Divorce is the dissolution of a legal marriage. There are several complex issues involving the dissolution of a marriage. A few of these are the division of marital assets (including high asset situations), division of marital debt, alimony, child custody, and child support.
The breakup of a marriage is more than ending a legal relationship between two people. The couple planned to spend their lives together; often they had children along the way. A divorce puts an end to those plans and the relationship, but it’s also the beginning of a new life for each party.
Alderman & Hutcherson helps its clients end their marriages, but we also help them prepare for their new, future lives. Decisions made during a divorce impact how children are cared for, how property and debts are divided, whether a party will receive alimony and, if so, how much.
Uncontested Divorce: An uncontested divorce means that both parties agree to all terms of a divorce prior to filing the paperwork. The terms of a divorce include division of marital assets, debts, child custody, child support, and alimony.
Contested Divorce: A contested divorce means that the parties cannot agree to one or more terms of their divorce. This requires a complaint to be filed with the Clerk of Superior Court requesting the divorce. The Divorce complaint explains one spouse’s reasons for requesting a divorce and lays the groundwork for telling their side of the story. The other spouse will then file an answer to that complaint for divorce. This is called litigation.
In Georgia, you can obtain a no fault divorce. You do not have to list particular offenses by the other spouse in order to get a divorce. To get a no-fault divorce, there must be a bona fide separation between you and your spouse and you must swear that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” This means there is no hope for you and your spouse to get back together. To file for divorce in Georgia, one must have lived in the state for at least six months, or a year if you live on a military base.
There are also twelve “fault” grounds for a total divorce. These include intermarriage by persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity, mental incapacity, impotency, duress or fraud, pregnancy of the wife by man other than the husband at the time of the marriage which was unknown to the husband, adultery, willful and continued desertion for one year, imprisonment for a term of two years or longer, habitual intoxication, cruel treatment, incurable mental illness, and habitual drug addiction.
If You and Your Spouse Have Minor Children
If you have minor children with your spouse and the two of you cannot come to an agreement on custody issues, the court will make that decision for you based on the best interest of the child. There are two types of custody — legal and physical custody. Legal custody is about deciding the minor child’s important, long-term life decisions and it can be either sole or joint. Physical custody refers to where the child physically resides and can be sole, joint or primary and secondary.
Sole custody means one parent has that custody; joint custody is shared by the two parents.
If a parent does not have physical custody, he or she normally has the right to visit with the child.
If a child lives most of the time with one parent, that parent has primary physical custody and the other parent has secondary physical custody.
The parent with sole or primary physical custody is normally paid child support. If the custody is joint and expenses are paid equally, there may be little or no child support exchanged by the parents.
How much support is paid depends on the parents’ income, the child’s expenses and support paid for other children, and it is based on standard state guidelines.
Alimony and Property and Debt Division
A divorce involves legal and financial issues. One important and potentially divisive issue is alimony (or spousal support) for a dependent spouse. Alimony is financial support one spouse receives from the other if a need for such support is agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court.
Alimony is not guaranteed. Though a divorce may be no-fault, if the dependent spouse is shown to have committed adultery or abandoned the other he or she will probably not receive alimony.
Generally the amount of alimony to be paid reflects the need of the party receiving it and the ability of the other paying it.
As the parties split and start new lives, generally they divide their property amongst themselves, along with the debts they created together, depending on the circumstances.
Unless the parties reach an agreement, the court divides the couple’s marital property (property acquired during the marriage) equitably between the husband and wife.
Each normally retains any property that he or she owned prior to the marriage. Non-marital property could include property received as a gift or by inheritance during the marriage.
To equitably divide marital property, the court considers factors such as:
The length of the marriage and any prior marriages by either party
The age, health, occupation, vocational skills and employability of each party
The service by each spouse to the family
The amount and sources of income, property, debts, liabilities and needs of each spouse
Debts against the property
Whether property should be divided instead of, or in addition to, alimony
The expected opportunity of each party to earn money or acquire property in the future.
Without an agreement by the parties, the court can divide debts between them or assign all of them to one spouse or the other.
If you are considering getting a divorce or have decided to pursue one, contact our office so we can talk about your personal, marital, family and financial situations. A divorce can be complicated factually as well as legally, so you need the help of one of Alderman & Hutcherson’s Georgia divorce attorneys. We can inform you of the law and protect your interests to help you to start a new chapter in your life. Located in Macon, Georgia, we help people throughout the state who need strong advocates in the divorce process. Call (478) 476-9110 or use our online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation.