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Family Law

  1. What are the residency requirements in Georgia?

    The plaintiff or defendant must have lived in Georgia for a period of at least six months prior to the filing of the divorce. A nonresident of Georgia may file a petition for divorce against any person who has been a resident of Georgia and of the county in which the complaint for divorce is filed for at least six months prior to the filing of the complaint.

  2. I received a complaint for divorce that my spouse filed. What do I do?

    A spouse who is served with a petition for divorce has 30 days to file a response with the Court. Most people also file a counterclaim for divorce. If a response is not filed within 30 days, you may lose the right to contest the complaint.
    It is important that you contact a family law attorney as soon as possible to file an answer.

  3. What is a separation agreement?

    A separation or settlement agreement is a document, signed by both parties in a divorce, which settles all issues surrounding the divorce, such as the division of assets, child custody, visitation rights, child support, alimony, and other issues. It is a contract between the parties. The agreement will then be reviewed and approved by the judge assigned to the case.

  4. What happens if my spouse and I cannot reach an agreement?

    If the parties involved in a divorce case cannot reach an agreement, the judge will make the decisions based on the evidence presented at trial.

  5. What is mediation?

    Mediation is one of two types of alternative dispute resolution, the other being arbitration. Mediation is generally used more than arbitration in domestic cases. It may be Court –ordered. It is a method by which parties in a court case try to resolve their disputes through a neutral, third-party facilitator. The mediator’s focus is on working with both parties and their attorneys to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution.

    The settlement agreement created in mediation can be consolidated into a Final Order. People who arrive at a suitable settlement through mediation are generally happier with the results. Since mediation may be less stressful, and people who participate may feel a sense of partnership in making decisions crucial to themselves and their children.

  6. How is property divided between both spouses?

    Georgia operates on the “equitable distribution” rule. Equitable distribution, however, does not necessarily mean equal division of marital property. The Court will define what is a fair division if the divorcing spouses cannot come to an agreement themselves.

    Marital property is all property accumulated by the spouses during the marriage. Property to be divided is usually either personal property or real property. Personal property includes clothing, jewelry, automobiles, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, and pensions, as well as credit card debt and bank loans. Real property includes land and anything built on it.

  7. What options exist for child custody arrangements?

    Since families differ, the optimum child custody arrangement is tailored to the needs of the specific family. Since divorce can have a serious psychological impact on children, child custody laws focus on what is in the child(ren)’s best interests.

    One parent can have primary physical custody of the child(ren), with the other parent being granted parenting time. A visitation schedule will be agreed on and detailed in a parenting plan, signed by both parties and approved by the judge.

    Parents have the alternative of joint physical custody, in which the child(ren) will live with each parent for a certain amount of time each year. Joint legal custody enables both parents to be involved in making decisions that affect the child(ren)’s welfare.

    There may be circumstances where supervised visitation is appropriate.

  8. What is a guardian ad litem?

    A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an individual, most often a lawyer, who is appointed by the court to determine what is in the best interests of the child(ren) during a divorce proceeding when the parents are unable to agree on custody. The GAL represents the child(ren)’s interests.

    The GAL’s job is to investigate all matters related to the child(ren) so as to make recommendations to the Court. He or she will perform an investigation, interviewing witnesses and parties relevant to the case before making a recommendation to the Court.

  9. I am divorced already. How can I change my current order?

    If there has been a change in circumstances since the entry of the divorce, you may petition the court to change the terms of the order with respect to support and custody.

  10. My spouse does not honor the terms of our agreement. What options do I have to make him/her comply?

    Contempt actions may be filed when one party disobeys the Court’s order.