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Gwinnett County Family Law Blog

Georgia parent involved in complicated child custody dispute

The dissolution of any marriage can be a very stressful transition on many different levels. From emotional aspects to finances, it sometimes can be a relief when a divorce finally comes to its conclusion. However, when children are involved, it can sometimes unfortunately spiral into a drawn out affair. Such is the case of a child custody situation involving a Georgia parent that recently made headlines.

Two teenage boys are at the center of a child custody battle between the boys' mother, a resident of Georgia, and their father. The boys currently are living with the father in his house in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but their mother says they have been imprisoned there, telling sources the two have no phone access, no internet access and that there are cameras and intercoms in each room of the house. When the couple initially divorced in 2006, primary custody was granted to the mother along with $1,500 per child each month in support. However, in 2012, the father appealed for increased visitation rights, apparently stemming from a notion that the mother was going to move the kids to South Carolina (a notion that the mother denies).

Alimony laws in a changing Georgia

Alimony is one of the most controversial areas of divorce under Georgia law. Some people are obligated to pay it and resent that fact. Others rely upon it for their survival.

In times past, when a couple decided to end their marriage, alimony was awarded very commonly, and almost always with a man paying his ex-wife. In those days, women had fewer employment options than they do today, and so courts presumed that women would be left at a severe financial disadvantage at the end of their marriage, while men could keep all the salary that they had previously shared with a spouse.

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.

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