Family Law in Monroe, GA
Domestic Litigation by Experienced & Tactful Attorneys in Monroe, GA and Walton County, GA.
At Hanks, Ballard & Barth, we understand how difficult domestic litigation can be and we give each client the time and attention that they deserve. In family law cases, it is important to hire an attorney who is compassionate and understanding but will still work aggressively to achieve a result in your best interest.
What is Family Law?
Family Law encompasses several different areas of legal practice, including:
When a person is served with a divorce petition or needs to file a divorce petition, the process can be very daunting. Divorce attorneys will guide the person through the process and take care of all of the necessary legal filings. They will ensure that all of the necessary information is obtained from the other spouse (or other third parties) to be able to equitably divide the marital estate. In addition, they will advocate for their client in all court proceedings and at mediation.
The calling to be a parent is a strong one, and sometimes the laws of biology can make the process a bit more complicated. Adoption attorneys guide expecting parents through the mountain of paperwork, interviews, and court costs that come with gaining legal guardianship over a child that is not their biological relative.
If a child was born out of wedlock and the biological parents did not marry each other after the child was born, then the biological father will have to file a legitimation action to gain legal rights to the child even if the biological father is on the child’s birth certificate. Although a legitimation action requires that paternity needs to be established, those hearings go beyond the biological connection to the child and focus on child custody and visitation rights.
Child Support and Alimony:
Some actions are necessary to obtain support for the petitioning party. A child support action can be filed against the biological father of a child, even if he has never legitimated the child.
If a party fails to comply with a court order, it may become necessary for the other party to file a contempt action to enforce the court order.
Custody and Guardianship:
Deciding who has custody of a child or children is a life-changing decision. If the parents agree, a consent custody order or guardianship order can be entered. However, many times the parents do not agree and there is a contested custody action. In that situation, it is important to have an attorney that understands the ins and outs of custody law and knows what a judge and/or guardian ad litem (a person the court has appointed to make recommendations about what is in the best interest for the child) will be looking for in deciding who has custody of that child or children.
Grandparent Custody and Visitation:
There are times when grandparents seek custody or visitation of their grandchild or grandchildren. It is imperative to have a knowledgeable attorney involved regardless of whether the party is the grandparents seeking custody or visitation, or the parent fighting against the grandparent.
Pre-nuptial and Post-nuptial Agreements:
Sometimes parties need a contract to protect his/her separate assets should the parties’ marriage ultimately end in divorce. There are specific requirements that are necessary for those contracts to be enforced. It is important to hire an attorney that is experienced in handling those types of contracts to either draft the contract for you (if you are having it drafted) or review it for you (if the other party is requesting that you sign the contract).
How does the Court decide child custody?
There are several different types of child custody in the State of Georgia that parents may seek:
Parents with legal custody may usually obtain information regarding the child directly from the child’s school or medical providers. Parents with joint legal custody are usually required to discuss major decisions with one another and required to attempt to reach an agreement before the parent with final decision-making authority makes a major decision.
Primary or Sole Physical Custody:
The parent that the child lives with most of the time is called the primary physical custodian. If a child lives exclusively with one person, that person has sole physical custody of the child.
Sole Legal Custody:
If one parent has sole legal custody, the other parent will not have the right to make legal decisions or lifestyle choices that impact the child.
Joint Physical Custody:
When the parents have equal parenting time with the child, then the parents have joint physical custody.
In many situations, both parents work in conjunction with their family attorneys, mediators, or counselors to come to an out-of-court agreement on child custody and visitation rights. In these situations, there is enough communication between spouses to figure out how best to allocate custodial time with their child.
If parents cannot negotiate and decide upon a custody decision, proceedings will move to court, and a judge will make the decision. It is the job of the judge to find the living situation that will best support the child and be in his/her best interest. Therefore, the Court often initially looks at who was the child’s primary caretaker. If the child is old enough, the Court will take the preference of the child into consideration when making their decision.
What does an adoption lawyer do?
If you’re prospective parents who are navigating the adoption process for the first time, it can be extremely helpful to have the help and experience of an adoption lawyer. The two main roles of an adoption lawyer include filing all the necessary paperwork that comes up at various times during the adoption process, and to appear with you during the required court appearances. Your adoption lawyer will know all the ins and outs of the process and he or she should know the adoption laws, rules, and regulations for the State of Georgia. When researching adoption attorneys, it’s always a good idea to try and get verbal recommendations from people you know who have gone through this process before. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with the lawyer that you hire to help ensure the expansion of your family is smooth and joyful.
How do I get a Pre-nuptial Agreement or Post-nuptial Agreement?
Pre-nuptial Agreements (commonly referred to as prenups) are legal documents that allow couples to protect their separate property and finances before they walk down the aisle. Post-nuptial agreements can provide the same type of protection as prenups but are entered into after the parties are married. Between the average divorce rate of 50% in the United States, and the fact that people are getting married later in life, prenups have grown in popularity over the past years. Although prenups protect an individual in the event of a divorce, they are more about protecting the assets of both individuals after they are married. Although some view prenuptial agreements as cynical tools for the overtly wealthy, in reality, prenups are logical financial safeguards for what both individuals are bringing into the marriage. You may want to consider forming a prenuptial agreement if:
- You or your partner have been previously married
- There is a high probability that only one of you will work or your incomes will be substantially different
- You or your partner own property
- One of you has a hefty chunk of debt that still needs to be paid
- One of you has significantly more wealth than the other
- Either you or your partner has children from another marriage or relationship
It is important to sit down and discuss the aforementioned factors no later than three months before the wedding so that you have enough time to thoroughly discuss the issues and make decisions. It will ensure there aren’t any surprises the week you both are planning to say, “I do”. Prenups cover any of the following that you are bringing into the marriage:
- Property: this includes cars, family heirlooms, and real estate property
- Assets: including stocks, trusts, current income, and retirement funds
- Debts: which includes property mortgages, and student loans
- Businesses: this may include a shared family business or your own company
- Support: this includes whether any alimony will be paid or received in the event of a divorce
Prenups can also cover property, assets, and debts that are obtained during the marriage.
If there are specific pieces of property that have been acquired during the marriage, your prenup can reflect that those pieces belong to one spouse, and it can dictate specific rules for when debt is owned by one or both parties.
We handle a full range of family law and domestic relation matters for clients throughout Georgia, including:
Child Custody & Visitation
Child Support Establishment and Modifications
Contempt Proceedings / Enforcement of Court Orders
Marital Property Settlements
Pre/Post-Marital Settlement Agreements
Spousal Support / Alimony Establishment and Modification
Temporary Protective Orders