What is the difference between divorce and separation in Georgia?

Many couples decide that their lives would have more value if they were no longer a couple. Once you choose to not stay with your spouse, you have to decide if a separation or a divorce is a better option for you.

There are many similarities between a divorce and separation. These include child support, alimony, custody, visitation, and property division. In both a separation and divorce, both spouses have to come to an agreement on how to provide support for both the spouse and the children.

Divorce in Georgia:

Under Georgia law, there are no requirements for spouses to live in separate households before a no-fault divorce can be granted. In Georgia, one spouse can file for a divorce and the divorce can be finalized in as little as 30 days after service upon the other party if both parties are in full agreement.

Separation in Georgia:

Married people in Georgia can separate by requesting a separate maintenance agreement order from the court. A separation can only occur if both spouses agree that a separation is best and that divorce is not an option at that time.

There are many different reasons some couples will choice to be legally separated instead of divorcing. Some reasons include:

  • Neither spouse desires to get remarried
  • Religious beliefs
  • The couple is not ready to end their marriage through divorce
  • Financial reasons
  • Healthcare

When considering a separation, remember that the court can still consider requests for child and spousal support just as it would during a divorce. Couples that are happy with their separation agreement can later opt for divorce and use their separation agreement as the template for their divorce.

For more information on separation, divorces, and other family law issues, contact Doug Dreyer with Dreyer Law for a free consultation to help you and your spouse decide what is best for you both.

Divorce and Debt

Did you know that all marital assets are separated during a divorce, even the debts? Debt is just like any other possession and has to be divvied up and redistributed during a divorce. Divorce is already a stressful time, but it becomes even more stressful when you add debt to the mix. Below is a breakdown of what happens to your debt during a divorce.

  • Credit Card Debt- This type of debt may be from either a joint account or an individual account. Division of this type of debt involves multiple factors including whether the debt was incurred after the separation, the type of item purchased, which party is awarded the specific item purchased by credit card, and other factors.
  • Mortgage- Usually, but not always, the court will want the children to remain in the home. However other factors and circumstances need to be taken into account. Is it financially feasible for the custodial parent to pay the mortgage? Are the children about to graduate to a new school soon? Could either party qualify to refinance the mortgage?
  • Medical Expenses- Equitable division property states the court will take a variety of factors into consideration when determining the responsibility of medical debt. This includes whether or not you and your spouse were living together at the time the debt was acquired, whether you were legally separated at the time, whether the debt falls under the umbrella of necessary care, and what impact the debt might have on any children you have had. Of course, of primary importance is for which party was the medical treatment. And resulting expense, necessary.

Divorce is a stressful process, but knowing how it might affect your financial situation can help you reduce some of the stress. Take the time to sit down and look through all of your financial documents, bills, credit statements, loans, etc. Contact Dreyer Law today for a free consultation and to discuss the best set of actions to take when contemplating a divorce.

Proper ways to tell your kids about divorce

Divorce is difficult on everyone, especially children.  When children are suddenly facing the divorce of their parents, they may feel like the divorce is their fault, and, as a result, they may become angry and begin acting out. These situations can make a divorce even more difficult to process for both spouses, but talking to your children strategically and effectively might prevent any confusion or anger.

Talking to your children about divorce may seem beyond your capabilities, but just remember that a lot of people have to go through this process and there are ways to make it easier on both yourself and your children. The following are a few strategies for making this process easier:

  • When you talk to your children, make sure that your spouse is present. This will help the children understand that you are a united team.
  • Carefully explain the reasons for the divorce, but leave out any details that are incriminating to you or your spouse.
  • Make it crystal clear that the divorce is not your children’s fault. This is between you and your spouse.
  • Remember to maintain eye contact and keep a calm voice and demeanor.
  • Avoid blaming your spouse and stay positive.
  • Allow your children to ask you and your spouse questions so they will have a better understanding of the divorce and the procedure.

Each of these strategies can make talking with your children about divorce easier. Please contact Dreyer Law with all of your Family Law needs. Remember, each family is different, so talking about your divorce with your children will be a different experience for everyone.

3 things you should avoid during your divorce

When you are going through a divorce, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Being an adult and non-childlike is very crucial to the success of your divorce. In the following blog, I will discuss 3 things you should avoid doing during your divorce.

  1. Don’t play silly childish games. This simply means to act your age. Don’t go out and rack up a ton of debt using a joint credit card; you are going to need some free space for divorce-related expenses. Also keep in mind that your ex could use your credit card purchases against you in court. Retail therapy isn’t a good idea during a divorce.
  2. Be modest when in public. I have seen cases where a spouse going through a divorce will use that time to “sew some oats”, so to speak. It is extremely important to not be drunk, nude, or lude in public where cameras or eyes can see you. Instead of showing childish behavior, have some me time. Receiving a massage and reading a good book in a bubble bath are all acceptable. Also be careful with the material that you post on social media. Do not include comments about the other spouse and do not include pictures of a new partner.
  3. Don’t make new mistakes. When you find a lawyer to take your case, he/she is taking your case after you have been upfront with them on everything you and your spouse have/are going through. This means you need to tell all of your dirty secrets to your lawyer, such as if you cheated on your spouse or if you keyed your spouse’s car when you caught your spouse cheating. Now that your lawyer knows what you have done, you should not go out of your way to jeopardize your relationship with your lawyer. If you do make a mistake during the divorce process, own up to it to your lawyer, learn from your mistake and more forward.

The Dreyer Law offers free consultations. Contact us today at 770-253-7256

Unique issues older couples face during divorce after 50

When an older couple decides to end their marriage, a lot more is at stake. The divorce lawyer has to have access to all of the retirement plans, health insurance, and spousal support. Social security benefits cannot be divided in a divorce, but there are rules that impact your benefits if your marriage lasted longer than ten years. Older couples also have to remember to divide their retirement accounts properly. The best course of action is to divide the retirement accounts by Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which is a separate court order that covers the division of retirement benefits properly.

Health insurance is another major issue for older couples over 50. If you are not yet 65 years old, you do not qualify for Medicare and will need to properly research health insurance options. If you are currently on your spouse’s employer’s insurance, you have the option through COBRA to remain on their insurance for up to 36 months after the divorce, but the premiums are usually more expensive than obtaining your own personal health insurance through the Affordable Health Care Act.

And lastly, divorce in your 50s can have an emotional impact on both spouses. You will need emotional support from your family, friends, and possibly a professional who can help you cope with a loss in your life. Contact Doug Dreyer with Dreyer Law to help with all of your divorce decisions. He will help lead you in the right direction for insurance and professional counseling.

10 steps to financial security

Financial security is very important to obtain after your divorce. Whether you are looking to get out of debt or being able to live comfortably, the following 10 steps will help you become and stay financially secure.

  • Start Today. Don’t keep procrastinating. The first step is sometimes the most difficult to take. It requires making a personal commitment to take action.
  • List Your Goals. The best course of action is to start small and make a list of your top three goals. Identifying goals helps you better understand how realistic they are and what you need to do to achieve them.
  • Have a Plan. Create a written financial plan that includes each objective.
  • Automate Savings. Setting up an automated withdrawal system helps you pay yourself first. This will help keep you on a budget and still be able to save a few dollars along the way.
  • Focus on What Can Be Controlled. Instead of worrying about the financial shows on cable and news programs, focus on yourself and your financial situations.
  • Invest in Yourself. If you want to continue your education, take a fun- filled vacation, or build your dream house, now is your time. This will help build your self-esteem and confidence.
  • Live Within Your Means. Sit down and make a spreadsheet of all of your monthly expenses and your monthly income.  This will help you physically see where you can spend money and where you need to put some to the side.
  • Manage Risk.  An emergency fund is always a good thing to have just in case and unexpected event occurs. This will also give you peace of mind to know you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Monitor Your Portfolio. Major events in your life could trigger a review and adjustment to your financial plan. Some major events include getting married, switching jobs, buying a new home, health issues, or retirement.
  • Get a Fresh Perspective. Make time for yourself. Take a trip to regain your energy or get a new fresh look. You need a break after all that you have been through with the divorce and regaining yourself.

For all of your divorce and financial questions, contact Dreyer Law today so that we can go into greater detail on financial situations on your specific case.

Maintaining your health insurance after divorce

As a divorce attorney, I get asked by a lot of clients if they can stay on their spouse’s health insurance after their divorce is final. Unfortunately, if you are insured through your ex’s job, you cannot stay on that employer’s health insurance after the divorce is final. Some companies will even bump you off during a legal separation. The most important thing is not to allow gaps in your insurance coverage. Normally, your spouse is required to provide coverage for any children that are involved in the divorce action. One party is frequently left to figure out how to obtain new insurance.

If your spouse works for a company that employs 20 or more people, you are eligible to apply for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). If your spouse’s company has fewer than 20 employees, you could still be eligible for continued coverage under the mini-COBRA coverage laws.  State mini-COBRA terms can differ quite significantly from those provided by the standard COBRA. Here is a helpful website to go over terms and eligibility: http://www.cobrainsurancedirect.com/COBRA-Insurance.html

Your spouse’s employer is required to provide COBRA coverage to you only if you notify the health plan administrator within 60 days of becoming divorced. COBRA insurance ends within 36 months. The 36 months allows you the time to look for the best insurance plan that meets all of your needs. However this type of insurance coverage is often very expensive.

Some of you may decide to just forgo COBRA and receive health insurance through your own employers’ plans. If you choose to obtain COBRA insurance, you will be responsible for the entire amount of the premium. And if you choose your own health insurance through your employer, it could be at little to no charge to you. Talk to the personnel at your doctor’s office to discuss what insurance plans they accept.

A great alternative to COBRA is Obamacare (Affordable Healthcare Act). The health insurance exchange offers far less expensive coverage options. While there is a limited general enrollment period for health insurance under the health insurance exchanges, you can enroll at other times of the year during a special enrollment period if you’ve experienced a qualifying life event, such as divorce or marriage.

Call Dreyer Law for a free consultation today. We are here for you if you are thinking about getting a divorce or need advice on health insurance and divorce settlements.

Modifying an existing order

How often can a visitation agreement be modified?
As a parent, if you wish to change an existing court order without the consent of the other parent, you must file a motion for modification. Typically there has to be a substantial change in circumstances for the court to modify an existing order. Consider the reasoning behind this: If parents were able to easily change the visitation agreements the court would be exhausted with the sheer amount of cases brought before it. For this reason, the burden is on you to show a substantial change of circumstances that would warrant the change.

What will the court consider a significant change in circumstance?
There are two main categories of changes that the court will possibly consider for changing an existing custody order:

  1. Location changes: When one custodial parent makes a move out of state, or the move will impede the current schedule, the court may consider that significant enough to modify the existing custody or visitation order. In the event one parent plans to move out of state, Georgia law permits a trial judge to consider the move itself to be a change of circumstance that may be sufficient to change custody. Keep this in mind when planning a move out of state. Prior to that legislation being passed, it was far more common for the custody to continue with the primary custodian, regardless of where the decided to move. Now, a move out of state can put your custody at risk.
  2. Lifestyle changes: If the employment schedule or availability of one parent changes significantly or if behavioral changes have taken place such as substance abuse or criminal activity, the court will consider changing an existing order.  Overall, if there are significant changes that impact the child in a negative way, the court will consider changing the visitation schedule or custody arrangement. Courts tend to pay close attention when the well-being of the child is at risk and will make changes necessary for the safety of the child.

These are the mitigating factors that courts tend to look at when modifying an existing custody or visitation order. If you need help with modifying your child custody order or visitation schedule, call our offices at (770) 253-7256 for a free consultation.

The basics of child custody in the state of Georgia

When you say that you want custody of your child, do you know what that truly means? The definition is often misunderstood especially to people going through the legal process of seeking custody for the first time. Under the law, there are different types of custody.

Legal Custody

1. Primary legal custody – One parent is given the right to make major decisions for the child. The law usually earmarks four different aspects of a child’s life where major decisions are made: medical, educational, extracurricular, and religious upbringing. The primary legal custodian has the right to make these decisions on their own, without the input of the other parent.

2. Joint Legal Custody – Very common in the State of Georgia, this arrangement refers to both parents having the right to make major decisions regarding the child. What happens when both legal custodians disagree? The custody agreement will designate one parent as the tie-breaker. This doesn’t mean that he or she is all powerful and can force decisions upon the other. It means that after discussion between parents, if a consensus cannot be reached, the conclusion is determined by the designated decision-maker.

Physical Custody

1. Primary physical custody – The child’s primary residence is with the physical custodian. The term primary physical custodian inherently means there is a shared physical custody agreement with another parent, although not necessarily shared evenly.  This is different from the term “sole custody” in which there is only one parent designated as the custodian and there is no other parent with legal rights to the child (see below).

2. Joint physical custody – both the parents have the right to have the child live with him or her. Joint physical custody will often be awarded when the child spends significant amounts of time with both parents.

3. Sole Custody – This means that one parent has full custody and the other parent has no legal rights to the child. Even though the other parent has no rights, they can still be held accountable for child support.

These are the basic definitions of child custody. If you are thinking of pursuing custody of your children, contact us today for a free consultation. Join us on our next blog when we look closely at the issues that arise after a custody agreement. We will answer questions such as, “how often can a visitation agreement be modified? What if I want to move after gaining custody of our minor child?”

Divorce season and tax refunds

January is often referred to as the kickoff of divorce season. Research has shown filings increase by 1/3rd at the beginning of the year.  Divorce attorneys generally report inquiries nearly double in January. There are reasons why waiting until the new year to file for divorce can provide benefits during the divorce process.

The holiday season is rife with distracting social and financial obligations. Couples going through a huge undertaking, such as a divorce, typically try to avoid any undue stress during this busy time.  Social obligations tend to open up conversations not ready to be discussed yet. “Where is your wife?” No awkward response required. Remaining together through the holidays helps you sidestep explaining a spouse’s absence.

The holidays also bring more close contact with extended family and in-laws. Making decisions about how the family will divide it’s time are easier. Once the divorce is in progress it will help to have a long period of months to adjust to the changes in the family structure. This will give the family time to prepare and plan for the emotional as well as the logistical demands of the new arrangement. Also children tend to have a harder time over the holidays with changes. Most couples want to wait for the sake of the children’s well being. Those couples who aren’t strategically planning their divorce, sometimes emotionally, the stress of the holiday can often act as an impetus for the divorce.

January has financial implications for divorce as well. The close of the fiscal year is December 31st.  Locating year end statements, such as debt and credit card statements are very important to do before you file. Also, if your spouse is set to receive a year-end bonus, it will benefit you financially. It could give your post-separation finances the little extra cushioning it needs.  Lastly, April and tax season are just around the corner and you will need to prepare. Making sure all of your tax information is gathered and organized will help smooth out the process of you and your spouse filing those taxes, in a post-separation context.

Your tax refund which typically comes in the early months of the year is a great way to pay initial retainer fees. These can vary widely depending on your attorney and your specific case, so a hefty tax return can be just the thing to get your legal ball rolling.

One side note about filing at the end of the year is the limited availability courts and judges. There are many cases attempting to be wrapped up before the end of the year in addition to the holiday breaks that create a limited schedule for everyone involved. January is more open and tends to be the best time to enter into the legal system.

The fresh start of a new year can bring in a resolution to make changes that weren’t possible the previous year. Whether or not you make the decision to file in January for emotional or strategic reasons, you will find that it is one of the best to pull the trigger on this challenging life event.

Please remember, this article is merely meant for guidance and information purposes.  It is NOT intended as legal advice nor does it establish attorney/client relationship or privilege.