal representation in this process. The attorney who prepares the settlement agreement can legally represent only one party, not both parties. Call Joseph E. Cheeley, III, P.C. at 770-831- 7910 so that your best interests are protected. Once the agreement is signed, it is submitted to the judge for approval and the granting of the divorce.

What is mediation?
If a divorce cannot be settled between the parties and their attorneys, the attorneys can select a mediator to assist the parties in resolving their case.

What is a legal separation?
There is really no legal separation – you are married until the court issues a divorce decree. Georgia has a “separate maintenance” action, which allows the parties to remain married while living apart. The court can enter an order resolving the issues, as in a divorce, except that the parties remain married. Separate maintenance actions are rarely used because they are not worthwhile.

What is a temporary hearing?
A temporary, or interlocutory, hearing is a hearing conducted by the judge to temporarily resolve issues until a trial is held. These issues can include child support, child legal and physical custody, alimony, possession of property, payment of debts, and so forth.

How long does it take to get a divorce?
If there is a written agreement between the parties, the divorce is uncontested. An uncontested divorce may be granted after 31 days from service of the complaint. If there is no agreement, the divorce can take from several months to much longer.

Call Joseph E. Cheeley, III, P.C. at 770-831-7910 for advice and representation in your divorce.

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Child Custody

How is child custody decided if there is no agreement?
Only the judge decides child custody and visitation after considering what is in the child’s best interest. The judge will consider the age and sex of the child, the relationship between each child and each parent and the ability of each parent to care for the child, among other factors. The parent who does not receive legal custody and primary physical custody will have secondary physical custody (or visitation rights).

What is sole custody?
In sole custody, one parent has the sole right to make decisions concerning the child. The child lives with that parent, and the other parent has visitation rights.

What is joint custody?
There are two types of joint custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child (just as in the parties’ marriage). One parent is usually designated to make a decision if the parties cannot agree. Joint physical custody means that physical custody of the child is shared approximately equally between the parents. If the court orders joint custody, it may award joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both.

If the child’s father and mother were never married, does the child’s father have any legal rights and responsibilities?
No. The child’s father’s rights must be established by court order. Custodial rights and responsibilities are established through either a paternity action, a legitimation action or a custody determination.

Call Joseph E. Cheeley, III, P.C. at 770-831-7910 to protect your relationship with your child.

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Child Support

How long is the child support obligation?
Both parents are required to support their child until the child reaches age 18, dies, marries, becomes self-supporting or joins the military, whichever occurs first. The obligation also can continue until the child completes high school, up to age 20.

How much child support is required?
The non-custodial parent is required to pay the custodial parent an amount determined by the Child Support Guidelines. In addition to this periodic sum, child support can include health insurance, medical and dental expenses, life insurance premiums and other expenses for the child.

Call Joseph E. Cheeley, III, P.C. at 770-831-7910 to represent you.

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Do you handle adoptions?
Yes, we handle most adoptions.

Please call 770-831-7910 for an appointment.

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Prenuptial Agreements

What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial or antenuptial agreement is a contract made in contemplation of marriage and determines what will be the disposition of the parties’ property rights in the event of death or divorce. These agreements are too often overlooked for planning purposes, both for first-time marriages and for those who are remarrying.

Call Joseph E. Cheeley, III, P.C. at 770-831-7910 to protect your assets and rights.

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Family Violence

Do I need an attorney in a family violence action?
Yes. Although the superior court clerk’s office has forms available to file a family violence petition, family violence cases concern many of the same issues as in a divorce, such as alimony, child support and custody, possession of property, payment of debts and restraining orders. Moreover, these cases often result in a divorce, so early intervention by an attorney is wise, helpful and necessary.

Call Joseph E. Cheeley, III, P.C. at 770-831-7910 to advise and represent you in your family violence matter.

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Representative Cases on Appeal

Child Support Guidelines: Successfully upheld the trial court’s decision refusing to award a reduction in child support based on parent’s request for parenting time deviation. This was one of the first cases decided under Georgia’s child support guidelines effective in 2007. Hamlin v. Ramey, 291 Ga. App. 222; 661 S.E.2d 593 (2008).

Property Division/Alimony: Successfully upheld the trial court’s decision in this divorce case concerning whether the other spouse had carried his burden of proving that certain properties were marital, as opposed to separate, properties. Further, there is no statutory requirement that the alimony recipient’s income be included in the final divorce decree, as is required for the child support recipient. Southerland v. Southerland, 278 Ga. 188, 598 S.E.2d 442 (2004).

Release: The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the client and against the client’s mother. After the client’s parents had remarried, they divorced. In the second divorce agreement, the client’s mother had released any claim that she had in the first divorce agreement against client’s father. Therefore, the mother was not entitled to any portion of the equity in the former marital home. Barnett v. Platz, 261 Ga. App. 51, 581 S.E.2d 682 (2003).

Alimony: Alimony could not be awarded in a modification action beyond the original divorce decree time period. Further, the trial court was unauthorized in modifying alimony based merely upon the passage of time. Howard v. Howard, 262 Ga. 144, 414 S.E.2d 203 (1992).

Visitation: Obtained reversal of the trial court for failing to specify visitation to a fit parent except as the custodial parent may agree in writing. This provision had the effect of denying any visitation except as the custodial parent may allow. Noteworthy is that the Supreme Court granted the non-custodial client permission to review the appeal after the Court of Appeals had denied the request to review. Chandler v. Chandler, 261 Ga. 598, 409 S.E.2d 203 (1991).

Contempt: In a child support contempt case for failure to pay educational expenses, the obligor spouse was entitled to a credit for child support paid, because the divorce decree did not specify that the obligor was to pay these expenses in addition to child support. Other issue was whether the obligor was entitled to a credit from a scholarship toward these expenses. Kehayes v. Petch, 197 Ga. App. 45, 397 S.E.2d 458 (1990).

Attorney’s Fees: Attorney’s fees can be awarded to the prevailing party in a modification of support case, even though the statute providing for such an award was not in effect at the time of the divorce. Crecelius v. Brooks, 258 Ga. 372, 369 S.E.2d 743 (1988).

Custody Standard: In a child custody contest between a parent and a third party, the trial court must find parental unfitness to authorize removing custody. The ability of a parent to raise his or her child may not be compared to the superior fitness of a third person (i.e., the “best interest of the child” test). Carvalho v. Lewis, 247 Ga. 94, 274 S.E.2d 471 (1981).

Alimony/Property Division/Modification of Support: Whether a periodic payment is alimony and subject to modification, or is a property division and not subject to modification can depend on whether the gross amount is specified in the decree. As a result of this case, courts are allowed to modify a group award of support into an individual award if there is a change in financial condition. Nash v. Nash, 244 Ga. 749, 262 S.E.2d 64 (1979) (wrote brief while in law school).

Deprived Child: Joseph represented the Gwinnett County Department of Family and Children Services as Special Assistant Attorney General in the following appeals of termination of parental rights and deprivation cases: In the Interest of B. G., 242 Ga. App. 546, 530 S.E.2d 473 (2000). In the Interest of B. G., 238 Ga. App. 227, 518 S.E.2d 451 (1999). In the Interest of S. S., 232 Ga. App. 287, 501 S.E.2d 618 (1998). In the Interest of B. G., 225 Ga. App. 492, 484 S.E.2d 293 (1997). In the Interest of M. R., 213 Ga. App. 460, 444 S.E.2d 866 (1994). In the Interest of M.C.A.B., 207 Ga. App. 325, 427 S.E.2d 824 (1993). In the Interest of D. R. C., 198 Ga. App. 348, 401 S.E.2d 754 (1991). In Interest of E. R. D., 172 Ga. App. 590, 323 S.E.2d 723 (1984).

Affirmed without opinion: Wages v. Wages, 246 Ga. 317, 271 S.E.2d 635 (1980). Brown v. Higgins, 247 Ga. 64, 274 S.E.2d 324 (1981).

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Magnolia Office Complex, 1400 Buford Highway, Suite E-3, Buford, GA 30518-8726, phone 770.831.7910
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Joseph E. Cheeley, III, is an experienced divorce lawyer serving the metro-Atlanta area including the following counties: Gwinnett, Forsyth, Hall and Barrow; and the following cities: Auburn, Berkeley Lake, Bethlehem, Buford, Cumming, Dacula, Duluth, Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Grayson, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Loganville, Norcross, Oakwood, Snellville, Stone Mountain, Sugar Hill, Suwanee, and Winder as well as the Chateau Elan, Sugarloaf and Hamilton Mill areas.