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Gwinnett County Family Law Blog

The personal and legal significance of paternity determinations

Paternity is the determination of the identity of the father of a child from a legal standpoint. There are multiple methods that can be used to make such a determination and numerous misconceptions that people may have regarding the establishment and significance of paternity.

Paternity of a child can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. Voluntary methods of determining paternity include a child being born to a married couple, a child is born to an unmarried couple that later marries and signs legitimation papers or does not marry but voluntarily acknowledges paternity, or the couple decides to marry and the father places his name on the child's birth certificate. Involuntary establishment of paternity can be accomplished if a mother files a paternity action against the purported father. The man will then likely be ordered to undergo genetic testing to determine the accuracy of the mother's assertion.

We can help with you understand the rules of property division

One of the most difficult parts of a divorce can be handling property division. Especially after a lengthy marriage ends, it is complex to determine which property belongs to which spouse and how assets and money should be divided. The process involves not only identifying marital property but also valuing the property and figuring out how it can be split.

The most important rule for property division during a marriage dissolution is that all property -- including real property, earnings, etc. -- that was acquired by the spouses during the marriage using the earnings of one of the spouses is classified as marital property. Marital property can include business proceeds, pensions, retirement savings, automobiles, IRAs, and real property. Once classified as marital property, it must be divided fair and reasonably according to the circumstances. This is referred to as equitable division, which is distinct from equal division.

How are child custody determinations made?

Because child custody situations are some of the most significant situations many people navigate during their lives, many may wonder how child custody decisions are reached. The guiding principle behind child custody determinations is the best interests of the child. This may bring up the question, then, how the best interests of the child are determined?

What is in the best interests of a child is, generally, determined based on a number of factors that consider the child's circumstances and the circumstances of the parent or caretaker in question. In making its determination, the court will also consider the parent's capacity to parent. Additionally, when determining what court actions, orders and services are in the best interests of the child, the court will always place the child's well-being and safety as an overarching concern when making child custody determinations.

Spouses may hide assets during property distribution in divorce

The division of property can be a highly contested issue in divorce. It may lead one or both of the spouses to engage in prohibited or unethical behavior in order to enhance their share of the assets.

Many spouses who are anticipating a divorce may begin hiding assets to provide a reserve for the costs of the divorce process, as well as to keep certain assets from being divided during the divorce. A recent article highlights the reasons as to why this is often a poor decision and how to identify assets that a soon-to-be-former spouse may have attempted to hide. Since many records have gone digital, a spouse often leaves behind an electronic trail that makes it easier to track down hidden accounts. Retaining an attorney who is adept at uncovering such assets can be crucial, as well. Additionally, the increased use of smartphones has made it more difficult for spouses to hide assets or information from each other.

What circumstances may constitute a change in child support?

The application of child support is a mechanism that allows a child to be financially supported by both of his or her parents after a divorce, as well as providing a method for both parents to share in the costs associated with raising a child. Typically, when parents divorce, a child will reside primarily with one parent, known as the custodial parent. Since the child lives with that parent the majority of the time, that parent will often be responsible for a larger share of the child's expenses. By assessing child support, a court is able to balance these costs by ordering the non-custodial parent to pay a portion of their income to share in these expenses.

Most Gwinnett County parents are aware of what child support is and when it should be applied, but this knowledge may not extend to the potential modification of a child support order. Many parents may wonder when the amount of child support may be increased or decreased. The rule is that a significant change in circumstances must occur to change a child support order. What occurrences qualify as a significant change in circumstances though? Additionally, once a modification order is entered, is it in place permanently?

Musician successfully achieves child support modification

In his popular song "Beautiful Boy," John Lennon sings the following statement: "Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans." This sentiment probably rings true for many Georgia residents. Unexpected life changes and surprising occurrences pop up without warning, leaving individuals struggling to accommodate new circumstances.

Life can sometimes even get in the way of fulfilling personal and financial responsibilities. When parents lose their jobs or are forced to move for work, their child support and custody agreements can become defunct. Many other situations can arise that force parents to reevaluate how they financially support their children. They may require the assistance of family law attorneys to help them execute child custody and child support modifications.

Dividing a marital home in a Georgia divorce

For many Georgia couples, their home is their greatest asset. It is the place that contains the majority of their assets and that is worth more than any other asset that they have. While a couple's home differs from other assets because of its immense worth, it is treated the same as other assets if a couple decides to divorce, in that it must be divided during the divorce proceedings.

There are many different ways to divide the marital home. The couple can choose to sell the home and split the proceeds. If the house does not have any equity, however, the couple would have to split the loss.

Ex-wife seeks to remove parental rights of ex-husband

A family can come in all shapes and sizes these days and many children are born outside of marriage. In these instances, legal procedures may be necessary to establish the paternity of the father of the child.

A recent appellate court decision may have set a new precedent concerning paternity rights in certain circumstances. The case that led to the ruling involved a couple who divorced nearly two years after their child was born. Because the couple was married at the time of the child's birth, the husband was legally presumed to be the child's father, but after the divorce, the wife found out that another man was the father of the child as a result of their affair. The wife and the child's father have since married and she has sought to remove the husband's rights as the presumed father. The court ruled that even with this presumption and a divorce order governing custody and support rights, a husband's paternity is not permanently assumed.

Georgian men have the same rights as women to receive alimony

Historically, Georgian men have worked outside the home more often than women, and their wifes stayed home to raise their children. This has led to an inclination for men going through a divorce to be more hesitant to request or pursue spousal support than women.

A recent article highlights husbands that stay at home and take care of a couple's children, while the wife pursues her career. With this increase in lower-income husbands, there is also an increase in men requesting spousal support, pursuant to a divorce. However, men tend to drop this request more often than women. There are multiple reasons for this, including a preference for receiving a greater portion of marital property, or as a trade-off to not have to pay child support, among others.

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