When your family has a dispute that cannot be resolved without intervention, in some instances, you may need the legal guidance and support of a family law attorney in Gwinnett County.
More often than not, it is the best way to ensure you protect your rights and that of your children. Contact Joseph Cheeley, an experienced Gwinnett County family law attorney at Cheeley Legal to discuss your options further.
To move forward with a divorce in Georgia, you are not required to give any specific reason or grounds, such as adultery or mental illness. You will simply need to claim that the marriage has been “irretrievably broken,” as Georgia is a no-fault divorce state.
To file for divorce in Georgia, you will need to have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months. Even if your divorce is free of contention, Georgia courts are prohibited from granting divorces until a minimum of 31 days have passed since your divorce petition was served.
Legal Separation vs. Separate Maintenance
In a legal separation, married couples will live their lives separately but remain married. The state of Georgia does not recognize formal legal separation. Instead, you can file a petition for separate maintenance.
Here, you will remain married to your spouse until your divorce is finalized.
With a separate maintenance decree, you can work out many of the terms of an eventual divorce settlement. This could include child support, child custody, alimony, and the division of your marital assets.
Separate maintenance serves little purpose. Some benefits of separate maintenance include the opportunity to continue collecting spousal health insurance benefits, continue using joint finances, and even continue receiving the tax breaks married couples receive during tax season.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
Your divorce will go more smoothly if it is uncontested. If both spouses can agree to the terms of your divorce settlement, this will be the least expensive and quickest way to dissolve your marriage.
However, if both spouses cannot agree to the terms of the divorce settlement, the divorce could become contested, which may make it more difficult to resolve. You can also expect a contested divorce to be more costly.
Gwinnett County Asset and Debt Division
When spouses are ending their marriage, one of the largest points of conduction is the division of their marital property. Debt and asset division in Georgia divorce is based on equitable division.
This means assets and debts will be divided fairly, not evenly. Some of the different types of assets and debts that may be taken into consideration as part of your Gwinnett County divorce settlement include:
- Pensions and 401(k)s
- Business ownership
- Real estate holdings
- Investment accounts
- Stock options
- Savings accounts
- Trust assets
- Retirement accounts
Generally, any assets or debts brought into the marriage may be considered separate property and will not be considered part of the divorce settlement. This could include high-value items such as expensive art or collectibles, an inheritance, or student loan debt.
Child Custody in Gwinnett County
When parents share minor children, it is common for issues regarding physical and legal custody, visitation, and parenting time to arise. Under Georgia law, there are two primary types of custody – physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody refers to the amount of time each parent spends with the child. This is commonly referred to as the custodial parent or primary physical custodian, while the parent who spends less time with their child will be designated the non-custodial parent or secondary physical custodian.
In sole physical custody agreements, one parent will retain primary physical custody, while the other will receive visitation rights with the child. In joint physical custody arrangements, the child will reside with each parent approximately equally.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make major decisions regarding their child’s upbringing. This includes educational and religious decisions, medical choices, and more.
Alimony in Gwinnett County
When a couple is divorcing, one spouse may assume that they have the right to alimony. However, alimony is not necessarily a guarantee in any divorce. Under Georgia Code Title 19, the court can award temporary alimony or permanent alimony.
Temporary alimony may be awarded in cases where a lesser-earning spouse requires financial support for the duration of the pending divorce.
This alimony allows the lesser-earning spouse the opportunity to maintain their standard of living and hire legal representation while the divorce is pending.
Some of the different factors that will be taken into account when the courts are deciding whether alimony should be awarded, and the amount of alimony, in your Georgia divorce include:
- How long a couple was married
- The couple’s standard of living while they were married
- Both spouse’s incomes and expenses
- Both spouse’s physical and mental health
- The age of each spouse
- Each spouse’s marital contributions, including child rearing, career building, and financial contributions
- Both spouses’ earning capacities
Additionally, despite the fact that Georgia is a no-fault state for divorce purposes, courts may consider whether one spouse has been a victim of marital misconduct, such as adultery or desertion when determining whether permanent alimony should be awarded.
Gwinnett County Child Support Laws
Both parents are required to support their children financially, no matter what their relationship status is. The state of Georgia uses the “Income Shares Model” under Georgia Code Title 19, to determine how much child support should be paid each month.
The calculator estimates the amount of money parents would spend collectively on a child and then divides this number proportionately based on each parent’s income. Some of the more common types of income taken into account include:
- Self-employment wages
- Income from dividends
- Overtime pay
- Unemployment insurance benefits
- Military pensions
- Income from trusts
- Overtime pay
- Tips and commissions
The Georgia Child Support Commission has worksheets that can be utilized that can give you a better idea of what child support payments may be ordered in your case. Generally, the non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support to the custodial parent.
Generally, the higher-income parent will be required to pay child support to the lesser-income parent if parenting time is equal.
It should be noted, however, that only non-custodial parents can be required to pay child support under Georgia law, as the courts find the custodial parent’s financial contributions will go directly to supporting their child.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements in Gwinnett County
No one wants to have a conversation with their prospective spouse about obtaining a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Although not romantic, such agreements are necessary given the 50% divorce rate across the country. Both spouses should take steps to protect themselves before marriage by entering a premarital or prenuptial agreement.
If you have already wed your spouse without a prenuptial agreement, an antenuptial or postnuptial agreement can work out the terms in the event of a potential divorce in advance, so neither spouse is at risk of being taken advantage of should the marriage end.
How to Resolve Points of Contention
It is not uncommon for families to find themselves unable to come to an agreement regarding specific points of contention such as child custody, division of marital property and debts, alimony, child support, and more.
If you hope to resolve these issues without going to court, you may do so by engaging in mediation or alternative dispute resolution. Here, a neutral third-party will listen to both spouses and attempt to get both parties to resolve their areas of disagreement.
Violations Of Family Court Orders in Gwinnett County
Anyone found in violation of a Gwinnett County Family Court order is at risk of being found in civil or criminal contempt. Generally, family law cases can result in civil contempt.
Here, the court will find that a defendant has willfully refused to comply with the Gwinnett County Family Court order. Some of the more common reasons you may be found in contempt include:
- Failing to sign property transfer documents
- Failure to pay attorney fees as court-ordered
- Failure to allow access to property or surrender property by court order
- Failure to adhere to child custody and visitation court orders
- Failure to adhere to child support court orders
- Failure to make alimony payments as ordered by the court
- Failure to provide a minor child with healthcare benefits as ordered by the court
Contact a Gwinnett County Family Law Attorney for Help Today
Family law encompasses a wide variety of legal matters. No matter what issue you are dealing with, our team is prepared to help you protect your rights and keep your family intact.
Request an initial consultation with Joseph Cheeley, a dedicated Gwinnett County family law attorney at Cheeley Legal. You can reach us by phone or through our secured contact form to schedule your confidential case review today.