Georgia Divorce Law Basics

In your Atlanta divorce (or anywhere in Georgia), you will have to address four major areas of legal concern: custody, child support, property division, and alimony. There are extensive legal subsets of these main areas discussed in the links below. If you are going through or considering a divorce, you should read the below links carefully so you will be informed of the general law.

Very Generally – These Four Major Areas Are:
Custody: Custody is the legal right of a parent to spend time with the child or and/or to participate in or have final say over the major decisions affecting the child’s life. The major decision-making areas are extra-curriculars, education, health,¬†and religion. Sometimes discipline is mentioned. Visitation is sub-part of custody. Many divorcing parents believe there is some statutory “standard” visitation, but there is not. Rather, there is a typical structure that many divorcing parents will accept in settlement or that judges will impose at a hearing or trial. However, the visitation schedule should be specific to the family, practical, and in the child’s best interest. SMD Network Attorneys have successfully litigated custody issues for both custodial and non-custodial clients.

Child Support: This is the amount of money that is paid monthly to the “custodial” parent, most commonly the spouse with the greater parenting time. The calculation of child support is based on a specific statutory guideline noted in O.C.G.A. section 19-6-15, discussed below, that requires the production of a “Child Support Worksheet” – an excel spreadsheet promulgated by the Georgia Child Support Commission. A quality domestic attorney is needed to calculate this correctly. There are both mandatory deductions and optional deviations. Ultimately, the worksheet is itself just a guideline for the court to follow.

Property Division: As a very basic explanation, “marital property” or the “marital estate” is all property – financial (all assets and liabilities) or tangible (real estate, vehicles, all personal property) – that was acquired during the marriage or that accumulated from the labor of either spouse. “Separate property” – property owned by the spouse prior to the marriage or received by gift or inheritance from third persons during the marriage – that has not been co-mingled – must be distinguished. Separate property is not subject to division. All marital property, including all marital debts, will be “equitably divided” – which means usually but not necessarily 50/50.

Alimony: The entitlement to alimony is case by case. Very broadly, it is based on the number of children, length of the marriage, respective income, respective estates, need and ability to pay. There is no statutory guideline for alimony, as there is for child support. Accordingly, the alimony claim or exposure is more difficult to estimate.

As noted, the above is just a general discussion. If you are going through a divorce, you should be informed of the law so you can help your divorce attorney identify the specific facts of your marital situation that will be relevant in settlement discussions and in preparation for any hearing or trial.