Divorce and the self-employed spouse

“All good things must come to an end”, originally penned by Geoffrey Chaucer and a frequently used proverb today, can be interpreted as having positive and negative meanings. Isn’t divorce much the same? The mere thought of divorce may cause a wide array of emotions to surface, including relief, fear, disappointment, excitement, dread, frustration and loss. Divorce is never easy and can send you into an emotional tailspin. Regardless of how you feel, you will have to make some decisions that aren’t exactly within your comfort zone. One of the most uncomfortable discussions will be in regards to your finances. Before you plunge into divorce, make sure you have prepared yourself for all possibilities. Here are a few tips to ensure you know how to handle the financial discussion during your divorce case:

  • Copies, copies, copies! Keep copies of every family financial record you can find; canceled checks, bank statements, tax returns, life insurance policies, etc. Rule of thumb, if it has to with money – make a copy or two. Maybe even three! You may never need this information, but if you do, it’s good to have it.
  • Assets, assets, assets! Learn everything there is to know about your family’s financial situation. Remember, as you wind your way through the divorce maze, you will only be able to share in assets you can prove, so you must find out exactly what you have acquired during the marriage. For most, that’s probably easy. There’s a house, a car, a pension, and a little bit of savings. But for some, property ownership is more complicated so keep accurate records.
  • Money, money, money! Learn your spouse’s annual income. If he or she has a salaried position, or is paid by the hour, the information should be on a recent pay stub. If you can’t get your hands on one, last year’s tax return should do. If your spouse is self-employed, a tax return may not tell you the full story. You may have to do a little detective work to know if your spouse is hiding assets or not. If you haven’t discussed your plans to divorce with your spouse yet, be sure to put it off until after you have managed to obtain as much financial information as possible.

Jeff Landers, a Forbes Contributor, writes extensively on the subject of financially complex divorces. Mr. Landers penned an article titled “If Your Husband Owns A Business, Watch Out For SIDS (Sudden Income Deficit Syndrome) Once Divorce Proceedings Start”. In this article he describes red flags of the self-employed/business owner hiding assets as:

  • The business is supposedly in trouble, but his lifestyle does not reflect a loss of income.
  • The business pays his personal expenses.
  • His loss of income began just as your marital troubles were intensifying.
  • He stalls or stonewalls when asked to turn over financial documents or allow a business valuation.

Click here to view the full article

Just as a runner trains to prepare for a marathon, you must train your mind & prepare yourself for a divorce case. During your case, you can be faced with many hurdles to jump. The better prepared you are ahead of the race, the easier to tackle the obstacle course.

Finding your match

Swipe left, swipe right; fill out a long questionnaire to find your perfect match…..does this sound familiar? There are several website to find the “perfect” this, the “perfect” that and so on, but HOW do you find the “perfect” divorce attorney?

Let’s begin by remembering – hiring an attorney in any legal matter is a very important decision. Selecting a divorce lawyer to represent you and your best interest in a divorce case is a decision that will impact the present and future of you and your family.

The first important step will be your consultation. DO NOT be afraid to ask questions and toss out scenarios to measure how the attorney responds to your concerns.

Remember, you are hiring someone. This process follows that same pattern as interviewing for a job. Know what your core areas of need are for your situation and ask questions that are targeted to best measure the competency level of your attorney.

Here are a few topics to cover during your consultation that will help you in choosing an attorney to represent you:

  • Do you specialize in Family Law?
    If you were having issues with your back, you wouldn’t go see a plastic surgeon would you? Of course not! Medicine requires highly specialized practice areas. Law is no different. You need an attorney that is highly skilled in all aspects of family law. If you have additional need for representation (ex. Protective orders, own a company, substantial assets) make sure your attorney is skilled in those practice areas as well.
  • What is the fee schedule for handling my case?
    Generally most divorce attorneys will set fees in one of two ways. The first and most popular method is charging a retainer. Attorney’s have a set hourly fee. The hourly fees are billed against the retainer that you pay and then you will receive statements for additional cost incurred after the retainer has been exhausted. Sometimes a second retainer is required. Have a clear understanding of the hourly fee when you will receive an itemized statement. The second billing method is a set billing fee for handling your entire case. This is NOT the common method; however, this could be used in uncontested divorce cases.
  • What additional cost should I expect?
    Fees associated with Private Investigators, subpoenas, experts, depositions, court cost are generally NOT included in the standard hourly attorney fees. These costs are passed along to the client. The nature of your case will determine which of the additional services may or may not be needed.
  • Who else will be assisting on my case?
    Building trust during the divorce process is vital! You can expect to hear from your attorney and administrative professionals in the office. Please remember that the support staff is there to assist your attorney and are very seasoned and knowledgeable to handle aspects of your case. Only the attorney can provide you with legal advice.
  • What resources can you provide to me to reduce my cost?
    First, settlement is usually the main go-to method to reduce the financial burden of divorce. The least amount of time you spend, the more money you save. You have to remember to remain reasonable, be willing to operate with a give/take mentality and know what areas you will be willing to negotiate on to resolve the matter quickly and efficiently. Next option for reducing cost would be mediation.

As you ask the above questions and make a decision about hiring a lawyer, keep in mind that you have a right to expect your lawyer to do represent you and do what is in your best interest. Keep in mind that honesty with your attorney is a MUST. He/she cannot represent you to the best of their ability if they are blindsided with defaming information from the opposing side.

Once you have found a good lawyer please do not be intimidated by him/her. Ask questions and trust the answers you are given. The lawyer should also be willing to explain the decisions that need to be made during the process of your divorce as well as his recommendations. However, in the end, you are the one who makes the decisions. Ultimately, if you are not satisfied with the lawyer, remember that you have the right to terminate your relationship with him/her at any time, for any reason. Be careful in doing so, this can cause unnecessary delays or, worse, result in you having to proceed without proper representation.

Attorney reflects on life of law in downtown Newnan

In life, we often look for those little telltale signs that pop up every so often.

For Doug Dreyer, his popped up along the way to a job interview in 1988. Prior to his graduation from law school at Mercer University, Dreyer had sent out his resume to a number of law firms around the South.

One in particular was in Newnan with Rosenzweig, Jones, McNabb.

Driving up for his interview, the transmission on his car gave out just outside of Jackson. He began hitchhiking when a traveling salesman picked him up, citing that someone had done the same for him many years ago. They rode together to Griffin, where Dreyer ultimately rented a car to make his interview.

At some point during his interview, George Rosenzweig apologized to Dreyer, explaining that he had to take a call from Bank of Coweta, as they were foreclosing on a used car lot.

“As luck would have it,” Dryer recalled, chuckling, “I told him I could use a car and told him my story. He hired me on the spot and I came to work in Newnan one month later.”

Prior to his arrival in Newnan, Dreyer’s interest in law came at an early age. Growing up in Chattanooga, he recalled only three channels of television and, along the way, fell in love with Perry Mason.

“No one in my family was in law, but I was just enamored with it,” he said. “In time, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

When Dreyer arrived in 1988, there were only 32 practicing attorneys in the area – eight were at Rosenzweig. He recalled the period of time when court was held every other Thursday, “and it was always Judge Lee or maybe Judge Dewey Smith sometimes.”

“But your court days were fairly brief because you didn’t have a lot of cases and you knew how Judge Lee liked to work,” Dreyer said. When the Carnegie Library was restored, there was a period of time when court was held there and at the courthouse across the street.

“You would see people going back and forth from the corner, often lugging boxes of case files,” he recalled, smiling. “Since the library was right on the street, we would briefly stop talking during the proceedings and just wait for them to pass.”

During his tenure at Rosenzweig, Dreyer felt that his own success was the byproduct of being fortunate to learn under such a list of accomplished attorneys.

“George (Rosenzweig), Joe McNabb, Mike Cam, Randy Ebersbach,” Dreyer recalled. “Pope Jones was one of the greatest real estate attorneys in town. There were a lot of good litigation attorneys in that firm so I was very fortunate to work there.”

The opportunity to work at the firm also presented Dreyer with an education that couldn’t be taught in a classroom.

“You only learn the basic concepts at law school,” Dreyer said. “The opportunity to get your start under a great lawyer is what gives you an edge.”

As the county grew, so did the judicial system, which now boasts seven judges in the circuit. In 2001, Dryer went out on his own, focusing primarily on family law.

“There was an assigned attorney list for indigent criminal defense and you ultimately get tired of criminals, stories, dealing with prosecutors and officers,” he recalled. “Not that they’re bad, but it just wears on you.”

Citing his desire to move out of the realm of criminal defense, Dreyer attempted to build his practice of family law which allowed him more flexibility. With a family at home, scheduling a happy balance between work and domestic life was a priority.

“I can knock off early to see my daughter’s game but you might miss dinner because you still have work to do back at the office,” Dreyer said.

And while he remains removed from the world of criminal law, he still sees the abuse that happens behind closed doors in family law.

“It’s astonishing what people are capable of,” Dryer said. “The abuse is not just physical, but it’s controlling, emotional and financial.”

“When I go home from work, I tell my wife how lucky I am to have her. It really puts things in perspective.”

With new lawyers cropping up all the time, Dreyer has no plans of riding into the sunset anytime soon.

“There used to be one or two new attorneys a year but now there are people I haven’t even met,” Dreyer said. “Many say they have an office here in their advertising but it’s just a phone that forwards to their Atlanta office. The nature of law has changed.”

Regardless, Dreyer says he enjoys his work more than ever.

“Besides, no one retires at 62, especially if you own your business,” Dreyer said. “Your health, mind and willingness to do it has to hold up.”

“They call it practicing for a reason,” he said. “You’re always watching and learning new things. Everything is similar for the larger portion but there might be a different way of asking a question that grabs you. It’s satisfying work.”


Resource:  Newnan Times-Herald/Clay Neely

Mediation VS. Litigation

We talked several times about decreasing the expenses associated with your divorce case.  One of the areas that I’ve touched on previously was mediation.  I have explained what mediation is and how the process maps out, now let’s dig a little deeper and discover how mediation POSITIVELY affects your checkbook.

Mediation can be faster, less expensive and provide better outcomes than litigation if the parties are willing to resolve the issues together.  The ability to work together not only results in lower costs and better solutions that reflect what the parties want, not what their lawyers where able to impress upon a judge, but also sets an example of understanding and compromise for children involved.  To be clear, formal litigation is always an option, but should only be used if necessary because neither party really wins, even when they win.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the differences between litigation and mediation.

If You Litigate Your Divorce

If You Mediate Your Divorce

YOU SPEND LOTS OF MONEY… Your combined attorney’s fees will be approximately $30,000 or more. You pay for discovery, delays, trials, countless phone conversations between the attorneys. YOU SAVE MONEY…Your combined mediation fees, review by consulting attorney, and paperwork preparation may be less than $5000.
KIDS IN THE MIDDLE… If custody is contested, the court will probably appoint a lawyer for your children and the lawyer will probably insist upon invasive psychological evaluations of the family. PROTECT YOUR KIDS… The two of you will determine what’s in the best interests of your children.
SOMEONE ELSE DECIDES… The outcome will be decided by a judge or commissioner. YOU ARE IN CONTROL… The outcome will be determined by you and your spouse.
YOUR PERSONAL FINANCIAL INFO IS PUBLIC RECORD. CASE DETAILS ARE ON THE INTERNET… All the filed declarations where you and your spouse make accusations against each other to gain advantage are public records available to anyone to view, even years later by your children and grand children. YOU HAVE PRIVACY… There are no filed declarations making accusations against each other. You maintain your good reputation. Mediation is a confidential process where decisions are made in a private conference room.
COURT OVERSEES EVERY DETAIL… The Court will determine when you have custody of your children and you will need to return to court for every change as the kids get older YOU HAVE CHOICES… You can try out various parenting plans to see if they work. You can modify the plans as your children get older without returning to Court.
MONEY TALKS… The Division of Property will be based on:

  • How aggressive your lawyer is compared to the other lawyers
  • The mood the judge is in
  • Prescribed court schedules
  • Whether you or your spouse has more stamina and financial breathing room for battle.
FAIRNESS COUNTS… Mediators help you negotiate a fair settlement.
BE THERE… Your divorce will follow the timetable determined by the needs of attorneys and the court. YOU SAVE TIME… You decide how fast or slow you want the process to proceed. You can schedule mediation at your convenience
HARD TO ENFORCE… You and/or your spouse may not feel committed to the results be-cause of a lack of participation in the process, bitterness fostered during the proceedings, or lack of fairness in the result. MORE LIKELY TO COMPLY… Child support, spousal support and parenting plans are more likely to be maintained when mutually decided.
TOXIC… Even the most poised, self assured individuals can find themselves one of the walking wounded after experiencing a day of the antagonistic debilitating and emotionally draining experience of watching your spouse and yourself being torn to shreds in court. DIGNITY… You will maintain your dignity. You will experience the challenge of working with your spouse to make the best of a bad situation. If you can’t save the marriage, save the divorce.
CLUELESS… Your attorney will negotiate property and custody issues for you. You will be advised not to communicate directly with your spouse. YOU PARTICIPATE… With the help of a neutral mediator, you will problem solve property and custody issues to design an agreement that works for you and your family.

In the end, it comes down to dollars and sense (yes, sense).  What makes the most sense for your situation? You can either work together to reach an agreement or allow a person who hardly knows you make decisions for you.


Chart source:  http://www.divorcewizards.com/Information-on-Divorce-Mediation-and-Divorce-Litigation.html

Stepparent Adoptions

Do you remember as a child winding and twisting your way through a maze of some sort? As you are winding your way around, you find a wall, turn around and try another way. Regardless of the maze, you always have a beginning and an end, but the path getting from one point to the next will always be different depending on the maze. Stepparent adoptions are much the same. Stepparent adoptions will have a starting point and a finishing point but the core circumstances will differ with each case. Understanding the requirements needed to complete an adoption of any sort is important, but stepparent adoptions can be complicate when the biological non-custodial parent is still alive and in contact with the child(ren).

The adoption process for stepparents can vary drastically. This is truly one of the type of case where one is never the exact same as another. While the nuts and bolts of stepparent adoption are the same from case to case, the process can take many twist and turns before getting to the finish line.

If you are the person your stepchild considers to be a parent then you may wish to solidify your legal rights. Attorney Doug Dreyer supports blending families and protecting parent-child relationship through stepparent adoptions. As a non-adoptive stepparent, you have no legal parental rights. If your spouse became incapacitated, died, or you divorced, the court could award custody of your stepchild to anyone—possibly a relative who has not ever been part of his or her life. Through stepparent adoption a legal relationship is established with a child that will become identical to that of birth parent and child.

In a stepparent adoption, one biological parent has parental rights, but the other parent does not have a stable parent-child relationship or no parent-child relationship at all. Stepparent adoption is the transfer of legal and parental rights from a biological parent to the stepparent. The adoption is not terminated if the stepparent and biological parent divorce. In order to proceed with a stepparent adoption, several legal requirements must be met. This is where the proverbial “water” gets a little muddy and you definitely need an experienced attorney to guide you through the adoption maze.

Parenting plans and why you should stick to yours

Hire an attorney – check.  File for divorce – check.  Gather mounds of paperwork – check.  Children – check, maybe?

Children and Divorcing parents spell heartache and overturned apple carts for most families.  Let’s look at how your divorce is impacting your children.

When you are divorcing and have children, there is never an easy answer as to the question “what best benefits the children”.  Obviously, what BEST benefits the child(ren) is having both parents play an active and engaged role in their life.   How do you make a significant transition such as divorce as seamless as possible for children?  How do you maintain an active role in your child(ren)’s life when you are no longer in the home with them?  How do you stay up-to-date on their day-by-day activities?  How do you stay engaged with their education?  This blog will provide you with some helpful tips to consider and remember during and after your divorce.

In times past, it seemed that mothers were the preferred parent and dad’s got the short end of the proverbial stick when it came to visitation with children.  Time has changed this mindset and Judges in the State of Georgia now take core aspects of parenting in consideration when determining custody of children during divorce proceedings.

In January 2008, the State of Georgia requires all divorcing parents to work together and develop a parenting plan.  A parenting plan is essentially a road map to maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship.  The parenting plan addresses custody, visitation, which parent makes major decision, education, insurance, transportation, access to the child(rens) school and medical records, contact with the child(ren), military service and more.  When preparing a parenting plan, it is important that you have an experienced attorney on your side to avoid redundancy and confusion.

Why is it important to stick to your parenting plan?  The most important reason to adhere to your parenting plan is to maintain a healthy and strong relationship with your child(ren).  Should a custody modification be filed in the future, the Judge will take in to great consideration how each parent remained faithful to the parenting plan originally set by the Judge.  If you have not exercised your parenting time, it could negatively impact your case.  On the other side of the coin, if the custodial parent has withheld parenting time, it leaves the door open for the Judge to rethink the initial plan and which parent is sincerely concerned about maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents.

How to prepare for your court date

The judge, jury and everyone else in the courtroom will take notice of how you choose to present yourself to the court. You want to show that you respect the court and that you are taking the matter seriously. You do not have to wear a suit and tie but, there is definitely a difference between a pair of slacks with a button-up shirt compared to flip-flops, shorts and tank tops. You want to present the best image you can to the court. This will help your lawyer in his or her representation on your behalf.

In this Blog, I am going to focus on the most important points to remember when appearing before the judge in your divorce case.

  • Emotions:
    If you are scheduled to appear in Court, it isn’t because you have great news to share or hear. Court appearances will often bring a flood of emotions. When you are emotional, it is easy to forget proper tone and language. So first things first, check your emotions at the door. While emotions are understandable, the courtroom is not the proper place to express them. During your case if you feel overwhelmed let your attorney know so he/she can ask for a break. Go to the restroom or walk outside and take a few moments to collect yourself.
  • Attitude:
    Respect, yes, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It has come time for you to go head-to-head with your ex-spouse in the courtroom. It’s most likely that neither of you have any desire to show respect to the other, but during court, it is a must! Before you walk into the Courtroom, take a deep breath, put on your poker face and put your attitude in your pocket before you walk in. You should only communicate with your attorney, courtroom staff, the Judge or the opposing attorney. REMEMBER, the opposing attorney may make harsh remarks or ask unfavorable questions to tempt you to lose your cool. Once your hearing has begun, if you have a question for your attorney, pass them a note, and do not interrupt anyone – ESPECIALLY the Judge. If you must address the Judge, be sure to begin phrases with “Your Honor”, answer with “Yes/No Your Honor “ or “yes/no sir” “yes/no ma’am”.
  • Confidence:
    Once your hearing has begun, you have to maintain a level of confidence. Speak clearly and professionally. Make direct eye contact with whom you are speaking. Answer questions honestly. If you are not sure how to answer a question, simply state you do not understand the question, please rephrase. For example:

    DON’T say: “Do what, I don’t know what you mean.”
    DO say: “I’m sorry your honor, but I’m not sure I understand the question, will you ask the attorney to rephrase the question for me?”

  • Know when to Shut-up!:
    It is common for the opposing team to make several efforts to get you mad and show aggression. It is important that you keep your cool at all cost. Do not volunteer any information, in other words, speak only when spoken to. If your attorney instructs you to not say a word, keep your mouth closed. If the judge makes a ruling that you do not like, you must remain quiet.
  • Dress Appropriately:
    Please do not show up looking like you just rolled out of bed, just finished changing the oil in your car or working in your yard. Ladies, dress conservatively. It isn’t the best idea to go to into a court room wearing revealing clothes. You have to present yourself to be taken seriously if you expected to be taken seriously. Gentleman, do not come dressed in the latest designer fashions with a new Rolex watch on and claim you cannot afford to pay child support. We usually suggest a suit, dress slacks with a nice shirt. If you do not have either on hand and at the very least wear nice, clean jeans with a plain colored collared shirt. Hygiene: Ladies, conservative make-up, light perfume, trimmed nails and modest hair style. Gentleman, shave, light cologne, modest hair cut and trimmed nails. The main objective is to appear, clean cut, trustworthy and honest. Do not wear a lot of jewelry and if you have facial piercings, please remove them before entering the court room.
  • Cell Phones:
    It is preferred that you leave your cell phone in your car. If you bring your phone to court with you, be sure to have it on silent – not vibrate – silent. When your case is called and you have to answer questions from the Judge or attorney, do not pick up your phone. No texting, no emailing, no phone calls, no games just do not use your phone while court is in session. Should you have an emergency and need to use your phone, please excuse yourself and exit the courtroom. In the event that you have information stored on your phone for the court to review, politely ask the judge if you may turn on your cell phone to find the information in question.
  • Boyfriend/Girlfriend:
    If you are involved a divorce case, please – PLEASE – leave your significant other at home. If you feel like you need support, ask your parents or adult friend to come with you. Bringing your new boyfriend/girlfriend to court not only adds insult to injury for the other party, but also opens doors for the opposing attorney to question your fidelity during the marriage.

The judge is going to make long-lasting decisions about you and your family. You have only one chance to make a first impression on the judge. By exercising some common sense and discretion, you can prevent your appearance from negatively impacting the judge’s decision.

Social media and divorce

In the last blog post, we discussed court room etiquette. The do’s and don’ts how to present yourself to the judge are very important, but how should you behave outside of the court room?

Technology has caused the dynamic of case law, in general, to shift drastically. The majority of the world interacts using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, other social media sites, professional networking websites and various other mobile device applications. The convenience is fun, useful, handy and nearly second nature to most of the world. When anything happens in your life, whether it be exciting, tragic, or triumphant, your first reaction is to pull your phone out and update your status on social media! This is definitely much more convenient that having to call and have a conversation with all 718 (or whatever you number) of contacts, right? Well, maybe not.

Unfortunately, we get so wrapped up in the wanting to “share” our news that we fail to remember that once ANYTHING is on the internet, it is no longer private. The days of worrying about your “best” friend sneaking and reading your diary then your secret crush your secret is long past. When a couple divorces, they often have mutual friends on social media. Not all of the friends are neutral and willing to stay out of your personal affairs. Social media breeds drama and divorce loves drama.

Social media can provide the opposing spouse with an abundance of information that can make or break your case. If you are pleading to the court to reduce the amount of attorney’s fees, court cost, child support or anything remotely associated with money because you are broke, do not post photos or status updates that would suggest differently. Imagine the opposing spouse has pictures of your weekend away in Vegas with your new girl/boyfriend cruising around in the Lamborghini you rented for your lavish weekend that were posted to your Facebook, you have probably just wrecked your case.

Emails and text messages are admissible evidence in court. Yes, any text, email, social media post, networking website, online dating profiles can sometimes be subpoenaed and gone through with a fine tooth comb. I constantly remind clients, do not put ANYTHING in email, text or anywhere online that they would not want the judge to read. In a divorce case, if either spouse has documentation that could suggest the other spouse is not being truthful it can create serious problems and damage to your case.

While laws about submitting emails, text, social media post and other digital documentation differ from state to state and can be convoluted, the first and best idea is to suspend any and all digital accounts until the divorce proceeding is over. The most important point to remember is to ask your family and friends not to tag or mention you in a social media post period. You need to take a vow of silence from the digital world until the final order has been signed by the judge.

Representing yourself in a divorce case

Can I represent myself in a divorce case? The answer would be absolutely. Should you represent yourself in a divorce case? The answer would be probably not.

Let’s think of it this way: your transmission goes out in your car – do you attempt to repair it yourself or do you take your car to someone who knows how to repair a transmission and save yourself the trouble and financial burden of mistakes along the way?

Abraham Lincoln once said “he who represents himself has a fool for an attorney.” Although a bit crass, President Lincoln makes a valid point. People often make an attempt at representing themselves in a divorce case because of the cost associated with hiring an attorney to represent them. If you were to look at a case-by-case side by side comparison, you would probably find the long term cost of representing yourself in court far outweighs the initial cost of hiring an attorney to represent you.

If you are unsure how to answer any of the questions below – it is probably a good idea to hire an attorney:

  • Can I hire an attorney to help me only when I need it?
  • In what court do I file for divorce?
  • What paperwork do I need to file for divorce?
  • What is the process after I file for divorce?
  • How do I obtain a date to go to court?
  • What is required by the court when filing for divorce?
  • What questions should I ask the other party?
  • How do I subpoena someone to court?
  • The Clerk of Court can assist me with my case, right?
  • How do I respond to the Judge’s question?
  • How and what questions do I ask the opposing side?

Technology offers several resources to rely upon for documents, legal lingo, tips, tricks, FAQ’s, instructions and more to answer your questions about a divorce case when representing yourself. The one thing that the internet cannot provide that an attorney can is professional, targeted, well-trained practical working experience.

Back to the car analogy for a moment, you can watch a YouTube video or read a manual but who has more experience – a cyber helping hand YouTube video or a human that works hands on everyday with cars? Attorney’s are familiar with the inner workings of the court, documents needed, questions to ask, what Judges require and most importantly they have probably faced off with the opposing attorney before and have pretty judgment on what to expect. There is not any given amount of technology that can replace or substitute practical working experience in a court room.

Property Division in Divorce

As with any court case, the average person can be intimidated with all of the legal terms and jargon. In divorce cases, an often confusing term used is Equitable Division of Marital Property. What exactly does that mean and how does it affect a divorce case?

The first misconception about equitable division of martial property is that property is “equally” divided. The term actually refers to the division of property that the court deems as fair. The first step to equitable division is for the court to determine exactly what is deemed to be marital property and what is to be treated as the separate property. This is an important step because marital property has to be divided between spouses but separate property is not; spouses keep their separate property after divorce. The distinction between the properties is usually dependent upon the facts and circumstances in each individual case.

Marital property is typically acquired during the course of the marriage and is subject to equitable division rules. Once the court determines the property that is marital, the courts must determine how the property is to be divided. The following factors are usually considered when decided what would be the fair division of marital property in Georgia:

  • the separate assets and financial status of each spouse;
  • the income and earning capacity of each spouse;
  • the conduct of the spouses towards each other during the marriage, including during the divorce;
  • any wrongful conduct that resulted in a dissipation (waste) of assets by either spouse;
  • the future needs of either spouse, including retirement planning; and
  • each spouse’s debts.

Separate property is typically defined as any property acquired before the marriage or acquired during the marriage via a third-party inheritance or gift. To prevent future claims to inheritance or gifts, do not co-mingle separate property & marital property. Protect your separate property from becoming marital property by keeping the assets separate from marital property. Property acquired during the marriage belonging to a child of the marriage is not considered martial property. Gifts that spouses give to each other DO NOT fall in this category, they are considered marital property.

Divorcing spouses may resolve the terms of their divorce by negotiating and entering into a written settlement agreement memorializing their terms. Although entering into a divorce settlement is often the preferred way to resolve a divorce, it’s not always possible for spouses to agree on every aspect of their case. If they cannot resolve all of the issues, they will have to ask a judge to make decisions for them. Going to court can end up being quite expensive, because a contested divorce can take many months or even years to resolve.