Family Law

Family Law Attorney Services for the Stephens County, GA, Area

More than half of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Divorce leads to issues such as property division, child support, child custody, grandparent rights and alimony. We fight to get you the fairest possible outcome in your family law dispute. 
Family law

What are my rights as a parent?


If you are married and have children with your spouse, until a court signs an order giving custody of children to one parent or the other, the mother and father each have an equal right to custody of the children. Fathers of children born out of wedlock have no custody or visitation rights in Georgia until a judge awards them custody or visitation AND the child is recognized as the legitimate offspring of the Father. Although the law previously required that a Father first legitimate a child before he could seek custody or visitation rights, Fathers can now ask for these rights to be decided along with the issue of legitimation. 

What if the other parent moves out of state?


If you are married and the parent having custody of the children moves out of state, you can file for divorce and seek custody of the children in your county of residence provided that it has been less than six months since your spouse left and your county of residence was the site of the marital domicile. If you were divorced in Georgia and the parent having custody of the children moves out of Georgia, you can file for a change of custody in the county in Georgia that made the initial custody determination. 

When will my child have the right to choose?


In Georgia, a child age 14 or above can choose which parent to live with. The child's choice must be honored unless the parent selected is determined not to be in the child's best interests. A 14-year-old child can choose to live with the other parent for no reason other than he/she would like to do so. Once a court makes a custody determination pursuant to a 14-year-old child's election, custody may not be changed again for two years if the sole reason is that the child wants to switch residences. If there is a separate material change in condition affecting the well-being of the child, then the two-year limitation would not apply. When a child is between the ages of 11 and 13, the court must consider the desires and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody, but the child's wishes do not control if the judge determines that the child's choice is not in the child's best interests. The mere fact that a child aged 11-13 wants to live with the other parent does not in and of itself constitute a material change in condition that would justify a change of custody. 

What are my rights as a grandparent?


A court can grant visitation rights to a grandparent if the court finds the health and welfare of the child would be harmed unless such visitation is granted, and if the best interests of the child would be served by such visitation. Grandparents cannot seek visitation rights where the parents of the child are not separated and the child is living with both of the parents, however, grandparents can seek custody of children in this situation if they can prove that the child will suffer physical or significant, long-term emotional harm if custody is awarded to the biological parents, even when the parents live together. If that showing is made, the grandparents must still prove that it is in the child's best interests to be placed in the grandparents' custody. 
Alimony

How is alimony calculated?


Alimony is authorized, but is not required, to be awarded to either party in accordance with the needs of the party and the ability of the other party to pay. In determining whether or not to grant alimony, the judge or jury considers evidence of the conduct of each party toward the other. The amount of alimony to be awarded depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the standard of living established during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, and the age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties. 
Gavel used in a Stephens County court, where a family law attorney is necessary

How is child support calculated?


Child support is based on a variety of factors that take into consideration both parents' incomes, the cost of child care needed for parents to work, the cost of medical insurance for the children, as well as court-ordered support obligations that a spouse has to another family, depending on the date of the court order. It can also take into consideration the amount of parenting time, or lack thereof, that a parent has with the child as well as support obligations that a parent has to his/her other children living in the home with that parent. Some of the factors that go into calculating child support are mandatory, but many are discretionary. An attorney can help you identify the factors that may apply in your situation. 

What are my rights if child support payments are not received?


You can go to court to ask that the paying parent be held in contempt for failure to pay. If a judge holds the paying parent in contempt, the judge can order the paying parent jailed until he or she pays what is owed or a part of what is owed and order that the remainder be paid on a payment plan. The judge can also award attorney's fees to parent seeking enforcement of the support obligation. If you cannot afford the up-front cost of hiring an attorney to help you enforce an existing child support order, you can apply to the Office of Child Support Services for assistance. 

What are the steps to get child support payments increased?


A custodial parent can apply for an increase in child support payments if he/she can show a substantial change in either parent's income and financial status or the needs of the children. This can only be done once every two years unless the non-custodial parent has failed to exercise visitation or the custodial parent has experienced an involuntary job loss or decrease in income of 25% or more, in which case the two-year limitation will not apply. In which court to file for an increase can depend on what state issued the child support order that is being modified. For a support order issued in Georgia, and where both parents reside in Georgia, the case must be filed in the county of residence of the paying party. The Office of Child Support Services can also assist in modification for a small fee under certain circumstances. 

What if I want to decrease my child support?


A non-custodial can apply to decrease his/her payments if he/she can show a substantial change in either parent's income and financial status or the needs of the children. This can only be done once every two years unless the non-custodial parent has exercised more visitation than provided for in the court order or has experienced an involuntary job loss or decrease in income of 25% or more, in which case the two-year limitation will not apply. In most instances, a request to decrease child support is filed in the county of residence of the custodial parent. 

How long will alimony be awarded for?


Alimony can be awarded for as long a period as a judge or jury feels that it is necessary or appropriate, however, remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony can result in the termination of the paying spouse's obligation under certain circumstances. If the spouse receiving alimony has a "live in" lover, the party paying alimony can ask a court to modify or eliminate periodic alimony provisions.
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