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Family Law

Divorce

Few things in life are as stressful as divorce. Divorce requires a married couple to unravel their lives together and define their rights with regards to property, debts, and (most importantly) children. The process can evoke profound emotions from everyone involved (such as anger and resentment) even if both spouses ultimately agree that they need a divorce.

The manner in which a divorce case is handled can have significant repurcussions.  Extended litigation can be both financially and emotionally draining.  Many times at the end of a contested divorce case neither spouse gets the relief they wanted from the court and they both end up feeling disappointed.

One option our office offers to avoid some of the anxiety associated with lititgation is a collaborative divorce.  Under this approach, both parties would be represented by collaborative divorce attorneys and would agree to reach a mutual resolution to their issues without litigation.  Each party would also assemble a team of other collaborative professionals, such as financial planners and therapists, for additional guidance in reaching their mutual resolution.  At all times, the collaborative approach emphasizes an open and honest sharing of information and mutual respect among the parties.  In the collobarative approach, if either party drops out of the negotiations and files a contested court case, then their collobarative divorce attorneys would have to withdraw and the parties would obtain new counsel. 

Of course, the collaborative divorce is not appropriate for all cases.  Our office will determine beforehand whether your divorce case would be amenable to a collaborative approach, and no client is ever required to pursue colloboration if they don’t want to.  If the colloraborative approach is not suitable for your case, our office is committed to representing you in court and obtaining the best outcome possible.  

Legitimation

Georgia is one of the few states that distinguishes between the rights of biological fathers and the rights of legal, or “legitimate”, fathers. In Georgia, if fathers are not married to the mothers of their children, either at their birth or after their birth, then they have no parental rights of custody or visitation.  Even though these fathers have no parental rights, they still have the obligation to provide support for their children. This puts many fathers, who sincerely want a relationship with their children, in the position of paying support for children who they are not allowed to see.

When unwed fathers want to have a relationship with their children, and potentially gain rights of visitation or custody, they must file a court action for legitimation.  In a legitimation action, the father must show the court that it is in the children’s best for them to have a legal relationship with him.  If the court agrees that legimation is in the children’s best interests, it will then determine the extent of the father’s rights to custody or visitation.

Name Change

Changing your legal name is a relatively straight-forward process. It only requires filing a petition with the superior court where you live, publication of your notice of name change for four weeks, and (in some cases) a brief hearing. Assuming that you are not attempting to change your name to avoid creditors or commit some type of fraud, you can change your name to whatever you like.

A name change can often becomes necessary to resolve discrepancies between how a person’s name appears on their various forms of identification. For instance some people realize when they order a certified copy of their birth certificate that their name on that document is different than it appears on their Social Security card.  Even the slightest discrepancy between the various forms of identification can create big problems, such as being unable to obtain or renew a driver’s license. The only solution in such a situation is usually to file a petition for name change and, once that is granted, obtain an amended copy of your birth certificate.

Antenuptial Agreements

Prior to marriage, parties can enter into an agreement to waive a claim for alimony or property in case of divorce.  This sort of agreement could be desireable for many reasons.  For instance, if one spouse has children from a prior marriage, they may want to ensure that a divorce does not endanger their children’s inheritance.  Alternatively, one party may come into a marriage with a significant amount of wealth that they do not want to place in jeopoardy. 

In order to be valid and enforceable, an antenuptial agreement must be an informed waiver of a potential claim that could be asserted in a divorce.  That means both parties must come into the agreement with full knowledge of the other party’s income and resources (as well as their future earning potential).  The terms of the agreement also must be fair to both parties, both at the time it was made and at the time it is enforced by the court.  That means that an antenuptial agreement entered into between a married couple can become unfair, and hence uneforceble, based upon changed circumstances.

Protective Orders

V ictims of family violence in Georgia can apply to the superior court for a civil protective order against their abusers.  This protective order can last for up to 12 months and prohibit the abuser from coming around or contacting the victim through any means.  The protective order can also provide other relief, such as child support if the parties had children together or a temporary division of their property.

To be eligible for a protective order, the parties must either have children together, be married or formerly married, be a parent (including steparent) or child (including stepchild) of the other party, or have lived together at some point.  The person asking the court for the protective order must show that the other party committed family violence against them, which includes simple battery, battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, or any felony.  The person asking for the protective order must also show that the other party may commit an act of family violence against them in the future in order to obtain a protective order.

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