Potential Adoption Roadblocks

Whether voluntary or involuntary, a parent’s rights must be terminated before their child can be adopted. Adoptive parents will tell you that there are many potential roadblocks you can encounter along the way, so it is advised that you retain a skilled adoption lawyer. 

Below are some factors that could present difficulties on your road to adoption. 

Age 

In Georgia, you can adopt if you are at least 21 years of age or married and living with his/her spouse or be at least 10 years older than the child, except when the individual is a stepparent or relative of the child. 

Financial Situation 

Judges base adoption decisions on the best interests of the child. Part of that is being able to supply the child’s basic needs. Whether you have a high or low income, the judge will consider whether your financial situation can support the addition of a child to your family. 

Marital Status 

Both married and single people can adopt in the state of Georgia. However, if you have had previous marriages and divorces, the judge may consider this as a factor. A judge will not knowingly place a child in a dysfunctional family unit, whether the parents are married or single. 

Employment 

Do you have the job and salary to sustain raising a child? It does not matter if you work part time, full time, from home, or from an office – as long as the prospective parent(s) is gainfully employed. 

Residence 

In Georgia, it does not matter whether you rent or you own. In some adoption cases, a social worker may come and observe you to determine if your home is suitable for the child. A potential roadblock would be if you are in between homes, your residence is in a less than ideal location, or the state of your home is unsafe for children. 

Legal Parent’s Consent 

If the legal parent denies consent, you will have a difficult time adopting. Without the legal/biological parent’s consent, parental rights cannot be terminated unless the state has reason to step in and terminate their parental rights. 

In Georgia cases, attention to detail is crucial. You need to retain an attorney that will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of your best possible outcome. To learn more about Dreyer Law’s adoption services, contact our team to schedule a consultation. 

Things to Consider Before a Divorce

Filing for divorce is a serious decision not to be made lightly, so before you take the plunge, there are a few things you should think about before you act. For example, you might want to find a counselor for your children or consult with a financial planner or accountant to make appropriate plans for your future. Whatever your situation, make sure you fully consider your options before you begin the divorce process.

Is a Legal Separation a Better Option?

Divorce is not the best option for everyone, especially if you and your spouse harbor hope of reconciling your differences over time. Spouses may choose to legally separate their finances and property so that they can live apart without fully dissolving the marriage. Sometimes, this time apart saves marriages. In other cases, it acts as a precursor to divorce. Whatever the outcome, it can be beneficial to explore this option.

Also, there are other reasons that couples may wish to choose legal separation over divorce that do not include reconciliation. If you rely on your spouse for health insurance, remaining married could help ensure you receive those medical benefits. Some people also choose legal separation for religious purposes, or other personal preferences.

Gather Important Documents

If you wish to move forward with a divorce, you must still think about what you should do before the process officially begins. A divorce is more than just an emotional decision; it is a legal dissolution of a marriage, and often requires a substantial amount of time, effort, and money. To get a leg up in the process, begin gathering relevant documents as soon as possible. Make copies of tax statements, income statements, bank statements, property deeds, marriage licenses, birth certificates, account documents, investments, retirement funds, and other important files. Discuss with a divorce attorney what you will need to prepare for your divorce.

Make a Financial Plan

The divorce process can be expensive, so before you get the ball rolling, think about how you will afford it. Hiring an attorney will often help you become more financially stable after the divorce, but you do need to consider how you will afford the legal fees.

You should also think about how your daily expenses might change once the divorce begins. If you stay in the marital home, will you be responsible for the mortgage? Or, if you move out, are you able to afford rent, food, and other daily expenses on your income alone? Also, if you are a stay-at-home spouse, you might not be able to afford to live independently without receiving support. In that case, you can ask for temporary spousal support to help pay for living expenses and essentials during the divorce process.

In any case, look over your expenses, your income, and your savings to determine what you can afford once the divorce begins. Many people also rely on their families for financial assistance when facing a divorce. Make a budget and plan for any essential expenditures, including those pertaining to your children, your health, your car, and other crucial things.

How Can You Make This Easier for Your Kids?

If you have minor children, you need to think about how your divorce will impact your children and what you can do to prepare them before the process begins. Children are sensitive to change and may express their feelings about your divorce in a variety of ways. Feelings of anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, guilt, and fear are all common, but they need to be dealt with in a healthy way. Consider how you and your spouse will tell them about the divorce, how you will encourage their communication and what type of plan you will make for custody. Also, think about whether taking your kids to a counselor might be a good option.

Each divorce is different, which is why it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced family lawyer before you make any big decisions. If you are thinking about getting a divorce, Dreyer Law can help. We are here to help you navigate your divorce from beginning to end. Give us a call today to set up a free consultation.

Contempt of Court in Family Law Cases

When an ex violates court orders, filing a motion for contempt is a legal option to carefully consider. Contempt is a severe legal remedy that can be used when a person intentionally disobeys a court order. When it comes to family law cases, judges generally do not want to find someone in contempt unless there is a serious violation of a restraining order, or one party fails to act in court-ordered manners like child support or spousal maintenance.

Common examples of contempt in family law cases include:

  • A parent refuses to allow the other parent access to court-ordered visitation
  • A parent refuses to return the child to the other parent after visitation
  • A parent fails to make reasonable efforts to require a child to attend court-ordered visitation with the other parent
  • An ex-spouse refuses to deliver property to the other spouse as ordered by the divorce or settlement agreement
  • A parent needs to enforce final child support orders from a court or administrative agency
  • A parent needs to enforce temporary family law orders and restraining orders

What Actions Can a Judge Take If the Court Finds Contempt?

A judge can order the party in contempt to complete the following tasks consequently for violating the court order:

  • Attend counseling
  • Complete parenting classes
  • Look for work a certain number of hours a week
  • Attend future hearings to check if they are obeying the order
  • Payment of attorney fees made necessary by the contempt

If one parent violates the parenting plan, the judge can also order:

  • The parent that missed visitation time get make-up residential time with the children
  • Expensive fines
  • Harsher penalties for subsequent violations

The ultimate sanction for contempt:

If warranted, a judge can remand a person to the custody of the sheriff until a specific remedy is provided such as paying back child support or alimony.

Proving Contempt in Court

To establish contempt in a family law case, you must prove there is a valid court order in effect, the other person was aware of the court order, and the facts of your case show a clear willful violation of the order. You must also prove you have given the other person notice of the contempt hearing, an opportunity to state their case, and that contempt is an appropriate remedy for the violation.

When it comes to contempt for a parenting plan violation, you also must prove that ONE of the following factors occurred.

  • The violation of the order was willful or in bad faith
  • The person who committed the violation of the parenting plan engaged in intentional misconduct
  • Previous court sanctions have not resulted in the person obeying the order

Alternatives To Contempt

One alternative to contempt is to send a demand letter to the other party via regular and certified mail. In your demand letter, you should explain each of the violations they committed and ask them to remedy them. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter for your own records. Sending a demand letter might lead to a solution to which both parties may be able to agree.

If the demand letter fails to lead to an agreed solution, sending one still shows the court that you are acting reasonable, that the other party is aware of the court’s order, and that you are unhappy with the other party’s actions.

Another alternative to contempt is filing a motion/petition to modify the court order. With this strategy, you are asking the judge to change the order instead of asking them to enforce the previous order.

When You Can Not Use Contempt in Family Law Cases

Contempt is not always an option in family law cases. You cannot use a contempt action to change custody of a child. Also, while the court can require that a certain payment is to be made, the court cannot specify that certain assets be sold to make the payment that is due.

Explore Options with Experienced Counsel

When an ex is not playing by the rules, they should be held accountable. However, filing for contempt is a complicated matter that should not be taken lightly. A skilled divorce attorney can help determine if this is an appropriate option and prepare you for what is to come.

Dreyer Law is here for all of your family law needs. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled legal professionals, please call (770) 253-7256.

Preparing for Divorce in the New Year

With 2021 behind us, many people are setting goals and making resolutions for 2022. If divorce is one of the major changes being considered this year, then there are several steps to take to prepare for the legal process ahead. This is especially important for those who are not familiar with the finances of their household.

Financial Information

Sometimes a spouse will cut off the other from credit cards and even withdraw funds from joint accounts after they reveal they want to file for divorce. That is why it is important to collect financial statements for the past few years before having the divorce talk with your spouse. Important financial documents you will need for your divorce case include:

· Credit card statements

· Personal bank and investment statements

· Copies of tax returns for the last two years

· W2s, 1099s, 401(k), IRA, and pension statements

All of the documents listed above will be necessary to determine the value and existence of certain assets and the community estate.

Establish Your Own Finances

To avoid being cut off from funds, you should make sure you have a separate bank account with enough money to cover at least a month’s worth of expenses and the retainer fee for a divorce lawyer. You should also create a safe place to send and receive information for any new accounts you create. It is also a good idea to get in the habit of keeping receipts, recording transactions, and checking your bank account regularly to help you document expenses so you can come up with a realistic monthly budget for a single household.

Consult With A Divorce Lawyer

In addition to gathering and preparing the documents we have discussed so far, you should also consult with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer to learn more about your options and what to expect throughout the legal process. Although divorce cases are emotionally draining and time-consuming, meeting with an attorney to

discuss issues that may arise in advance can give you the confidence you need move on to the next chapter of your life.

Dreyer Law is here to help you with all of your family law needs in 2022. Give us a call today to set up a free consultation.

Five Things You Should Look for When Hiring a Divorce Attorney

A divorce can get complicated quickly. Once a couple decides to part ways, there are many decisions to be made. Unfortunately, emotions can sometimes get in the way of making sound decisions during a divorce. If children are involved, it gets even more complex. Not only will you be protecting your own interests, but you will be looking out for your children’s interest as well.

Choosing the right custody lawyer who will best represent you and your children throughout the entire divorce process may seem a little daunting. As you are carefully evaluating your divorce process, here are five things to look for to find a divorce attorney that will best represent your interests.

Experience

There are so many nuances involved when dealing with laws pertaining to divorces, custody rights, child support, and the division of assets. You need an attorney that is not only knowledgeable about the laws but who also knows how those laws are interpreted in your area. It is always a good idea to do some research on any potential attorney and ask plenty of questions.

  • Check out their reputation with your state’s Bar Association. If there are any past issues or disputes involving their practice, there will be records that you can view.
  • Look at their website. Check out their credentials and read their clients’ testimonials.
  • Do not be afraid to ask them for references from their past clients with whom you may be able to speak.
  • Ask them specific questions. Who gets the family home? How are the assets distributed? How is child support calculated? A competent attorney familiar with how the court system works in your area should be able to easily answer any of your questions.
  • Check out online reviews. There are plenty of websites that track and post reviews about attorneys, both positive and negative.

Communication

In many ways, both your financial and personal future are in the hands of your divorce attorney. Of course, you will not be the only case that your attorney is handling, but you want to make sure that they have the people and the resources to adequately take care of all of your needs. Clear, open communication is vital throughout the divorce proceedings.

Who else will you be working with throughout the divorce? There will likely be different assistants and paralegals handling some aspects. If so, is your potential attorney letting you know who they are and offering an introduction? Your divorce attorney should make this information readily available while they are representing their firm at your initial consultation.

How confident do you feel with the attorney’s ability to walk you through the divorce process? It all goes back to communication. You must be able to understand each other.

No Hidden Fees

Most people have a budget. This always needs to be a consideration when choosing the right divorce attorney for you. You will find that most reputable divorce attorneys who fully understand how the divorce laws are handled in courtrooms typically charge comparable rates.

Hourly rates and any other fees should be freely disclosed during the initial consultation. There should not be any hidden fees that arise later. They should also be very clear on how much the retainer agreement fee is and how the billing is handled.

Professionalism

An attorney’s professionalism matters in so many ways. They should make a good impression on you. You also want to think about the impression that they will be making in the courtroom.

Professionalism is not only appreciated and recognized in a courtroom setting, but a lack of it can also be detrimental to the outcome of the proceedings. Judges value and rely on an attorney’s ability to present their case expeditiously and professionally. And a huge part of deciding the final outcome of most divorce

proceedings comes down to the judge’s interpretation of your attorney’s presentation. Their professionalism can make or break you.

Trust Your Gut

In the end, trust your own intuition when choosing the best divorce attorney for you. You should speak to at least a couple of different lawyers, making careful observations and get a feel for who will best be able to represent both your financial and custodial interests. If, for any reason, you do not feel entirely comfortable and confident in their abilities, you should take it as a red flag that something’s just not right.

At Dreyer Law, we take pride in our ability to provide outstanding, comprehensive legal representation and personal attention to all of our clients. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to protect the interests of you and your children throughout your divorce. If you are looking for a law firm that will fight for your rights, give us a call today.

Thanksgiving Holiday after Divorce

While divorce can be a struggle for families with children all throughout the year, Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time when parents cannot celebrate the holiday with their kids. The first few Thanksgivings can be especially tough for divorced families because it can bring to mind cherished memories of previous holidays and remind them that their holiday traditions will not be the same. However, Thanksgiving does not have to be painful this year if you change how you celebrate now that you are a co-parent. Below, we explain three tips that can help you cope with the new reality of being a co-parent during the holiday season.

Stick To Your Parenting Schedule

There are a variety of ways co-parents can fairly divide the Thanksgiving holiday depending upon the time off from school in your children’s school district, as well as the rest of the holiday weekend. Here are some examples of common parenting schedules used for Thanksgiving:

  • One parent gets the children on Thanksgiving and the other parent gets the children for the remaining holiday;
  • Split time with the children during the entire Thanksgiving holiday;
  • Alternate the entire Thanksgiving holiday between the parents.

Make New Traditions

The absence of children during Thanksgiving is challenging for parents who are getting used to life after divorce. Rather than avoid celebrating, parents who do not have the children for the holiday should reach out to friends and family they have to find a virtual Thanksgiving celebration to attend. Virtual celebrations are a great way to enjoy some time away from the stress of the holiday while also making lasting memories with loved ones. It also allows you to indulge in your own Thanksgiving feast with dishes of your choosing. If avoiding the holiday is more suited for you, taking advantage of the long weekend for a brief getaway would be an excellent way to recharge.

Set Reasonable Expectations

It is important to remember that you will not always be able to make everyone happy on Thanksgiving, which is why it is crucial to set realistic expectations for what the holiday will be like as a co-parent. If you do have custody of the children on Thanksgiving, do not feel obligated to recreate the past, instead, find new ways to reinforce a supportive relationship. You should plan ahead for how you will spend time together and try to model behavior that reinforces positive coping strategies.

Dreyer Law is here to assist if you have any child custody disputes during the holiday season. Please do not hesitate to give us a call to schedule a consultation.

What Is Separate Property In Georgia (And How Can I Protect It In A Divorce)?

One of the most confusing aspects of divorce law is what constitutes separate property in Georgia. Georgia law dictates that the separate property of each individual in a marriage shall remain the separate property of that person, except as specifically dictated by other laws. This means that unlike marital properties, separate properties are not subject to equitable division, according to Georgia law. 

At Dreyer Law, we understand that this is a complex part of divorce law that requires a distinct understanding of what falls into this category and what is exempt. Many times, clients will have a difficult time proving whether or not something is separate property in Georgia. This process can require thorough investigation, extensive documentation and sometimes, the use of a forensic CPA. 

So, what does this mean? Basically, the law states that any property that has been brought into a marriage by one spouse is considered to be a non-marital asset, and it is not subject to equitable division in the case of a divorce. Only those properties that have been acquired during the marriage are subject to equitable division. 

What is Included in Separate Property In Georgia? 

Separate property also includes things that were received as gifts, property brought into the marriage, and inheritance. The law is a bit more vague when it comes to a property that was gathered during the marriage but is still considered to be separate property in Georgia. In Georgia, property is not so easily defined as joint. There are many cases where something was gathered during the marriage, but it was still considered separate. This includes the items listed above as well as a few others – for a complete list of eligible separate property considerations, you should consult with our experienced divorce attorney. 

One of the more complex areas of law includes premarital properties that have been brought into a marriage and then appreciate in value. Those are often considered to be separate properties as well, and the spouse who did not bring them into the marriage frequently has no claim over them. 

When Does Separate Property Get Confusing? 

A spouse needs to keep his or her property separate throughout the marriage for it to remain separate during a divorce. For example, if a husband brings a rental property into the marriage and the couple puts a significant amount of time and marital money into renovating the property, at least some portion of that property may no longer be considered separate property. 

Keeping separate property separate during a divorce is a complex undertaking and fact specific to your matter. It usually requires consulting with a financial advisor before taking any monetary action and seeking the legal guidance of an experienced divorce attorney to ensure you are protecting both yourself and your money. If you have significant separate property at the time of your marriage, you may also want to consider a prenuptial agreement to help define your separate property and mitigate the risk of division of those assets in the event of a divorce. 

It is important to note that in a divorce, every situation is up for interpretation – the judge or jury may look at the details of the situation and determine that property is separate. Because of this subjectivity, it is best to have all facts thoroughly documented as clearly as possible before going before the judge. 

Seek Legal Guidance for Help with Separate Property Division Today 

While determining separate property in Georgia can be tricky, it does not have to be the nightmare that you often hear about. Luckily, you do not have to fight this battle alone. At Dreyer Law, our experienced legal team can help you build a strong marital asset division case that works best for you and your family. We are here to assist you and help this be a positive turning point for your family. Schedule a consultation by calling at 770-253-7256. 

FAQ: Father’s Rights

Fathers are entitled to the same parental rights as mothers when it comes to family law matters like child custody, visitation, and child support. Fathers also have a right to participate in how their child is raised, including where they go to school, their religious upbringing, and other important aspects of their lives. However, many unmarried and divorced dads must go to court and initiate custody cases for their parental rights to be recognized. Below, we answer common questions that fathers have about their parental rights when facing a potential custody battle. 

Question #1: How do unmarried fathers obtain parental rights? 

A: In Georgia, the only way for a father, not married to the mother, to establish parental rights is to file a Petition for Legitimation. In that action, issues related to custody, parenting time and support can also be addressed. Other previous methods, including Acknowledgement of Paternity, are no longer an available option. 

Question #2: What if I am not the child’s biological father? 

A: Even if an individual is not the biological father of a child, they can still defend their rights as a de-facto parent. Non-biological fathers must prove the following to secure their parental rights: 

  • They consistently provide care for the child 
  • The child has lived with them for a significant period of time 
  • They undertook full responsibility for the child without the expectation of financial compensation. 

Question #3: Can a father receive child support? 

A: If paternity has been established, then the father can be awarded child support if they are named the custodial parent and are responsible for the costs associated with raising the child. Child support can be used to cover food, housing, clothing, medical care, daycare, and education expenses. 

If you have questions about parental rights, please reach out to the Dreyer Law legal team. Call or request a consultation online to discuss your situation. 

How to Keep Child Custody Exchanges Civil

Even when a divorce is amicable, feelings of resentment and bitterness can still linger among ex-spouses. This can create major obstacles for divorced couples, especially those with children. Although your marriage is over, it is imperative for both parents to learn how to get along if they share custody of their children. While custody exchanges force ex-spouses to interact and cooperate with each other, they can quickly become uncivil when parents do not get along.

Properly Prepare for the Custody Exchange It is important to make sure your children have everything they will need packed-up and ready to go before your ex shows up to get them. Creating a list of important items your kids need when they are at the other parent’s home can help keep you organized before the custody exchange. Make sure you include things like medications, toys, clothes, schoolwork, and study materials on the list.

You should also double-check that your children have everything packed up before your ex arrives. Doing this minimizes the amount of contact you must have with your ex and takes some time off the swap, which can ease tension.

Exchange Custody in Public Settings

Swapping children in public spaces generally forces both parents to remain civil through the exchange because they do not want to make a scene. There are a variety of settings where custody exchanges can occur, such as:

· At School: One parent can drop the kids off at school in the morning, and the other can pick them up in the afternoon. Depending on the age of your children, supervision might be required if you are exchanging custody at school.

· At Daycare or the Babysitter’s: Like using a school, dropping the kids off at daycare and having your ex pick them up can spare you from unpleasant encounters.

· A Neutral Public Place: Use a location both parties will be reluctant to argue. A restaurant, mall, coffee shop, and police station are all fine locations for exchanging custody.

Bring A Third Party to the Custody Exchange

Just as parents are less likely to get out of hand in public, they are also generally on their best behavior if someone else is present during the custody exchange. You should choose a mutual acquaintance that both parents trust to fill this role. Additionally, if things become volatile, you will have a witness who can provide an accurate account of the events that occurred.

At Dreyer Law, we proudly assist clients with their complicated child custody matters. Please give us a call today to schedule a case consultation with our family law attorney.

Making Summer Plans with a Co-Parent

With summer break in full swing, you may find yourself in summer vacation mode. Perhaps you are navigating your first summer vacation with a parenting plan. Or maybe you are used to it by now, but still dread the logistical nightmare of coordinating schedules. Either way, the increased restrictions on what you can do with your kids and when you can do it may prove stressful for you and your children. We have compiled a few suggestions for minimizing the confusion or frustration that may accompany planning with an ex-partner.

1. Be as specific as possible

Since summer is often full of spontaneous adventures, try to think creatively about possible situations that may arise. You and your co-parent may get along with perfect ease and neither of you mind making last minute plans, especially those that cater to your child’s enjoyment; however, even in the healthiest of relationships, disagreements often arise. Think of your detailed parenting plan as a fallback if/when you are not able to agree. If you are not on the same page, turn to your plan and stick to what the Court ordered. This way you avoid a win-lose situation, knowing that the plan was established specifically for the purpose of resolving dispute in the moment. If possible, work together to review the plan and put down in writing how your children will be cared for in normal summer situations.

2. Compromise and avoid competing

You may end up having to give up something you want in favor of something you really want, which likely is your child’s happiness and well-being. Rather than considering what would make you happiest this summer, ask your children what they are most excited about. Keeping their responses in mind may help you and your co-parent put their interests first rather than getting caught up in how you can each achieve maximum time with your children. Though summer certainly lends itself to quality time with the kids, the goal should be providing them a stable environment, not trying to beat out your ex-partner for the most time or most fun activities. Further, trying to out-do your co-parent with elaborate trips or experiences is missing the point. In the long-term, your children are more likely

to be positively affected by a healthy home life and stable parenting than one summer of overly competitive excursions. Just like the holidays, this is not the time to one-up your co-parent with extreme gift-giving or spoils.

3. Give your plan room to change

Seeing as kids grow up wildly fast, consider re-visiting your parenting plan frequently. Schedule periodic check-ins or meetings to make sure that the current plan is still serving your children. You might even find that planning months in advance has proven unrealistic and shorter, more manageable time frames are the way to go. This also gives your children room to grow and change. As their interests take new angles over the summer or they are suddenly much more invested in a sport or hobby than ever before, you and your co-parent will have the space to respond if you have both agreed on regular updates to the parenting plan. Travel plans need to be implemented weeks or months in advance, so make sure that the two of you understand and acknowledge plans that cannot be altered. Also, always keep in mind that although you and your co-parent may agree to changes, those changes will not be enforceable by a court unless you file a modification action and have the judge approve your new plan.

4. Prioritize communication

Even if you have plans in writing and engage in frequent, cordial discussion, you and your co-parent should also agree about how you will communicate last minute plans or updates to each other. This should never be through your children. Asking your children to relay messages to the other parent may put them in an uncomfortable position, or a disagreement may arise simply as the result of miscommunication. Similarly, discuss how your children will be allowed to communicate with each of you when in the other’s custody, especially if traveling abroad. Make it clear to your co-parent in advance of travel plans whether your children will have access to phones, email, or texting and if he or she should expect regular communication from the kids. Being in your custody does not mean that your child will be cut off from all communication with your ex-partner. Know that your ex-partner is your children’s parent too and they may always want or need accessible communication with the both of you to feel supported and steady.

5. Enjoy your summer!

After you have made plans with your kids, you may find yourself with more down or alone time than in years past. Take this as an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with things you enjoy. Perhaps you have always wanted to travel to a certain destination but never did in favor of compromise with the whole family. Maybe you are seeking a new hobby, more time with friends, or the chance to visit older family members who have been recently vaccinated. Giving yourself space to refresh and prioritize physical, emotional and mental well-being by visiting a dream destination, catching up with a friend or honing a skill will thoroughly benefit you and your children in the long run.

Give Dreyer Law a call to schedule a consultation to discuss or amend your parenting plan.