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Gwinnett County Family Law Blog

An attorney may help a father establish paternal rights

Georgia laws encourage fathers to be active parents who are involved in the lives of their children. Unfortunately, when it comes to child custody, it is usually the mother who seemingly has an inherent advantage with the court. In fact, an old adage that circulates around Georgia's family law circle is that one judge was known to say that he never saw a bull who was able to nurse a calf. This gender bias toward parental custody awards is outdated and it is time for fathers' rights to be more firmly established in Georgia's family courts. Legal practitioners can help fathers do just that.

Attorneys realize that custody should be in the best interest of the children and not solely based on gender. An experienced attorney can help fathers retain or regain their paternal rights and obtain physical or legal custody of their children. All too often, fathers are not satisfied with being weekend dads. A father does not need to accept seeing his children only on weekends. Opportunities for additional parenting time can be negotiated, even when a father does not have physical custody.

Child custody in the state of Georgia

Child custody can be very complex, and there are several things that the divorced or divorcing couple need to understand. Any couple in the United States, including those in Georgia, must do several things before arriving in court for a child custody hearing.

It is important for the couple to have a parenting plan in place before they approach the court for a child custody hearing. The parenting plan must contain a detailed outline which lists several items, such as which parent the child will spend time with each day of the year, a vacation planner outlining how the child will spend the holidays and other time off, a detailed proposal about transportation arrangements when the child leaves one parent and visits another and a strategy that both parents agree to, which states how one parent will be contacted when the child is in the care of the other parent.

What should you know about child support in Georgia?

When a marriage ends, it typically does not end a parent's relationship with the children. You brought the children to this world and they are your responsibility until they become adults. Many Georgia couples will definitely agree with this sentiment, but divorce can be particularly hard on the children as they see parents separate and their lives significantly change. A child may get to stay with one parent while the other parent pays child support for their education, medical and everyday expenses.

So, what are the responsibilities of the non-custodial parent? Typically, your income will be withheld if you do not come to an agreement with the custodial parent about child support. If the child support order does not specify this, you need to request this service. Once you request it, it will be recorded. If you are a self-employed professional, you may arrange for a funds transfer to the child support organization. Either parent can make the child support order.

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?

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