In most domestic law cases, the circumstances to warrant legal action were unforeseen. In addition to representing clients through divorce, a family law attorney, such as those at Warner Bates can help in a multitude of ways. The below are several categories of counsel Warner Bates offers and some of the most frequently asked questions associated with each.
- How long does it take to get divorced? Given that everyone’s situation is highly individualized, this will depend heavily on your specific set of circumstances; however, after one spouse files, the proceedings could be finalized in as few as 31 days following service of the complaint. This is unusual, though, as most cases require multiple drafts of settlement agreements, mediation or arbitration to reach a resolution.
- Do I need to be separated before filing for divorce? You don’t have to physically reside in different residences, but you do need to have terminated marital relations before filing a complaint.
- Who pays for family expenses during divorce proceedings? If possible, you and your spouse may agree on how to handle ongoing expenses. Otherwise, the court may hold a hearing, attended by both parties, to determine how financial needs will be met and award temporary alimony and/or child support.
- How will property be divided? Property acquired during the marriage is marital property and is subject to equitable division. It will be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, by taking into account things like the separate estates of each party and contributions to the marriage. Property acquired individually before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance is separate and will remain with each respective party.
- What should I do to prepare for divorce? As soon as possible, gather together as many financial documents and records as they relate to the period of your marriage and have them available for copy and review. This is an important first step to be taken immediately as it can prevent your spouse from hiding or dissipating assets.
- Are marital agreements only for couples with considerable income or assets? No. While that may have been the case in the past, marital agreements are increasingly popular for couples of every earning bracket thanks to the protection they offer across a broad range of considerations. They are often used as estate planning mechanisms to protect inheritances of adult children. They guard your current or future spouse against personal or business debt. They allow for a clear distinction between separate property to prevent future division. They clarify the financial responsibilities of each spouse. They foster the the avoidance of pricey legal battles that would amount to an exorbitant expense compared with the cost of drafting an agreement. Lastly, marital agreements help in unique situations like defining care for a child with special needs.
- How will custody be determined? Custody will not be awarded to one parent by default. Rather, the courts will examine what is in the best interest of the children. The courts may consider the preferences of the children if they are eleven years of age or older with their desires becoming presumptive at the age of fourteen.
- How will child support be determined? Effective in 2007, Georgia courts enforce that parents have a shared responsibility of support until their children reach legal age, graduate from high school, die, marry or become otherwise emancipated. The support is calculated based on number of children and earnings of each parent, taking into account contributions and expenses like health insurance, child care, schooling, etc.
- Will I or my spouse be awarded alimony? This will be determined by the needs of each spouse and their respective abilities to pay. The court will consider the cause of separation and each party’s conduct prior.
- How is the amount of alimony determined? If awarding alimony, the court will consider the standard of living during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, each party's the age and health, financial resources, contribution to the marriage (including homemaking and child care), separate estate and earning capacity, the time needed for either party to acquire education or training to enable him or her to find employment, and any other relevant factors the court regards as fair and proper to consider. Alimony may be awarded in cash or in property, and it may be payable periodically or in a lump sum.
- Can I modify the terms of my divorce decree? Division of property is not modifiable, but alimony and child support may be if there is a significant change in financial status of either party. To alter custody, a threshold must be met showing that there has been a substantial change affecting the well-being of the child. Visitation rights may be changed in accordance with the best interest of the child even if there are not the same aforementioned material changes.
- What if my spouse does not comply with the divorce decree? If a party fails to comply with an Order such as alimony or child support payments, the law authorizes filing of a contempt action wherein the court can order the party to cooperate, pay attorneys fees and past due support or face incarceration.
- Can I file an appeal if I am dissatisfied with the results of my case? In some cases, you must request permission to file an appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals. Other cases allow you to file freely. In either instance, there is a very strict timeline for filing.