Georgia Divorce Attorneys -- Divorce Advice
Attorney William H. Sherman & attorney Valerie W. Sherman know that families can be very complicated. And for many facing a family law matter, the future can feel uncertain, overwhelmingly complex and downright scary. Having served many, many clients over the years, the Sherman Law Group divorce lawyers have successfully represented clients in all types of family law cases, from basic divorces (which might be uncontested), to complex property and financial cases, to high income divorces, to cases on the leading edge of family law practice with novel legal issues.
We are results-driven & focused
Because of our results-driven focus on our clients, we keep up-to-date on the latest laws, cases and developments in Georgia divorce and family law. Every Sherman Law Group client benefits from our firm's extensive experience, professional leadership and our unique commitment to exceptional client service. Centrally-located in Roswell, Georgia, with a satellite office in Cumming, GA, the Sherman Law Group stands ready to address all your divorce law and family law issues. We are ready to work with you to ensure that your rights and future are secure.
Divorce Is Never Easy
Divorce is never easy. In fact, divorce is one of the biggest crises you may ever face in your entire life. During this very difficult time, it is important to have an experienced family law attorney to support and guide you through the entire divorce process. Attorneys looking out for your best interests. The attorneys at the Sherman Law Group are your advocates. They are experienced and ready to discuss your goals, formulate effective, winning strategies, and arrive at the strongest settlement possible.
Residency Requirements (When Can I File?)
Many people ask about residency requirements to file for divorce in Georgia. You must live in Georgia six months before you can file for a divorce. If you live on a military base, you can file in a year. If you are a non-resident of Georgia, you can file a divorce against a resident of Georgia who has lived for at least six months in the Georgia county in which you file the divorce action.
How Long Does It Take? (When Can I Be Divorced?)
As for timing, a question often asked is how long does it take to get a divorce in Georgia? Court's usually handle divorce matters on the court's regular schedule. But sometimes a court decision can take a number of months. However, sometimes the court can conclude a divorce in as little as 31 days after the divorce is served on the other party. But this applies only when both parties sign an agreement so there are no outstanding issues for a court to decide.
I have been served with Divorce Papers. What do I do?
If you have been formally served with paperwork seeking a divorce, you must contact an attorney immediately. If you have been served, you need to take action within a specified amount of time or face a possible default judgment which can severely impact your rights. Again, if you receive any legal documents referring to a divorce, contact an attorney immediately.
How Do I Find Out How Much Money My Spouse Really Has?
A divorce starts with service of process. Then the parties have time, pursuant to Georgia law, to conduct discovery to seek information and documentation necessary to adequately present his or her case. This part of the divorce process is commonly referred to as discovery. Both spouses are required to disclose certain documents to the other spouse during this stage of the divorce process. Some items that must be disclosed can include:
- copies of federal and state income tax returns
- recent paycheck stubs
- business records, including financial statements and payroll documents
- bank account statements
- credit card statements
- copies of deeds and titles to real property
Divorcing spouses have the right to seek additional information through subpoenas, discovery requests for documentation, and depositions, which allow the attorneys an opportunity to question the other spouse. The parties can retain expert witnesses, such as accountants and real estate appraisers.
You Do Not Have to Do Full-Blown Discovery
Many times spouses can resolve the issues in their case to avoid or significantly lessen the need to participate in discovery. Couples may find discovery to be burdensome, time-consuming and costly. The parties can proceed to negotiate the terms of the divorce between themselves with their attorneys and address all of the issues in the case.
Here's Our Commitment to You:
If you are planning to divorce, your attorney at the Sherman Law Group, conveniently located in North Fulton County and Forsyth County, will begin the process by simply listening and understanding to what you want to accomplish. Our practice believes in building the strongest possible relationships with clients because while every divorce is difficult and presents its own unique issues, no divorce case is ever the same as another. Before forming a legal strategy, we need to know your specific situation, your values, and your top priorities. We handle our clients "one case at a time" with a commitment to detailed, exacting knowledge of your legal and financial situation and goals. You will always be treated with respect and never left in the dark about the details and status of your case. Communication is vital and your phone calls and email will be returned or responded to promptly.
Here are some of our goals:
- Educate and inform our clients about the law, court procedures and what path should be taken forward.
- Set the groundwork for and encourage an amicable path forward for a fair settlement.
- Use common-sense solutions to control legal costs and charge reasonable fees to keep your divorce affordable.
- Fight, when necessary, to protect the safety of children or to obtain a fair property settlement or other important result.
Safeguard Your Children From Divorce Conflicts (Agree To Reduce Stress For The Kids)
Always remember is important to keep children away from the issues that arise in divorce. Kids do not need to know the reasons for a divorce. Spouses may be mad at each other for many reasons: someone may have cheated, there may be money issues, there may be conflicts about drug addiction or alcohol abuser, but young children don't need to know about these things. Professionals who deal regularly with divorcing couples such as lawyers, judges, therapists, counselors, psychologists, pastors and psychiatrists believe that young children can only be harmed by hearing allegations against a parent. Both spouses should agree upfront that the children should be protected as much as possible from the stress of divorce. This will help to limit the effects of divorce on children.
Helping Your Child Through Divorce: What Kids Need
From a child's perspective, here are some things parents should keep in mind:
- stay involved as much as possible in your child's life: be actively involved
- don't fight in front of the child: keep kids from hearing arguments
- communicate directly with the other parent so that the kid is not a go-between for messages: that's a lot of pressure for a youngster
- try to say nice things about the other parent: criticizing the other parent only causes stress, frustration and resentment from the child
6 Most Common Reasons For Divorce
As divorce attorneys we're often asked what are the most common reasons for divorce. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- Communication breakdown
- Money issues
- Personality problems
- Sexual problems
- Alcohol/drug problems
How to Prove Adultery
We get many questions about adultery. It is not easy to prove adultery. The burden of proof is on the complainant to prove adultery. Here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with adultery issues:
- mere accusations mean nothing
- public displays of affection such as kissing, hugging, groping and hand holding can demonstrate to a court an adulterous disposition
- opportunity to commit adultery can be demonstrated through various specific circumstances (for example, the complainant may infer that the defendant had an opportunity to commit adultery when he was seen entering his paramour's home at 11:00 p.m. and leaving at 6 a.m).
- typically, adulterous acts are conducted in private, so a court will permit the complainant to introduce proof of adultery by circumstantial inference or presumption
But remember, mere suspicion will not be enough to prove adultery so you need to present evidence that shows the court that adultery likely occurred.
Pornography Addiction Is Increasingly Becoming An Issue
We are seeing an increasing amount of allegations of pornography addiction leading to divorce. With Internet usage increasing on desktop computers, smart phones and all sorts of mobile devices, the porn industry is booming. Studies have shown that for many people viewing it, porn acts like a drug. And similar to a a potent heroin, cocaine or morphine addiction, studies have indicated that higher "dosages" of pornography are required to reach the same "high." As a partner becomes more dependent on porn, he or she will devote increasing amounts of time to viewing it. Often this leads to neglect of a spouse as well as other negative effects.
What about rights to property and support
Most of the time, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are equally divided. But inheritances, gifts and pre-marital property are usually excluded.
Spousal support or alimony may be appropriate depending on the circumstances. A Georgia court will consider earnings disparity, length of the marriage, the need for education and medical problems.
Child support may be court-ordered for children who have not turned age 18 or graduated from high school.
What about unmarried parents?
In determining the rights between unmarried parents, the standard used by the court is the same as that which is used for married parents --- deciding what is in the best interest of the child.
Just like with married parents, a court can grant unmarried parents shared parenting or designate one parent as the residential and legal custodian while granting parenting time to the non-custodial parent. Matters concerning children of unmarried parents are heard in the Superior Court in Georgia.
I got served with divorce papers. What do I do?
After you are served with divorce pleadings, call The Sherman Law Group to schedule a consultation. Once you retain our legal services, we will review the pleadings with you and prepare a response on your behalf for filing with the Court.
If you do not file a written response, the Court could enter a default judgment against you.
How do I support myself or see my children if a divorce is pending?
In some cases, Temporary Orders are needed to determine various issues, including where each party will live, when each party will see the children, and how each party will be financially supported and pay bills.
Temporary Orders are Court Orders and can be determined by the Court's decision or upon an agreement (called a Stipulation) between the parties. Temporary Orders remain in effect during the time it takes to complete your divorce case.
Temporary Orders could cover issues of: child support, temporary custody, temporary use of personal property and/or bank accounts, maintenance, temporary use of the marital residence, and temporary allocation of debts.
Technically, under Georgia law, these orders are temporary and should have no bearing on the final outcome of your divorce. But in reality, many courts continue temporary orders as permanent orders if they are reasonable and appropriate in your case, especially orders regarding child custody and placement of your children.
What if I don't want to go to trial?
Many people don't want to have a trial, they just want to ensure that they are being treated fairly and are getting all they are entitled to. Oftentimes, settlement negotiations and mediation help resolve conflicts.
What if my spouse left me for another man or woman? What if they are living with another person?
One party's cheating or infidelity is usually irrelevant in most Georgia divorce cases. In most cases, the cheating does not impact dividing property, setting child support or other financial matters, although it can under certain circumstances.
Its impact can be on child custody, however, if the boyfriend or girlfriend has a negative or harmful effect on the minor children.
Will the children have to be involved in the process?
Only if you and your spouse do not agree on the terms of custody will your children will be involved.
Sometimes a court will appoint a guardian ad litem to conduct an investigation and report to the court as to what the guardian's recommendation is as to the best interest of the child.
Can I and my spouse hire the same divorce lawyer?
Georgia law and ethics rules strictly prohibit one divorce lawyer from officially representing both spouses at the same time.
I've heard about collaborative divorce. Do you do collaborative divorce?
Yes, we do collaborative divorce.
In collaborative divorce, both parties commit at the outset to a holistice, negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to all issues without court intervention.
Collaborative divorce is done to save time, money and to reach an agreement that is amicable to both parties. The goal to to decide issues together, without the need for a judge.
What if I have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?
Pre-nuptial agreements are usually a great idea. Prenups are enforceable in Georgia and, if written properly, may strictly define the distribution of property and/or the award of alimony when you get divorced. If you have a prenup, bring it to the attention of your lawyer at your first meeting.
What about the children?
If the parties cannot agree, then a a judge will make decisions based on the “best interests of the children.” This can be the subject of much disagreement and is often the most difficult part of a divorce case.
To help the court decide, the court will often seek the assistance of a guardian ad litem, whose job is to investigate the children's circumstances and prepare a recommendation to the court based on what he or she believes is in the children's best interests.
Child support is usually based on Georgia's Child Support Guidelines and can often therefore be estimated accurately by a knowledgeable attorney, so long as each party accurately reports his or her income.
What if my spouse does not respond to the summons and complaint?
If your spouse (the respondent) does not respond to the summons and complaint after 30 days then he or she is in default. In this case, the petitioner wins and for the most part obtains what they asked for. That's why it is so important that if you are served with divorce papers you need to contact an attorney immediately.
Does it matter which spouse files for divorce?
Usually not. Generally there is no legal significance as to which spouse files for divorce first. However, the person who files first (the Plaintiff) is the person who will have to present evidence first in the event of a trial.
How does mediation help?
Mediation can be a cost-effective, efficient process where you are actively involved in deciding your future and that of your family. It is usually much more effective than litigation, not only from a cost standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint. Since decisions are not made by a judge, it is a way to handle everything in a private manner, with the assistance of a skilled mediator that we are involved in selecting.
If I don't sign anything, my spouse can't get a divorce in Georgia. Right?
No, that's wrong. If your spouse has properly filed for a divorce in Georgia, and you have been properly served (which doesn't require you to sign anything), and then you do nothing, your spouse can receive a default judgment of divorce in Georgia.
If you fail to respond to the court in writing by filing an answer to the complaint, the default judgement of divorce in Georgia could award him/her everything he/she requests.
If I move out of our house, will I lose the house in the divorce?
It's a common misconception that if you leave the home you will lose your stake in it if you get divorced. It's certainly not always true. People even stay in abusive or threatening, high-conflict situations just because of their fear that they will lose their stake in the home if they leave. But, again, that's certainly not always the case. If you're an owner of the property, or even if you're not, you don't necessarily have to physically remain there. There can be many good reasons to leave.
What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?
Some couples consider separation instead of divorce when they aren't quite clear on whether or not they wish to end the marriage. A legal separation action, much like a divorce, will decide major issues, including child custody, child and spousal support, visitation, and the division of property and debts. The parties, though, will remain legally married and cannot therefore remarry. The separation may either be temporary or for an unlimited period. It can be dismissed if the parties reconcile or decide to convert into a divorce.
For some people, a legal separation may be desirable for religious reasons, or when there appears to be a possibility of a future reconciliation. But since this action must resolve virtually all of the same issues involved in a divorce, it will generally cost as much as a divorce and is uncommon. While legal separations can sometimes be helpful for a couple and address their needs, they generally should not be looked at as a long-term alternative to divorce.
Where do I file for divorce?
Generally, divorce filings are done in the Georgia county where the other party lives (that may also be the county where you live, of course). Divorces are handled by the Superior Court.
I don't know if I want to have a trial. Are there any alternatives to having a trial?
There are, in fact, many alternatives to having a trial. Actually, most divorces are ultimately settled out of court by mediation or simply attorney-to-attorney settlement following negotiations. Settlements are possible at any point, including right before a trial is scheduled to begin. But if the parties are unable to settle all matters, then a trial is the mechanism by which things are finally decided.
What if my spouse is hiding money, income or assets?
We have deal with this problem all of the time. It is actually far more common than most people realize. If your spouse is concealing assets, we will work with you to find hidden money, income or property using all means legally available.
We can send subpoenas to employers, businesses, banks, brokerages, hedge funds and close friends or relatives of a spouse. And when appropriate and necessary, we will work with forensic accountants, highly-regarded private investigators and other noted professionals to help trace and locate the hidden money, income or assets.
Will my spouse get everything?
No, your spouse will not get everything. In Georgia, courts will attempt to divide the property of both spouses equitably (fairly) looking at a number of factors, including:
- the potential earning power of each spouse (what job experience does each have?)
- the length of the marriage (have you been married 5 years or 25 years?)
- the assets each spouse brought into the marriage (did one spouse already own a home, stocks, bonds, a business?)
Will my medical, phone and email records and social media accounts be scrutinized during my divorce?
You should assume they will be. Social media postings, text messages and emails are often used as evidence in divorce cases. And opposing counsel can even request that a judge order you to release your private medical records. And maybe the judge will grant that request.
Medical records may be relevant when children are involved. Of course disclosures must be done in accordance with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), but if a judge orders medical records be released, even though they are private, the provider can be forced to release those records.
Parental Alienation: So many lies....
Sadly, some spouses spread lies to their children about the other parent. Young children are highly impressionable and may lack the ability to separate truth from fiction. Children are likely to believe the lies a parent tells. Sometimes a parent may succeed in poisoning a child's mind against the other parent, resulting in a condition sometimes called "parental alienation."
The parent who is the victim of these lies and manipulation (along with the child) faces a difficult legal and personal situation. The question becomes: How can a parent prove in court that the other parent manipulated the child?
Parental alienation is difficult to prove, but those facing it can take certain helpful steps to successfully defend themselves and combat alienation. They must remain calm, refrain from retaliation, and carefully document evidence whenever possible. Ultimately, a case can be built and the truth about a parent will eventually become clear in the eyes of both the court and the child.
What information is needed to start the process....?
A common question divorce clients ask is what information is needed to start divorce proceedings. That information includes:
- your cell phone and home phone number
- home address and email address
- your date of marriage
- the names and ages of children
- both spouses' employment information
- and incomes
Your assets include bank accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles, stocks or bonds, jewelry, collections, etc., while your liabilities include mortgages, credit card debt, personal loans, student loans, etc.
My marriage was really short – can I get an annulment?
Annulments are generally only available if there was some legal impediment to the creation of a valid marriage. The simple fact that the marriage was of short duration (even a very short duration) is generally not a basis for annulment.
Why do some people cheat?
As divorce and family law attorneys we are constantly dealing with the issue of why men (and sometimes women, of course) cheat. Here are some reasons:
- Testosterone Levels: It's a medical fact, men who have high levels of testosterone have higher sex drives.
- Visual stimulation: Men are simply more visually stimulated than females. That's the way he's wired. That's why men are more susceptible to pornography addiction than women.
- Age Matters: Again, the brain is involved. The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that helps us with good judgment calls. This part of the male's brain is not fully developed until age 25. That's why men under the age of 25 make many bad judgment calls.
- Dopamine & PEA: When the dopamine (linked to the sex drive) and PEA (phenylethylamine), a natural chemical compound that is associated with psychoactive drugs, like cocaine and ecstasy, gets flowing, it's difficult for some men to control themselves.
Can I list our home for sale during a divorce?
Generally speaking, no. But if there's an agreement signed by both parties, then you can. Or if there is an order of the court stating the home can be sold. Upon filing for divorce in Georgia, you and your spouse should not dispose of any asset, marital or non-marital. You also should not add any additional mortgage or fail to take care of the home during the course of the divorce.
What happens if a former spouse does not comply with the divorce decree?
Once divorced, if a former spouse does not fulfill his or her obligations under the divorce decree, the other spouse can bring a legal action to compel him or her to do so. Common issues for contempt proceedings can include child support, alimony and debt matters. A judge can find the non-compliant party in contempt and make an award. And that award can include attorneys' fees.
Can I get a divorce without consent of my spouse?
Yes, you can. This is common. If one spouse wants to get a divorce but the other does not, this means that the marriage has broken down. Then the partner who wants to divorce may be able to get the divorce without the consent of the other.
What are some tips I can use prior to or during my divorce?
- Obtain proof of your spouse's income (paystubs, tax returns, etc)
- If you want primary physical custody of the children, don't move without taking them with you
- If you want substantial time share with your child(ren), make sure you have a work schedule that allows you “time off” when the child(ren) are not in school
- If it's likely you'll be the “support paying” spouse (child or spousal) many people work only as required (i.e. 40 hours per week) and avoid overtime or 2nd job prior to separation or court date; that's because“year-to-date” income is used to calculate support and additional income will be “averaged in."
- If you are going to be or are receiving spousal support (alimony), realize it likely won't last a lifetime; use it to further your education, get additional training or a better job to put yourself in the best financial position possible when support runs out
- Try to stay on decent terms with your “soon-to-be-ex” (if at all possible); divorce settlement and/or future parenting still requires communication and a modicum of good will.
Co-parenting: The "big 3"
Think about how your actions and decisions are affecting your child. Take some time and look at things from your child's perspective.
You and your ex don't have to be friends. But you do need to work together and make good decisions for your children.
You really don't need your friends and relatives taking “shots” at your ex. Just focus on the kids and not the details of your breakup.
Doctors can help children of divorcing parents
Historically divorce was viewed as a short-term family crisis for children. Views, however, have changed. We now know that divorce affects children individually, according to their coping mechanisms and their own stages of development.
Many problems and concerns previously attributed to divorce actually have roots in the period of familial interaction before the divorce and in ongoing conflicts in many families after the divorce.
Family physicians, as objective observers with whom the family comes into regular contact, are well-positioned to assist families transitioning due to divorce and to intervene on behalf of the children to help them through this stressful life event.
Counseling, group therapy, and divorce mediation can be effective tools for intervention.
In Georgia, does the court favor the mother when deciding custody?
Under the law, both mothers and fathers have an equal right to custody. There is nothing in the law that gives either party an advantage when custody is at stake. The court decides custody according to its professional assessment of the fitness of the parents and the best interests of the child.
What happens to debts in divorce?
Similar to dividing assets in divorce, debt division can be complex and in many cases is not totally predictable. You may be subject to contributing to the payment of debts that a spouse incurred, even if you didn't know about them at all. Marital debts in Georgia are debts either spouse incurred during marriage and it makes no difference whose name the debt is actually in (e.g. credit cards). Debts are "equitably distributed" in Georgia. In practice this can lead to greatly varying outcomes, including one where the higher income earner assumes a greater responsibility, or one where the party who incurred the debt incurs a greater responsibility. Each case is different and should be viewed on its own merits.
Suspect your spouse of cheating? Here are some 5 classic signs:
Social media usage: People are using social media all the time to “hook-up.” Facebook is now a classic way of meeting other people. Either meeting new people or reconnecting with “old flames.”
No more sex: His or her sex drive is seriously lower than it was. That can mean they're getting it elsewhere.
Password protecting everything: It's a bad sign if a spouse suddenly starts password protecting everything, when he or she never even cared before. And really start to worry if your spouse refuses to share the passwords.
Cellphone paranoia: When a spouse starts sleeping with the cellphone by the bedside, or bringing it into the shower or bathroom, that's a major tip-off. If a spouse won't let you look at what's on their cell phone, there's a problem.
Insults are flying: Picking fights is an old-time trick of the cheater. That way, if they're ever busted, they can blame it on you and say you two were always fighting!
Older People & Divorce
Guess who's getting divorced in record numbers? Older folks. Studies have revealed what many divorce attorneys have known for a while: The divorce rate among adults aged 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010. A quarter of all divorces in 2010 occurred to persons aged 50 and older. Interestingly, the rate of divorce was 2.5 times higher for those in remarriages versus first marriages.
The good news: the longer you are married, the less likely you are to get divorced.
What questions will my divorce lawyer ask me?
A divorce attorney wants to understand your situation as completely as possible. To do that best, the lawyer will ask you to complete some specific paperwork and to answer a variety of questions. That is all to help determine the best strategy and tactics for your particular case, because every case is different.
We'll certainly want to know if you signed a prenuptial agreement at the start of the marriage or a postnuptial agreement during the marriage. We'll want to know about other family law actions and how they were decided. We'll also want information about income sources, retirement plans, and tax returns. And we'll want to know about your family dynamics, shared personal and business assets, and your expected post-divorce outcomes.
What is a "Parenting Plan" in Georgia?
Georgia along with some other states has made some significant changes to the laws governing the area of family and children. Now we speak of Parenting Plans, which is a plan setting up and delineating with specificity how the parties will care for their children. It reflects what the parties' responsibilities are towards their children and what is expected moving forward.
If I don't sign anything, my spouse can't get a divorce in Georgia. Right?
Not true! If your spouse properly files a Summons and Complaint for divorce in Georgia (in Superior Court in the right county), and you have been properly served (which doesn't require you to sign anything at all), and you do nothing, your spouse can receive a Default Judgment of divorce in Georgia.
If you fail to respond to the Court in writing by filing an Answer to the Complaint, the Default Judgement of divorce in Georgia could award him/her everything he/she requests. In other words, it's a huge mistake to not file an answer if your are served with divorce papers.
Can my spouse prevent the divorce?
A Georgia judge will grant the divorce if you meet the requirements. There, of course, plenty of issues your spouse can argue that may annoy you and cause delay. Your spouse can't, however, prevent the divorce from happening. A spouse who does not want a divorce will likely argue over how to divide your property and debts, child custody and visitation rights for any children, alimony, and child support.
What happens to inherited property or property that is brought into the marriage?
So long as it is traceable and has not lost its separate identity this property will be designated as non-marital property. This is a common issue in Georgia divorces and can be one of the most difficult parts of the case, as appreciation on that property may be marital (for example, a house can increase in value during the marriage). Also, a Georgia court has the legal authority to make a distributive award to the other spouse out of non-marital property to achieve an equitable result.
What's an annulment?
A court dissolves your marriage as if it never took place. A court finds grounds that invalidated the marriage as if you never married. Some grounds for an annulment include:
Is there a waiting or cooling-off period to get a divorce in Georgia?
No. While some other states do have a cooling-off period before a court can grant a divorce, Georgia does not. Georgia law recognizes that adults should be able to get divorced when they wish and that is a right that should not be denied. While some states treat their residents like children by mandating a waiting period prior to a divorce, Georgia, thankfully, doesn't. There is no waiting period to get married in the Peach State, and there is no waiting period to commence a divorce.
In Georgia, is there a difference between divorce and dissolution of marriage?
In Georgia, there is no real distinction between the two terms, but there might be in other states. Most Georgia attorneys and judges utilize the term "divorce."
Can I modify a custody or child support order?
Yes, custody and child support orders can be modified. This happens frequently. Sometimes an existing order no longer makes sense and the facts upon which it is based have changed, sometimes dramatically. For example, if a husband was earning $150,000 per year and his income drops to $30,000 per year, he obviously shouldn't have to keep paying child support at the $150,000 level. In fact, he probably can't.
The modification process starts with the filing of a motion with the court to re-examine the child support calculation. It is very important to understand that these numbers are not automatically adjusted when there is a loss of income. Unless you properly petition the court to lower the amount owed, you will be obligated at the old rate.
Child support works similarly. Let's say a father only sees his child one day a week. But he wants more custody. Custody can only be changed through a petition the court.
My spouse is spending all my money while I'm waiting for a divorce. Can they do that?
No, that should be stopped. Technically it's called "dissipation." A spouse should be prevented, by court order if necessary, from concealing, transferring, wasting, depleting or destroying marital property with the intention of doing so for that spouse's advantage and to the other spouse's detriment.
Do we need to live separately before getting divorced?
No. While it is certainly not uncommon for one spouse to move out of the marital home before divorce proceedings begin, Georgia law does not require a period of living separate and apart, as some states do.
What is discovery for divorce?
Discovery is a process where information is shared between divorcing parties (this is often overseen by the divorce lawyers representing each side). It allows each spouse to gather information to gain an understanding of the particular situation of the other party (their financial situation, etc.). Discovery deadlines are set by the court. Discovery can incorporate such mechanisms as the use of interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admissions, depositions, and any other methods allowed under Georgia law.
I think my husband's a porn addict? Is this common?
Porn addiction is becoming more and more widespread and Georgia is a leading state for pornography viewing on the internet. Sadly, it causes many divorces. A subset of sex addiction, porn addiction can lead to severe consequences in multiple aspects of one's life. It can impinge very negatively on a relationship with a spouse, friends and the family. Porn addiction is characterized by a range of behaviors that are done in excess and negatively impact one's life.
It's common for a cybersex or pornography addict to be very secretive about their behavior, to spend much of their time viewing sexual images, and his appetite for sexual relations with his partner can greatly diminish or become deviant. Women, too, can get addicted to porn.
What about alimony? Please tell me about alimony.
We understand how the courts approach spousal support. There are various factors that are used to determine if alimony is appropriate, and then how much alimony should be awarded and for what length of time.
A court must find that alimony is appropriate and reasonable in terms of the amount and duration. Some factors the court utilizes include:
- Length of your marriage
- Post-divorce assets of each party
- Each spouse's earning capacity
- Available retirement assets
- Respective ages of each party
- Physical and mental well-being of each party
Can your rights be protected between the time a divorce action is started and the final hearing?
Are military divorces more complicated?
Military divorces have there own issues that need to be properly handled. Often additional factors come into play in a divorce where one or more members of the military are divorcing. This may include complex matters of relocation or jurisdiction.
Can you get a Divorce if you are not a United States citizen?
Yes, you can. You do not have to be a United States citizen to be granted a divorce in Georgia. And it doesn't matter where your marriage took place to be eligible for a divorce here.
Here are some good books about divorce (recommended by our clients!)
We're always speaking to our clients and just as we help them through their time of need, they have a lot of wonderful and helpful insights about divorce. We asked some of our clients what are the best books about divorce they have read. We didn't care it the book was fiction, non-fiction, memoir, biography, autobiography or anything else -- we just wanted to know if they really liked it and if it helped get them through this tough period. Here are some of their favorites:
- The Good Divorce by Constance R. Ahrons
- This is My Daughter by Roxana Barry Robinson
- It's Called a Breakup Because it's Broken by Greg Behrendt
- Making Divorce Easier on Your Child- 50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust by Nicholas Long and Rex L. Forehand
- The Women by Clare Boothe Luce
- The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer
- Falling Apart in One Piece by Stacy Morrison
- How To Talk to Your Children About Divorce by Jill Jones-Soderman and Alison Quattrocchi
- Split: A Memoir of Divorce by Suzanne Finnamore
- How To Sleep Alone in a King Sized Bed by Theo Nestor
- Heartburn by Nora Ephron
- Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, Third Edition, by Abigail Trafford
- Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce by Judith S. Wallerstein
Are the dates and deadlines on the papers I was served with really important to follow?
Yes, very important. You should schedule an appointment with an attorney as soon as possible so that tactics and strategy can be planned. The deadlines are taken very seriously and can greatly impact your rights. Be aware that if you don't file an Answer or responsive pleading within 30 days of being served, the court can enter a default judgment against you and give the other everything they want.
Don't forget private school and college expenses when divorcing
Educational expenses can be high. A good education is expensive. You need to figure them into divorce settlement negotiations. They can be a big factor. Studies reveal that college tuition costs are increasing at a higher rate than virtually anything else in the economy. The cost of private school tuition in the Atlanta area does not lag far behind.
These costs can be difficult after a divorce. Private school tuition and college tuition to can hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. You need to plan ahead and discuss this issue in detail with your Atlanta divorce attorney before you get deeply involved with your divorce.
Does the Georgia divorce process change at all if my spouse decides to be self-represented instead of having a lawyer?
The law and procedures do not change because somebody is not represented by an attorney. In fact, a spouse who is self represented is held to the same standard as a represented spouse. This is a huge reason why representing yourself in such a bad idea.
What are the major issues relating to divorce in Georgia?
Divorce in georgoa can relate to a huge amount of issues. Just about any issue can be addressed. However, here are some issues we commonly find:
- Property division
- Child visitation rights
- Child support
What happens after I get divorced? Let's say my circumstances change?
If you experience a substantial change in circumstances after your divorce is finalized, you may decide that you need to modify the original terms of your divorce.
Here are some circumstances that could give rise to changing or modifying your divorce:
- a job loss
- a drastic involuntary change in income
- relocation to another state
- illness or physical injury
- or another big life change.
After I get divorced what should I do with my estate planning documents?
When you even start to contemplate divorce, and certainly after a divorce, it is critical that you review all of your estate-planning documents (your last will and testament, financial power of attorney, health care directives, living will, life insurance, trusts, the assignment of a guardian or trustee for your child(ren) in the event of your death, etc.).
This is because if you don't modify them and change them to reflect your new reality of divorce, then your ex-spouse continues to have all the same rights and privileges as if you were still married. The way the documents are prepared during your marriage may bring about unintended results after your divorce, much to your dismay!
Can I date someone else while I go through the divorce?
That's not a good idea. That's because until your divorce is granted, you are still legally married. Therefore, dating someone else could effect the outcome of your divorce by leading to claims of infidelity.
If you are, however, seeing someone, definitely make sure your lawyer knows about it so they can advise you how best to proceed.
Can I get a Divorce if I wasn't married in Georgia?
Yes, you can get a Georgia divorce even if you weren't married here. As long as you meet the Georgia residency requirements, you can get a divorce. Divorces granted in Georgia are based on your current status as a resident, not where your marriage took place.
Who issues a divorce decree? Can I get a divorce at a city court or a probate court?
Only one court can can grant a dissolution of marriage decree: the Superior Court. It can't be done by a city court, a probate court, or a magistrate court. After a Collaborative Divorce or a Mediation, court approval of the divorce is usually just a formality.
I haven't had sex with my husband in over 3 years. Is that normal?
No, it is not. If you have a good marriage (or even just an "OK" one) you would have far more intimate relations. You would not go years, or even months, without sexual relations. Not having an intimate relationship with a spouse is a sign that the marriage is broken and a divorce is basically inevitable. Of course, if the lack of intimacy is due to health or physical issues, that is something quite different.
What is "battered woman" syndrome?
People in abusive relationships are unhappy. But, sometimes, they feel like they can't leave their abuser. They fear the other person and believe they are actually the cause of the abuse.
Abuse affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, social classes, and educational backgrounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls this intimate partner violence (IPV). The CDC lists four main types of IPV. These include:
- Denial (she won't admit that a problem exists)
- Guilt (she admits there is a problem, but she feels responsible for it)
- Enlightenment (the lady realizes she's not responsible for her partner's violence)
- Responsibility (she realizes he won't stop; she takes responsibility for herself and she begins a new life without him)
Of course, and this bears repeating, it's not only women who are battered. Studies have revealed that men, to a significant extent, are also victims of domestic violence. And sometimes people use false allegations of domestic violence as a pretext to commit murder.
My husband insults me. He says I'm stupid and fat and an idiot. Will that come out if we get divorced?
It's certainly possible. His insulting, belittling and humiliating behavior could come out in negotiations or if the matter is not resolved, at a trial. His statements can be used to show abusive behavior. However, if the divorce is negotiated between the two parties, then it may not be disclosed, at least not publicly.
Does my spouse have a claim to my business?
Your spouse may have an interest in your business if you are a small-business owner. A business founded after the marriage is generally considered marital property, and the growth of a pre-owned business during the marriage may also be considered marital property. If your spouse does have a claim to your business, his or her interest will often be paid through other property or, in some cases, cash. The vast majority of the time the business is not sold or liquidated. It's usually in both parties' best interests to keep the business viable and profitable.
Do both parties really have to disclose their assets?
Georgia law provides that each party must disclose their assets. That's done through a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (the "DRFA"). Some consider this the most important single document in a divorce. This financial statement is designed to provide the Court and the other party with information about income, needs, assets and liabilities.
Is it common for a person to file bankruptcy after getting a divorce?
Many people choose to file bankruptcy after divorcing so that they can get a fresh start financially. Bankruptcy is a great way to eliminate debts from credit cards, loans, hospitals and doctors, and old bills that have accumulated over the years.
What happens if a party doesn't follow a court order in Georgia?
If a party fails to follow a court order, the other party may have to to bring a legal action to enforce the order. This is most often accomplished by filing a Petition for Contempt. This is when a a party requests the court to use its powers to make the other party comply with the order.
Commonly this occurs when the ex-spouse fails to pay support, fails to turn over property, or refuses to allow court-ordered visitation.
Do I need to live in Georgia to get divorced in Georgia?
Not necessarily, but at least one of the spouses must live in Georgia to get a divorce here. For example, if your marital home was in Georgia and your spouse has remained in Georgia, you could file for a Georgia divorce even if you now live in another state or even another country.
I bought the house before I met my wife. Is she entitled to any part of it in the divorce?
Under Georgia law, property acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage isn't included in the family property to be divided since it is considered non-marital property. But, if the exempt property increases in value during the marriage, that increase in value can be considered marital property to be divided.
Gifts and inheritances received by one party may also be excluded.
My wife has bipolar disorder and won't get treatment. I need a divorce, now! Is this common?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is an increasingly common diagnosis. A person's moods can swing between crushing depression and ecstatic highs. If not handled properly, bipolar can cause the breakdown of relationships and it can lead to divorce. Both extremes of the bipolar condition can cause marital strife. During the "manic" phase, a person can sometimes become very irritable and engage in risky behaviors, like extensive gambling or reckless sex. While people having a depressive episode can have have trouble concentrating, eat too much or too little, and can be suicidal.
Since my spouse cheated, will the court be on my side?
Not necessarily. And you can't count on it. You really don't know what a judge will think and do. It might not be a big deal at all. Oftentimes there's little concern from the courts as to why a relationship broke down.
Are there different laws for same-sex couples in a Georgia divorce?
Georgia same-sex couples are entitled to the same divorce process as heterosexual couples. The law does not distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual couples, and Georgia courts apply the law equally to all married couples.
A situation in which divorce may be different for same-sex couples is where the couple came to Georgia to marry because same-sex marriage is not allowed in their home country (many countries do not allow same-sex marriage). If they return to their country, but later decide to divorce, the home country cannot grant a divorce because it never recognized their marriage as valid in the first place.
How long does a divorce take in Georgia? Does it take years?
The divorce process in Georgia isn't always short (although it can be), but it doesn't have to feel endless.
It is unusual for a divorce case to go on for years. Typically, we've seen that happen if one or both spouses have caused significant delays. Delays can be caused for a variety of reasons.
Can I get a divorce in Georgia if I am not a Georgia resident or was not married in Georgia?
A person can be granted a divorce in Georgia no matter where the marriage took place, or what the citizenship of the individual is. However, the person may be asked to prove that their spouses' home address or their own home address is in Georgia and the county within which they have sought the divorce.
What are medical expenses in a Georgia divorce?
Medical expenses can include not only obvious medical expenses, but also dental, orthodontic (braces), ophthalmic (vision), physical therapy, psychological and counseling expenses.
How can a grandparent help a grandchild through a divorce?
1. No negative comments about your ex-son or daughter-in law in front of your grandchildren.
2. Be a patient listener. Your grandchild may be surrounded angry and confused adults, you may provide the only place where they can really feel heard and understood.
3. Be the unbiased, non-judgmental confidant children need. A special relationship with a grandparent can make all the difference to a child facing change.
4. Tell your grandchildren stories about your own life challenges and how you overcame them. Make your stories relateable to kids so that they can do the same sort of things. Make them feel understood and safe. Stay positive!
5. Reading together can be a very positive and helpful experience for the child. Children's books about feelings or how other children have coped with the upheaval and change of divorce will help them find words to ask you the questions they want to have answered.
My spouse is a drug addict. What can I do? I want a divorce!
Drug and alcohol addiction causes many divorces. If your partner won't get help, you need to move on. You must stop enabling them. Don't just make excuses and deny that a problem with drugs exists. This merely validates the addiction. Rather, you need to take a stand and refuse to allow these self-destructive behaviors.
Communication is vital. Partners should attempt to talk to their spouse, but only when both parties are calm and sober, about their drug use. If they are unwilling to discuss the situation, keep making excuses for their erratic behaviors, and refuse to admit to a drug or alcohol problem, it may be time for a divorce.
My ex is not doing what they should do. They are not following the rules of our divorce. What can I do?
A contempt motion is used when a party to a court order willfully disregards that order. That person can be held in contempt. If your ex-spouse is not abiding by the terms of a lawful court order, we will review your court order, evaluate whether there is an issue with compliance, and pursue a claim of contempt.
We also defend people who are charged with contempt.
Will I be awarded enough alimony to maintain my current standard of living?
A divorcing spouse can be concerned about the possibility of having to adjust to a new standard of living. While the courts in Georgia will consider your marital standard of living, it will not be the only factor in determining an alimony award.
What is separate property?
Separate property is considered owned by an individual and not considered part of the marital property to be divided in divorce. It could include (1) property that was owned before the marriage and/or (2) property that either spouse received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. Georgia law states that a court cannot take separate property away from you to award to the other spouse. Of course, it is not always clear what is and what is not separate property.
I'm getting divorced and I need to know how retirement accounts are divided?
Retirement accounts are divided using a qualified domestic relations order, also known as a QDRO. This is a legal document that allows an individual to give another person the right to receive all or part of his or her retirement benefits. So there is often a large amount of money at stake.
After a divorce, a QDRO is used to divide marital property. In many cases the majority of retirement benefits have been earned during the marital period and the court may decide (or the parties negotiate) that a spouse is entitled to part of those benefits. The parties can negotiate how much of the retirement account is to be shared. It doesn't necessarily have to be a 50/50 division of the value of the plan, although in many cases it is.
Can you use expert witnesses in a Georgia divorce case?
Yes, working with expert witnesses to discover hidden assets and value financial holdings (like businesses, collectibles, real property, stocks and bonds) for litigation and to craft specific issues in divorce and separation agreements is often done by people who can afford it. Expert witnesses are also used in child custody, visitation, and other issues.
Is my business marital property?
Many times one or both parties own a business. If it was (1) created during the marriage or (2) increased in value during the marriage due to marital effort, then, under Georgia law, all or a portion of the business may be considered marital property that is subject to valuation and division. If you and/or your spouse own a business and you are divorcing, you need to understand the law and its implications.
My spouse and I love our dog. Who gets the dog if we get divorced?
Pets certainly can be subjects of divorce negotiation. Usually both sides agree to an amicable arrangement for their pets. We've seen one spouse buy out the other and we've seen split custody and visitation arrangements, just like with children.
I have property in a foreign country. Will the court consider that as part of my assets?
A Georgia court can consider that an asset. And a court can award that asset in a divorce.
I'm married and I didn't get a prenuptial agreement. Can I still get a prenuptial agreement?
Since you are already married, you can't get a prenuptial agreement. But you can get a postnuptial agreement. A post nuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement except that they are entered into after a couple is married. You can use the postnup to split assets just as you would have had you obtained a prenup.
My son looks nothing like me. My wife admitted to cheating with several different men. How can I find out if I'm the boy's father?
My spouse uses cocaine, heroin, marijuana and meth around our kids. Can I get custody?
Using illegal drugs around children can cause a change of custody. Custody is determined by what is in the best interest of the child. Someone using potent illegal drugs around a child would likely be deemed a danger to that child. A judge might certainly determine that a parent is unable to fulfill his or her parental obligations if they are a serious drug user.
My husband's an alcoholic. He drinks way too much and he acts like a jerk. Do you see that a lot?
Alcoholism is a very common condition. Many Americans have alcohol problems. Indeed, many marriages are negatively impacted by drinking. When some people drink they can become abusive, both physically and mentally. This can lead to many marital and legal difficulties.
Are there any legal or practical reasons fathers should not be awarded child custody just as often as mothers?
There is no legal reason under Georgia law why the father should not be awarded custody of the children. Nowadays both parents are usually very involved with their children. So the issue becomes what is the age of the children and what their best interests are.
With older children, they are able to say with whom they would like to live.
Does having an uncontested divorce still mean I still have to go to Court in Georgia?
It depends. Even with an uncontested divorce a court appearance is sometimes necessary. The theory is that the state is considered a party to every marriage and must participate in every divorce, even if that means a judge simply signing-off on a divorce. The Judge, who represents the state, must find that the settlement appears fair and reasonable to all parties, and that children are adequately protected. An uncontested divorce hearing is often quick and routine, if needed.
Georgia Divorce Lawyers Conveniently Located in North Fulton County & Forsyth County
Divorce court litigation can be painful and difficult. We do everything we can to make this process easier for our clients. You can count on our experience to help make this difficult process as easy as it can be.
Our goal is to create productive, positive and cost effective family law and divorce solutions for our clients. We realize the importance of knowing when to boldly and immediately and effectively confront an unreasonable adversary, and when escalating a conflict – and the financial and emotional costs that go along with it – is unnecessary to gain our objectives.
Experienced, Committed & Caring
Retaining a divorce lawyer who is experienced enough to work towards a settlement of all the many issues in your divorce case is very important. In fact, in many ways, your future depends on it. And we have that vital experience. We can help you reach a divorce settlement that addresses all the many issues in your divorce including dividing property between separate property and marital property, properly allocating debt from the marriage, alimony, child support, child custody and visitation.
Experienced attorneys Valerie Sherman and Bill Sherman and the team at the Sherman Law Group will help you navigate the entire bankruptcy process from start to finish. As for experience and knowledge, we're we've been called the best. We've served as a Magistrate Judge, an Assistant Attorney General and as a Senior Assistant County Attorney.
As some unrepresented people discover to their disappointment, having deep knowledge of divorce law requires a level of knowledge that takes formal education and years of experience. Presenting the law and facts persuasively is fundamental to a positive. Other resources must often be integrated into the divorce process. Cases involving business interests may require the assistance of a forensic accounting expert. The Sherman Law Group attorneys understands what it takes to prove or disprove a contested issue, and how to accomplish this in an economical, efficient manner.
Call us now!
Please call attorneys Valerie Sherman and Bill Sherman now at 678-215-4106 to schedule a consultation to discuss your matter. With offices located in Roswell, GA and Cumming, GA, among other locations, we are conveniently located to serve our clients.